Atlanta business journalist Oliver here tackles a terrific story and tells it splendidly. In the 1970s, Coca-Cola,the secret-formula soft drink dating back to the 1890swas a worldwide bestseller leading the field two to one, its flavor and signature known everywhere. The Georgia-based company's complacent management, however, presently was rocked by a massive advertising and marketing challenge from its only near rival, Pepsi-Cola. Hand-picked by retiring management patriarch Robert Woodruff, Chairman Roberto Goizueta and a new top echelon set out to liven up the companywith executives who took risks, made profitable acquisitions (Columbia Pictures), developed new products (Cherry Coke), and who created sprightlier dividend action. Overlooked was Coke's special status as something even more American than Mom and Apple Pie. The big push led to the big changea new Coca-Cola taste, not in addition to but instead of, an error rivaling Ford's Edsel. A consumer revoltstreet-pourings, hysterical phone calls and mountains of mail forced the revival of ``classic'' Coke. BOMC and Fortune Book Club alternates; author tour. (October 20)
Oliver competently traces the old Coke-new Coke saga from its roots (the Pepsi Challenge) to the cola-guzzling public's overwhelming rejection of the new product (currently old Coke outsells the upstart version by 4-to-1). How did the Coca-Cola Company, long admired for its marketing savvy, make such an embarrassing miscalculation? And what or who persuaded the firm's top brass to so quicklyand wiselyreinstate the old (now called Classic Coke)? The answers are here in this ``behind-the-scenes account of how and why the company changed the taste of its flagship brand.'' A cautionary tale of corporate decision making, The Real Coke, the Real Story is recommended for both business and popular nonfiction collections. Kenneth F. Kister, Pinellas Park P.L., Fla.