Which Soft Drink Was Purposely Made Awful To Destroy The Competition?
Answer: Tab Clear
In the beginning of the 1990s, there was a very short-lived burst of product introduction in the soda market now known as the “clear cola movement” that drew inspiration from trends in other industries that equated clearness/clarity with purity (for example, Coors released a clear malt beverage called Zima). The clear cola market was kicked off by Pepsi with the introduction of Crystal Pepsi in 1992. The clear cola market was short-lived, however, and by 1993, Pepsi had pulled the cola.
Now, on the surface, the stake in Crystal Pepsi’s heart was simply that Pepsi drinkers didn’t want a clear version of Pepsi and that it didn’t taste particularly good. Those are perfectly valid complaints, but there’s a third factor at play that was largely ignored at the time. Coca-Cola introduced a variation of its Tab cola, Tab Clear, not to compete with Crystal Pepsi, but to irreversibly tarnish the brand image.
Coca-Cola knew that consumers didn’t like diet soda as much as regular, and that they didn’t like soda drinks that purported to have health benefits. Coca-Cola’s former chief marketing officer, Sergio Zyman, took that knowledge and combined it with a terrible cola formulation to use with Tab Clear, knowing that stores would stock Tab Clear right next to Crystal Pepsi. The strategy worked and consumers associated the clearly inferior and unwelcome Tab Clear with Crystal Pepsi. By the end of 1993, when Pepsi pulled Crystal Pepsi off the market, clear colas were considered a design and marketing travesty.