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Coca-Cola CEO Talks Revisiting New Coke Era in ‘Stranger Things 3’

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The phrase “New Coke” has become synonymous with corporate branding debacles.

But enough time has passed since Coca-Cola fumbled the 1985 launch of a new recipe for its world-renowned fizzy soda that references to the New Coke launch in “Stranger Things 3” are not too painful for the company’s more than 62,000 employees worldwide. That’s according to Coca-Cola chairman-CEO James Quincey.

Quincey, who joined Coke in 1996 and was upped to CEO in 2017, said he has gotten a kick out of the blast from Coke’s past as depicted in the third season of the Netflix hit, which is set in 1985.

“Ultimately, the vast majority of (employees) weren’t around in those days. They see it more in a whimsical way rather than bringing back bad memories,” Quincey said. The Coke chief spoke to Variety while attending the Allen & Co. conference here this week.

The soft drink giant and Netflix set a partnership for the third season of the hit series that involved making about 500,000 cans of New Coke available to those who collect such things. Coke doesn’t expect to make money from the limited New Coke revival but Quincey is happy with the brand impressions offered by “Stranger Things 3.”

“I love it when it fits naturally into the story. That’s when product placement works,” he said. “If it’s forced, it doesn’t work.”

Coca-Cola was deep in the entertainment business during the time period covered in “Stranger Things 3.” The company bought Columbia Pictures in 1982, selling out to Sony Corp. seven years later. Even in a time of massive disruption and renewed focus on marquee brands that resonate with consumers, Coke isn’t getting back into the content business anytime soon.

“I don’t think making content ourselves is a good idea,” Quincey said. “There are plenty of people trying to make content at the moment.”

(Pictured: “Stranger Things 3”)

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