OWNING YOUR OKAYNESS

Posted in No Politics Friday on March 27th, 2009 by Ed

Do you ever feel like ordinary soft drinks aren't edgy enough for your cynical, Gen-X lifestyle? Oh, how you must yearn for that brief period in the mid-90s during which, in select and appropriately edgy test cities, you could enjoy an OK Soda.

In 1994 the marketing team at the Coca-Cola company, presumably wrapped in flannel and rocking out to Candlebox, decided to release a new beverage targeted specifically at teen angst and the rapidly fading popularity of I'm-so-jaded alternative rock. Their plan was to out-jade the jaded, cynical youth demographic with a marketing campaign that amounted to a (slick, corporate) postmodern take on marketing campaigns. Daniel Clowes was hired to design bleak, dreary cans (not at all like the bright, eye-catching designs a corporation would use!). The ad campaign consisted of angry phone messages left by hip young consumers on the company's 1-800-I-FEEL-OK hotline. The logo was a white square with "OK." in plain black text. The keystone of the marketing campaign, though, was a ten-point "OK Manifesto" which was a combination of deliberately silly platitudes ("OK Soda emphatically rejects anything that is not OK, and fully supports anything that is."), calculated cynicism ("What's the point of OK? Well, what's the point of anything?"), and faux-earnest admissions that the soda really isn't that great ("Never overestimate the remarkable abilities of "OK" brand soda.")

The self-deprecating beverage was tested in appropriately edgy places like Seattle and Austin with expectations that it would soon be on the lips of every grunge-rocking young whippersnapper in America. Unfortunately the soda tasted like a bile-flavored wine cooler and The Kids were predictably unimpressed by a brutal multinational corporation's clumsy attempt at targeted marketing. Apparently winking and nudging about the vapidity of marketing campaigns and the lameness of the product does not make an effective marketing campaign (although it worked quite well for VW in the 1960s, if we recall its seminal DDB ad campaign). Maybe it just doesn't work if the company behind it is so goddamn obvious about trying to be Young and Edgy. The product was quietly euthanized in less than a year. The few people who mourn OK's demise recommend, or so the internet tells me, the following recipe to make your own: 75% flat Coke, 25% orange soda, and a "splash" of Dr. Pepper. Note that neither ginandtacos.com nor its parent corporation, Nordyne Defense Dynamics, recommend that you try this or accept liability if you do.

Ironically – and certainly the marketing wizards would appreciate that! – Coca-Cola succeeded in failure. OK Soda has something of a cult following among the hipsters to whom the original product was targeted more than a decade ago. The contemporary fad for all things kitschy has elevated OK's marketing campaign to cult status, a beloved example of the hilariously bad. What delicious irony that jaded young people are now enjoying the product exactly as intended. Or perhaps it is metacommentary so multi-layered that I can't even keep up with who's sarcastically enjoying whom in this situation.

"Are you being sarcastic, dude?"

"I don't even know anymore."

Fortunately, not knowing is OK.tm