What Really Happened April 1985 With the New Soft Drink Company
What, true friends, really happened in April 1985? I don't know nor do I care what political aspirations, socioeconomic, geothermal or Neopolitical moves were either being planned or trashed. These areas in life (as I know it) from "Small Town, U.S.A.," are to me, out of bounds. Not worth a second notice. The real reason: I now feel cursed; raped intelligently by invisible forces working around me that kept me in the town I just mentioned. I would mention (and plug) my real hometown, but I think that if you have read any of my current narratives, your younger age of retention should give you that answer.
Okay. What my second quandary was in 1985 was: What was really wrong with The biggest soft drink company in the U.S. and the world? Let's get exact. What was wrong with a handful of the people (not on the assembly lines) who decided it wise to change THE Most-Popular soft drink EVER? What mo-ron had the shattered-thinking that would make a highly-respected lab technician or better, a highly-respected Flavor Technician (this even sounds good) to say to the underlings who worked for him: "Hey, guys (girls too), I have got the most terrific idea that I have ever devised! (His employees are froze in anticipation). "Let's change the taste of our soft drink that the entire world supports economically and swears by our name. How about it? You can trust me. (sound like R. Nixon?) I've never led you wrong have I?"
So now . . .in a clandestine meeting or two, with the parties and components all dressed in bland, unnoticeable raincoats, the New Soft Drink was born. The C.E.O. even had the honor of slapping its pop top and then New Soft Drink was on the assembly lines. Man. What a day for America. I can remember when I owned and used the very first Swinger Pull and Peel camera. No joke. All I did was shoot my subject, pull out the yellow tab on the right side, wait 60 seconds, (I counted) then peeled off the top layer of paper and with a little patience and shaking the rest of the paper (a photo) to dry . . .I had a photo of my family and pet dog, "Tramp." I was so happy to own such a machine. So was my family. "Tramp" was so happy that he ran around in circles. In many years later, I too ran in circles when I would abuse beer.
The New Soft Drink was really a reformulation of the original America's No. 1 Soft Drink that was put in grocery stores by the same huge Soft Drink Company that "replaced" (you may laugh here) and name it . . .New Popular Soft Drink. It's now November 2017, and I am still waiting for my answer. Not a Form Answer like a Form Letter, but a real, honest to God answer given by a real live human being--or beings that were responsible for such a idiotic debacle. Debacle? Did I really say that? I really meant The Most Stupid of Marketing Ideas EVER! Didn't you when you first latched onto a can of the New Soft Drink, popped the top and slugged it down? I bet that you didn't slug for long for if you were like me, I stopped then and there and spat it out. It tasted awful. Worse than if someone had handed me a can of white vinegar mixed with copper dust. Pure awful. Probably if I drank this junk long enough, I might not have lived long enough to be writing this powerful narrative--which by the way, contains NO mention of this soft drink's Original or New name or Company Name. I defy you to proofread this piece and try to find a brand name.
I want to try being fair. People in my hometown (you already know) do NOT refer to Soft DRINKS as DRINKS, but "Dranks." Use it in a sentence: "Me and Jimmy Bob iz goin' to uh store to git a Cold DRANK." Was I wrong? Did I stutter? I am telling you to your face that this is the truth. A big cross section of folks still talk that way, but they are entitled. They buy big tracts of timber, their "hands" (employees) use chainsaws to cut the timber down, then load the logs onto big, powerful Peterbilt tractors (trucks) and make their way to the nearest paper mill for big bucks. More bucks that I will make writing narrative like this, but I guess that would depend on who I submit this to, huh? These, and I use the term of endearment, "Ol' Boys," smell like timber, sawdust, and diesel fuel, but all of their bills are more than paid in CASH.
Even these "Ol' Boys" had a lot of trouble adjusting to the New Soft Drink. Some swore that a competing lumber and log company was surely trying their hand of Southern Timber Espionage. It has happened before a few years back. The cloak and chainsaw culprits were never apprehended. My best buddy, Les Walters, Managing editor, the Journal Record, Hamilton, Al., Look it up if you are skiddish about believing me. He and I walked over to the then-Food Warehouse (I can say this now for this store does not exist) to get a soft drink for our morning break. We, old time newspaper dogs, usually slug down gallons of black coffee, but not on this particular morning. We just had to try the New Soft Drink that Walters had told me about from watching a TV ad the previous night on his favorite show: WCW Wrestling, another company that is non-existent.
Les and I threw our silver into the New Soft Drink machine and got our drinks. Les, who loved to be first, took a gulp. I on the other hand, took a sip. One of us had to be civilized. His face turned from a peaceful image to a grimace that would match someone trying to drink White Vinegar and Copper Dust.
"Spppllllaaattt! Whoosh! What--is--that--junk?" Walters said very loudly. Not caring who heard him.
"Oh, I wondered what that stuff was. I thought it was the New Soft Drink," I said trying to solve answer his question.
"That has to be THE worst stuff I've ever tasted!" Walters said tossing the remainder of the New Soft Drink into the waiting trash can. FACT: when I tossed my can of the same brand into that same trash can, I spied several cans of the New Soft Drink that people had already tossed in there.
When Les and I walked back to our office, Les, not one to be defeated, ran a Phone Directory Search and got the New Soft Drink headquarters in Birmingham. Ala., and proceeded to call the company. He went from the sweet-sounding receptionist to one of the guys in a Research Area and Les was very nice in saying: "Why did you change the Great Tasting Original Soft Drink Loved by Millions to the New Soft Drink--will you give me a straight answer?"
The young guy who Les talked to began to chuckle, a dead give-away that he was not going to tell Les the truth, so began one of the slickest, expertly-designed Game of Toss The Call you ever were involved with. These guys were so slick that they could operate the C.I.A. on a minute's notice. They should have been working for MGM or SONY for they had acting skills that was so sharp, it was no problem for them to fool Les and me. So we gave up after an hour.
But Les did sit down and write a heated editorial which was well within the guidelines of his job as News Editor and I watched him (from time to time) as he chiseled-out his editorial and his face was that of focused. Pure determination. This is one of the reasons why Les is now at the Journal Record in Hamilton, Al., Look it up. At the time of our New Soft Drink fact-finding quest, we were working at The Progress, a paper that went out of business in 1989--sold by the owner of the Journal Record.
Still the fact remains that the New Soft Drink was being hauled by fleets of trucks that had New Soft Drink signs on the doors and the drivers were quick to pull out their two-wheeled aluminum hand-trucks to load up case-after-case of the New Soft Drink and what was really mysterious was the drivers of these trucks had huge smiles pasted on their faces. That scared me. Anytime a truck driver or school teacher meets me with a huge smile painted on their face and says nothing, I get scared and look for a place to hide.
And with each soft drink shelf filled to the brim with New Soft Drink in various sizes, the New Soft Drink was NOT selling as the Market Research has told the Original Soft Drink Company in their Market Focus Research. "Sell? You bet, Jim! It's a winner!" The yes man rambled on and on about how great the CHANGE would be to the Original Soft Drink.
By now, the Original Soft Drink Company's number one competitor, Other Soft Drink Company was having a huge celebration for doing what they said was a "Doofus Move," in changing the formula of their original soft drink. Common sense, guys. You lost that when you signed on the dotted line and said, "make it," and the Original Soft Drink management and employees set off to work like obedient beavers building a dam running against their lodge.
If the men or women had just stopped and thought . . .for one minute, how is this change that has fed generations of people for many years way before Korea, World Wars I, II, and Vietnam came around going to affect our loyal world-wide customer bases? And how will our number one competitor feel about us changing our Original Formula that has worked perfectly for many years? What did you think that the Other Soft Drink Company would think and do?
Jump on the weak and sick! The one who has fell behind the pack. That is the Law of Soft Drink Survival, friends. It still exists. Not that a common consumer such as we are can see it, but you can bet your last seventy-three cents that THIS law still exists.
I have a number of feasible theories of what really happened--with the key word being REALLY. I have this theory that is really easy to understand. Let's say in a hypothetical sense that the Big, Successful Soft Drink Company's CEO, "Jasper L. Saggs," is sitting in his plush office that is itself two stories tall covered with silver dust on the floor and walls. An expensive mahogany bar sits full of now the New Soft Drink that "Saggs" will give to his new clients who will start selling his New Soft Drink. Yes, "Saggs," is quite the CEO.
Then he starts down a dark road with few lights. Hoot owls and jackals hoot and growl as he goes on down the road. He stops and then says to himself, "It's great being me. I am rich as a rich man can be. I will never see the end of my wealth and I can hire and fire my mother if I want to. I am powerful, but I am also bored. Bored out of my skull. You know something . . .I want a Change. A change that I Will Teach The World to Sing in Perfect Harmony . . .and unbeknownst to "Saggs," his old friend, "Bobby Louis," the elderly janitor who has worked for The Big Successful Original Soft Drink Company for over 45 years just gets near "Saggs'" office door and hears every word of him wanting a change that he will teach the world to sing in perfect harmony and before you can count to five, "Louis," runs to the company break room and tells his buddies what the CEO has just heard and then these friends pass along the information shared by "Louis" to a new employees in the Soft Drink Flavor Lab and well . . .
you know how this turned out.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery