Which Soft Drink Was Purposefully 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 (Ivory Soap, for example, had retooled their famous milky formula to be clear). The clear cola market was kicked off by Pepsi with the introduction of Crystal Pepsi in 1992. The clear-cola market was sort lived, however, and by 1993 Pepsi had pulled the cola.
Now, by popular account, the stake in Pepsi Clear’s chest was simply that Pepsi drinkers didn’t want a clear 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 it’s 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 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 Pepsi clear. The strategy worked and consumers associated the clearly inferior and unwelcome Tab Clear with Pepsi Clear. By the end of 1993, when Pepsi pulled Crystal Pepsi off the market, clear colas were considered a design and marketing travesty.
Image courtesy of Cola-Cola.