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 insidious
ness 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."