OK Soda was interesting in that it may have been the first purely brand-driven soft drink.

This seems ironic considering, if I remember correctly, that OK Soda did not advertise in any of the traditional ways. There was no print campaign, no onslaught of TV spots, no radio. In retrospect, this was probably because OK Soda was in a limited test release. Everything OK Soda had going for it was printed on the can.

But OK Soda operated on the holiest of holy advertising grails: word of mouth. Kids would somehow acquire a can, maybe attracted by the slightly gloomy cartoon of a deadpan face on the can (the anti-ad was also on the rise during this period, hence the "generic" coloration and air of disaffection), and then proceed to tell their friends about the weird, surreal jokes, the 1-800-IFEELOK phone number (and its various entertainments), and OK's other enigmatic attributes.

Like the taste. What, exactly, was OK even supposed to taste like? I certainly didn't know. I couldn't even decide if I liked it. But a friend of mine and I would drive to the Andover Spa (a convenience store of sorts) practically every day after school and buy one can of OK Soda.

Why? Because we were participating. The feeling of participation is the quintessence of branding. We weren't buying OK Soda because we decided it was the best thing for our thirst, we were buying it as part of a cultural phenomenon. The culture of consumerism and logo.

Upon reflection, it's possible that Coca-Cola was not, in actuality, testing a new brand of soft drink. They may have been testing the very concept of branding which, in the early nineties, was still in its infancy. This was, for the general populace, a pre-World Wide Web time. Interactivity, hallmark of modern branding, was limited to a (very entertaining) 1-800 number.

Those were certainly the days. Lunch just wasn't complete without a call to 1-800-IFEELOK on the cafeteria payphone.

By the way, the art on the OK Soda cans was done by Daniel Clowes, who would later write and draw Ghost World.


I have been informed by those with a better memory than me (i.e. Walter) that there were, in fact, quite a lot of OK Soda TV spots on MTV. As such, my declarations about a total lack of traditional advertising appear to be misguided. However, I stand by the general interpretation of the OK Soda phenomenon.
Another memory hole has been plugged by ClockworkGrue, who pointed out that OK did have a radio spot later in its life which compared it to "carbonated tree sap". Ah, the hilarious insidiousness of the anti-ad.
Just to decimate my thesis a tad further, Riptor says "I remember that OK Soda had a radio commercial directed towards commuters. They said that depending on how fast you were going, the soda's taste changed. At 45 mph, it was orangey, at 55, it was pinapple-like, etc."

So I am sitting here reading this node in a mental haze at work, when I realized that I have a can of OK Soda in my desk here. The expiration date listed is February 13, 1995.

These cans had a paragraph on them of OK things that happened to people that drank OK soda, or not so OK things to people who passed it up.

Here is the coincidence on the can that I am looking at now.

Coincidence #12

REED R. OF SEATTLE, WASHINGTON DRANK SEVERAL CANS
OF “OK” AND SUDDENLY FELT GRATEFUL FOR A LOT OF
THINGS HE’D TAKEN FOR GRANTED.  HIS BROTHER, DEREK
R., DECLINED A CAN OF “OK” AND REFUSED TO CALL 
1-800-I-FEEL-OK.  THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE
SUBSEQUENT LOSS OF HIS JOB OR HIS DOG’S REFUSAL
TO LET HIM PER HER.  WE WISH DEREK ALL THE BEST,
AND AGREE WITH REED THAT THINGS ARE GOING TO BE OK.TM

I also just tried the attempt at recreating OK soda in the first writeup on this node. I’m not feeling very OK anymore.

Actually, I do remember being bombarded with the "Drink OK" campaign. Coke pasted quite a few of the TV ads in afternoon cartoon spots (back in the good old days of afternoon cartoons). The silver can with the black and white man, or was it a thumbs up? Or both. The taste was rather peculiar and no two cans seemed the same to me. I asked some of my friends recently and none of them seemed to have heard of this weird concoction. Perhaps a limited test market in urban areas?

A couple of my old friends got together back in 1995 to test the stuff and we eventually agreed that the thing tasted like a mix of coke, grape soda, and orange soda combined in random amounts for each can, though none of us were ever brave enough to actually empirically test our recipe.

To this day, I've always had the sneaking suspicion that OK was the result of some kind of soda surplus that Coke happened to have come into the possession of at that time and that rather than throwing the stuff out, they decided to sell it as a hip alternative drink. Maybe they had too much Fanta.

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