In this weekly series, Andrew Eborn shines a light on the products and services, brand extensions and campaigns that failed to take off and have as a result earned entry into the Octopus TV Failure Awards and a place in The Museum of Failure. Last week we looked at Google Glass, an invention ahead of its time. Today, it's the turn of another futuristic product still waiting for its moment. Meet Crystal Pepsi.
According to Mintel, approximately 33,000 new consumer packaged-goods are introduced every month (Mintel Global New Products Database). Most of them fail.
Having successfully survived the 80s and put away our legwarmers, hair scrunchies, parachute pants and shoulder pads, the 90s began with a clear craze. Marketers were obsessed with purity – free from artificial colours.
Clarity was associated with purity and gave rise to a number of products stripped bare. Colour – or a lack of it – was recognised as a tool for visual persuasion.
The fad was encouraged by the continued promotion of Ivory soap.
"99 and 44/100% pure"
Introduced in 1879, Ivory soap from Proctor & Gamble was famous for its claimed purity and for floating in water. By 1895 P&G had adopted the slogan “99 and 44/100% pure" in reference to the claim that Ivory was purer than the Castile soap available. This was subsequently used by Willy Wonka when opening his factory. I’ve got a Golden Ticket etc.
From soap to soda and petrol to pop, companies have clamoured to capitalise on the clear craze down the years.
Amoco launched its clear gasoline, Amoco Ultimate. Coors Brewing Company produced Zima, marketed as a clear alcoholic alternative to beer. Colman Hutchinson, my fellow director in Boxatricks the format creation company set up with the creators of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, has already put Zima in the frame for an Octopus TV Failure Award. Zima did not cut the mustard for Colman. It tasted “awful” Colman points out.
Pepsi’s poptastic history has been punctuated by failures way before Kendall Jenner even tried to bring peace to the world through Pepsi.
Let’s be clear - "You've never seen a taste like this"
In 1992 PepsiCo launched Crystal Pepsi as a caffeine-free clear alternative to normal colas. Devoid of artificial ingredients including the colouring that gives Pepsi its caramel hue, Crystal Pepsi was marketed as being healthier than the regular cola. It may not, in fact, have been as heathy as people thought with 250 calories and a 69 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.
Following a successful test in markets like Denver and Sacramento, Crystal Pepsi was launched throughout the US supported by massive marketing campaign. During the Super Bowl on 31st January 1993 we were told why Right Now the choice is clear..
Initially, Crystal Pepsi enjoyed sparkling sales success, gaining a whole percent point of US soft drink sales – worth around US$470m – in its first year. Sales soon fizzled out due to a number of factors not least the activities of Pepsi’s arch rival.
The ongoing battle between Pepsi and Coke is legendary... watch out for the computer game coming soon.
On 14 December 1992, Coca-Cola launched its own clear product, Tab Clear, with a deliciously bizarre TV ad.
In the 2011 book Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath in Your Industry Sergio Zyman, Coca-Cola's chief marketing officer who introduced Diet Coke in 1982, is reported as saying that Tab Clear was a "suicidal kamikaze" effort to create an unpopular beverage that was positioned as a counterpart to Crystal Pepsi in order to "kill both in the process".
The Tab brand rather than Coke was used for this "born to die" strategy. Tab Clear was labelled as "sugar-free" to confuse consumers into thinking Crystal Pepsi had no sugar and Tab Clear was marketed as if it were "medicinal". Sergio Zyman pointed out that "Pepsi spent an enormous amount of money on the brand and, regardless, we killed it".
Zyman went on to explain: “This is like a cola, but it doesn’t have any colour. It has all this great taste. And we said, ‘No, Crystal Pepsi is actually a diet drink.’ Even though it wasn’t. Because Tab had the attributes of diet, which was its demise. That was its problem. It was perceived to be a medicinal drink. Within three or five months, Tab Clear was dead. And so was Crystal Pepsi.”
Not so yummy
David Novak, chief executive of Yum Brands (KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut), is often cited as being the "genius behind the notorious flop Crystal Pepsi".
Novak had a phenomenal career, leaving a legacy of 41,000 restaurants across 125 countries and a market capitalisation of about $33bn when he retired as chairman.
In an interview in 2007, Novak said that Crystal Pepsi was “the best idea I ever had, and the worst executed. A lot of times as a leader you think, 'They don’t get it; they don’t see my vision.' People were saying we should stop and address some issues along the way, and they were right. It would have been nice if I’d made sure the product tasted good. Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don’t get a chance to resurrect it.”
Novak recognised it was “a tremendous learning experience”.
"The bottlers told me, 'David, it's a great idea, and we think we can make it great, but it needs to taste more like Pepsi,'" Novak said. "And I didn't want to hear it. I was rolling the thing out nationally and I didn't listen to them."
As the novelty clear craze faded, Pepsi Crystal ceased distribution.
Crystal craze maze
The crystal craze gave rise to some superb spoofs.
From Saturday Night Live’s Crystal Gravy to the product that never was from Octopus TV Failure Awards other nominee, Crystal Guinness.
Shortly after Crystal Pepsi vanished, Pepsi populated shelves with a citrus soda called Crystal and in 1995, 7 Up – also owned by PepsiCo – introduced 7 Up Ice Cola. Just like Crystal Pepsi though, both of these drinks failed and were quickly and quietly withdrawn.
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be
Crystal Pepsi has made a number of returns including limited re-releases in US in 2016 and 2017.
“We have a lot of fans and they're really enthusiastic and they've been asking for Crystal to come back for a long time," Linda Lagos, marketing director for the Pepsi brand, told CNN.
As Vogue pointed out: “ A monumental PR fail, Crystal Pepsi was widely derided at the time. (What was so wrong with normal, non-clear Pepsi in the first place?).“
Absence does make the heart grow fonder, however, as Vogue goes on to acknowledge: “These days, the beverage is considered to be something of an ’90s icon, a quintessential symbol of the decade. Hearts have mellowed on Crystal Pepsi with the passage of time."
Retailing for $1.79, the brief re-release was the “cheapest taste of nostalgia you’re likely to ever get”.
This throwback was celebrated in the summer of 2017 with free concerts at baseball stadiums across the US featuring artists like Busta Rhymes at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ and Salt-N-Pepa at Marlins Park in Miami.
With Pepsi-tinted glasses, Chad Stubbs, vice president, marketing, Pepsi Trademark suggests: "Crystal Pepsi has always been a fan favourite and fans continue to ask for it time after time. From the 90s through today Pepsi has been a brand very much connected to music and baseball. We're excited to see this special tour come to life and to celebrate Crystal Pepsi's last return."
Crystal Pepsi is still selling on eBay where you can pay upwards of $8 a pop for the pop or $20 with a fanny pack. One seller is even offering an original bottle at $8,000.
The Beast – throwback throw up
If you are tempted to buy a bottle of the original Crystal Pepsi from 1992 don’t drink it! L.A. Beast did with predictable results ….
Putting “u” into flavor
Crystal Pepsi continues to enjoy its clear presence in Pepsi’s history and is often cited as a reminder whenever brands ignore history and dabble in introducing new and bizarre flavours. As Lauren Cohen, marketing director at Pepsi, points out: "We have a rich history of introducing flavours in our cola business,"
On 22 May 2017, Pepsi introduced a cinnamon flavoured cola called Pepsi Fire. Even before its launch the Twittersphere exploded with derision, drawing comparisons to Crystal Pepsi.
Why did Crystal Pepsi fail to fizz?
As I pointed out when looking at another Octopus TV Failure Awards nominee, Colgate Lasagna, new products need to be consistent with core brand values and customer perceptions and expectations.
Consumers don’t like to be confused.
The Crystal Pepsi bottle said cola but it did not look like a cola. Consumers were confused and without a clear explanation for the deviation from expectations rejected the new product. Tab Clear helped fuel the confusion making everything far from clear.
When the creator himself admits the product does not taste good you know you’re in trouble!
The Octopus TV Failure Awards/TOFA
Trends can be tricky. Curiosity may lead to short term spike in sales especially if backed by a massive campaign. If that product not only fails to deliver according to expectations but actually tastes bad as well failure is 99 4/100 % certain!
For all these reasons Crystal Pepsi is this week’s clear nomination for The Octopus TV Failure Awards.
Join Andrew next week for the results of The Octopus TV Failure Awards 2017. In addition to international recognition, the winners will receive a place in The Museum of Failure and the much valued TOFA.
Despite being marketed as a healthier, less sweet alternative to traditional colas, many people found its flavor to be too bland and lacking in depth. Crystal Pepsi also lacked the caramel color and other ingredients that give regular colas their signature taste, which may have contributed to its lack of popularity.How Crystal Pepsi became the soda world's greatest fail? ›
Crystal Pepsi was poised to become a billion-dollar idea
Instead, it was a colossal flop. Less than a year after the commercial hit the airwaves, the soda was yanked from the shelves. It became a cultural laughingstock and was later dubbed one of the biggest product failures of all time by TIME Magazine.
Coca-Cola basically created a bad-tasting beverage on purpose and positioned it as a comparable /competing product to Crystal Pepsi and create consumer confusion. This was done by placing Tab Clear in shelves in close proximity to Crystal Pepsi in all departmental stores and grocery stores.When did Crystal Pepsi fail? ›
By late 1993, Crystal Pepsi was discontinued, and the final batches were delivered to retailers during the first few months of 1994. Several months later, Pepsi briefly released a reformulated citrus-cola hybrid called Crystal From Pepsi. In 2005, Pepsi Clear was sold in Mexico for a limited time.What was the prime marketing failure of Crystal Pepsi? ›
The marketing slogan for Crystal Pepsi was "You have never seen a taste like this." But they didn't realize that its colorless look would be the main problem. Although initial sales were promising, consumers were not satisfied with the taste.What was Pepsi biggest scandal? ›
Theoretically, these bottle caps were cumulatively worth US$32 billion. Thousands of Filipinos rushed to Pepsi bottling plants to claim their prizes. PCPPI initially responded that the erroneously printed bottle caps did not have the confirmation security code, and therefore could not be redeemed.Will Crystal Pepsi ever come back? ›
Crystal Pepsi is making a comeback for 2022. The clear-coloured cola drink was originally launched in 1992 – and Pepsi is bringing it back for a limited time in honour of its 30th anniversary. However, the drink isn't available for purchase.How did the Pepsi lawsuit end? ›
Judgment. The court presided over by Judge Kimba Wood, rejected Leonard's claims and denied recovery on several grounds, including: It was found that the advertisement featuring the jet did not constitute an offer under the Restatement (Second) of Contracts.Was Crystal Pepsi a success? ›
Crystal Pepsi was supposed to become a billion-dollar idea. Instead, it wound up a colossal failure. Starting with a smashingly successful Superbowl commercial featuring Van Halen, Crystal Pepsi debuted with much fanfare. Less than a year after it hit store shelves, the soft drink was pulled from circulation.What was the clear Coke called? ›
Competition. After PepsiCo's introduction of Crystal Pepsi in mid-1992, Coca-Cola decided to follow suit with its own clear cola, Tab Clear, at the end of the year.
Pepsi pointed to the super-wide JNCO jeans, which are popular once again, and other trendy '90s items, including Tamagotchies, scrunchies and bucket hats, as the reason it's bringing back Crystal Pepsi. Big brands have been tapping into nostalgia lately as a way to drum up attention and entice younger buyers.Was there ever a clear Coke? ›
Coca-Cola Clear is a colorless variant of the soft drink Coca-Cola. Without the normal caramel ingredient, Coca-Cola Clear has none of the typical dark Coke color. The drink is lemon-flavored to compensate for the removed caramel.What beat Crystal Pepsi? ›
Sergio Zyman was the marketing chief of Coca-Cola at the time. He was responsible for creating Tab Clear with the sole intention to kill Crystal Pepsi. The product was never designed to last or survive. Tab Clear was made to confuse consumers by being a bad version of Crystal Pepsi.Why was Pepsi Blue banned? ›
Though never prohibited in the United States, ABC News notes that it was banned in some European countries, with studies (including one from 2004) suggesting a link between the dye and an increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms.What makes Crystal Pepsi different? ›
Crystal Pepsi had a flavor similar to regular Pepsi, only it was made with the absence of caramel color which some said made the drink less "acidic" tasting. "You've never seen a taste like this," Pepsi boasted at the time.What failed in the Pepsi campaign? ›
In 1992 Pepsi promised to give away 1 million pesos the equivalent to the US $40 000, to one lucky person with the right number on the bottle cap, trouble is that they accidentally printed the wining number 349 on 800,000 bottle caps due to an oversight in the manufacturing process, consequential they promised to give ...What is Pepsi marketing controversy? ›
Pepsi has apologized for a controversial advertisement that borrowed imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, after a day of intense criticism from people who said it trivialized the widespread protests against the killings of black people by the police.What was Pepsi mistake in China? ›
In China, the slogan was mistranslated to mean 'Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave', and in a culture where they worship their ancestors, people thought that if you drank Pepsi it could bring back the dead.Why was Pepsi banned? ›
The ban, which was proposed by the state's top two associations of traders, came into effect on Wednesday. The associations say that soft drinks firms take too much water from rivers, leaving farmers struggling to irrigate their land at a time of severe drought.Why is Pepsi being sued? ›
PepsiCo is being sued in three states by workers charging that they were shorted on wages following a cyberattack against a payroll service used by the company. The situation came about because of a ransomware attack on Kronos, one of the world's biggest third-party payroll and human-resources services.
Thus, Pepsi decided to trade something bigger. Pepsi exchanged their cola for old submarines and warships! After the deal, Pepsi briefly had the 6th largest army in the world, before they sold all of it for scrap. The deal also included oil tankers which were leased out by Pepsi.Will Mango Pepsi come back? ›
Pepsi is bringing back its Pepsi Mango. The drink was previously a limited-time offering during spring, but it will now be available as a permanent fixture — the first time Pepsi made a permanent fixture in five years.What is the flavor of the clear Pepsi? ›
Unlike the usual brown color of Pepsi drinks, Crystal Pepsi is transparent and colorless. It has a softer taste with a hint of lemon.Is it safe to drink 20 year old Pepsi? ›
The short answer is: Yes, It's perfectly safe to drink expired regular soda. All sodas will come with a best-by date but that relates to the quality of the soa, they are still safe to drink beyond the date on the label.Did the Pepsi guy get any money? ›
Leonard didn't see the ad as a joke, and he actually thought Pepsi would send him a jet. So when the company didn't pay up, Leonard sued in 1999 for breach of contract and fraud. Pepsi reportedly offered Leonard a $750,000 settlement, which he rejected, the Post reports.Who is winning the Cola Wars? ›
The Wall Street Journal Declares Diet Coke the Winner of the 'Cola Wars' Although Coca-Cola sales had topped Pepsi's sales for years, the two sodas were always No. 1 and 2, respectively.Who was the kid who sued Pepsi? ›
For 23 years, John Leonard was known as the kid who sued Pepsi over a military jet. In 1995, Pepsi – engaged in a competitive battle against Coke so fierce it became known as the cola wars – started airing a television ad introducing the concept of Pepsi points.Why does Crystal Pepsi taste better? ›
The lack of brown sugar and caffeine also gives Crystal Pepsi a distinct taste over the regular version. This makes the drink less sweet than the regular Pepsi cola.Why did 7UP Gold fail? ›
Not long after its release, unfortunately, 7 Up Gold was later discontinued in 1989 speculating of its lack of caffeine as an ingredient and as well as the color.What are some fun facts about Crystal Pepsi? ›
They named it Crystal Pepsi because it was bottled without the dye that gives standard Pepsi its caramel hue. The new product was launched in 1993 with a Super Bowl commercial claiming: “You've never seen a taste like this,” accompanied by Van Halen's hit song Right Now.
Rare Hutchinson Bottles
The toughest bottles to collect are the early Hutchinson bottles, the first bottles for Coca‑Cola®, which were used from the mid-1890s to the early years of the 20th Century. Because they were in the market for a limited period of time, they're hard to find.
Why do we call our soda pop coke? Native Texans (like most native Southerners) call all soft drinks "coke"—a generic use of Coke, as in Coca-Cola, invented in Atlanta.Why is it called dirty soda? ›
Dirty soda is a drink consisting of soda "spiked" with cream and flavored syrups or fruit juices. The drink has been described as "alcohol-free mocktails with optional flavor, cream and fruit add-ins".Is Crystal Pepsi healthier than Pepsi? ›
Its lighter taste is seen as the result of the lack of caffeine and sugar. People consider Crystal Soda as the healthier option than regular Pepsi. Crystal Pepsi has only a 250 calorie count per serving with less sodium and 0% fat.What did Pepsi Blue taste like? ›
It was designed to attract teenage consumers with its bright blue color and unique flavor. The flavor was described by Pepsi only as "berry" and described by customers as similar to blueberries or raspberries, or similar to cotton candy with a berry-like aftertaste and much more sugary and syrupy than regular cola.Why does Pepsi taste different? ›
Phosphoric acid is less tart and acidic than citric acid, which gives Coca-Cola a less sharp taste. This is why Coca-Cola is described as having more of a vanilla flavor. Pepsi, on the other hand, has a higher amount of citric acid than Coca-Cola which gives it more of a citrusy and tart flavor.What is the oldest Coke? ›
Back on May 8, 1886, the world's first Coca-Cola was served at Jacobs' Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. It was the creation of Dr. John Pemberton as a tonic for common ailments. He likely had no idea what was in store for his product, the company, and an industry that would grow into the giant it is today.What is the Russian version of Coca-Cola? ›
Baikal's production started in 1969. It was developed as a Soviet alternative to Coca-Cola. The drink was developed with the Moscow 1980 Summer Olympics in mind, as Western soda companies did not operate in the USSR at that time. It successfully reached its goal of becoming the official drink of those Summer Olympics.Is there a green Coke? ›
Green Cola - Zero Sugar, Zero Calories, Naturally Sweetened with 100% Stevia Leaf Extract, Carbonated Soda, 100% Cola Taste, Net Quantity: 12 fl oz Each Can - Pack of 8.Who were the major competitors of Crystal Pepsi? ›
Tab was the brand that Coca-Cola didn't care about; they used Tab as the “born to die” strategy to hurt the Pepsi-co. According to the book killing the giant's Coca-Cola saw that as an opportunity to destroy the brand crystal Pepsi and they introduced the Tab clear the direct competitor of the Crystal Pepsi.
Crystal Pepsi contains 3.15 mg of caffeine per fl oz (10.65 mg per 100 ml). A 20 fl oz bottle has a total of 63 mg of caffeine.How much did Crystal Pepsi cost? ›
So, how much will Crystal Pepsi cost, and will the price also be a throwback? According to PepsiCo, this serving of '90s nostalgia will be sold at a suggested retail price of $1.79.Why doesn t Disney sell Pepsi? ›
Disney has the contract to end all contracts with Coca-Cola. All the soda sold in the WDW theme parks and resorts is owned under the Coke umbrella. You might find Pepsi at your off-site hotel, restaurant, or gas station, but you will NOT find it on Disney property.Why is it called 7 Up? ›
At the point of inspiration, he happened to be reading a newspaper article that listed several brands, including one that was a numeral 7 with the letter “U” raised to the upper right side of the number. This suggested the name 7Up, which Grigg thought would be easy to remember and identify with.Is Pepsi berry discontinued? ›
After running through more than 100 concepts and testing the market through teen focus groups, Pepsi released Pepsi Blue, a berry-flavored soda with a color unsettlingly close to Windex. It hit the market in May 2002, one day ahead of the release of Vanilla Coke. Two years later, it was gone.Is there a clear soda with caffeine? ›
Club Clear Caffeinated Club Soda, 12 fl oz - Kroger.What's in Crystal Pepsi? ›
Ingredients. Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Phosphoric Acid, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preserves freshness), Sodium Citrate, Caffeine, Gum Arabic, Natural Flavor.What makes Pepsi better than Coke? ›
Many people find the taste of Pepsi to be more refreshing and thirst-quenching than Coca-Cola. This may be due to the sweeter taste and lower carbonation, which can make it a more enjoyable drink on a hot day or after exercise.
Crystal Pepsi is making a comeback for 2022. The clear-coloured cola drink was originally launched in 1992 – and Pepsi is bringing it back for a limited time in honour of its 30th anniversary.How was Crystal Pepsi different from regular Pepsi? ›
Crystal Pepsi had a flavor similar to regular Pepsi, only it was made with the absence of caramel color which some said made the drink less "acidic" tasting. "You've never seen a taste like this," Pepsi boasted at the time.
Not long after its release, unfortunately, 7 Up Gold was later discontinued in 1989 speculating of its lack of caffeine as an ingredient and as well as the color.Why does Crystal Pepsi taste different? ›
The lack of brown sugar and caffeine also gives Crystal Pepsi a distinct taste over the regular version. This makes the drink less sweet than the regular Pepsi cola.Who were the competitors of Crystal Pepsi? ›
Tab was the brand that Coca-Cola didn't care about; they used Tab as the “born to die” strategy to hurt the Pepsi-co. According to the book killing the giant's Coca-Cola saw that as an opportunity to destroy the brand crystal Pepsi and they introduced the Tab clear the direct competitor of the Crystal Pepsi.Why did Pepsi fail in Japan? ›
It ran US-style ads which failed to resonate with the Japanese audience. The ads were adversarial, directly comparing Pepsi with Coke, which to the non-confrontational Japanese were seen as ruthless, arrogant and inappropriate.What did the guy who sued Pepsi get? ›
Leonard sent a check for $700,008.50 (including $10 for shipping and handling), and 15 labels, per promotion rules. The offer was refused by Pepsi, who referred to the promotion of the Harrier jet in the commercial as "fanciful" and stated its intention was to create a "humorous and entertaining ad".What was upside down 7UP? ›
Back in the Sixties, 7 UP looked around and saw that the times were in need of changing. They decided to turn the cola world upside down with their "Uncola" campaign - which featured the clear caffeine-free and light tasting soft drink in inverted cola glasses.What drug was in the original 7UP? ›
It contained lithium citrate, a mood-stabilizing drug, until 1948. It was one of a number of patent medicine products popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Its name was later shortened to "7 Up Lithiated Lemon Soda" before being further shortened to just "7 Up" by 1936.Why was Hubba Bubba soda discontinued? ›
It simply didn't last very long on the market. Hubba Bubba soda was considered a novelty beverage. Much like Jones Sodas, and other similar things, it was crafted to be special and nothing like your traditional soda choices.