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

8 thoughts on “OWNING YOUR OKAYNESS”

  • I remember OK soda. And I also remember approximating my own in JR high by mixing orange soda and coke. It seems to go through a renaissance every few years, with mysteriously preserved cases being passed around on EBay. I wonder how so many cans of the stuff survived intact. It's sort of like the Tupac of beverages.

  • does anyone remember that super mario soda from forever ago? the one that came in the mini cans?

    that shit tasted like pixie stick water.

  • Dan Clowes?! How the shit did he maintain his fat wad of indie cred in the aftermath of making packaging for the damned Coca-Cola Company?

    Also, my favorite item from the Manifesto is "8. OK Soda may be the preferred drink of other people such as yourself." Someone got paid for that? Really? Fuck, am I ever in the wrong line of work.

  • I'm not sure it is Clowes. At least I hope it's not. There are enough knock-off artists who look enough like Clowes / Charles Burns / Anyone else who draws incredibly slowly for me to maintain a sliver of hope.

  • Apologies, of course it fucking is. That'll teach me to skim read. I'm so over Clowes i'm into, like, Wolverine. Y'know. Ironically.

  • I forgot about this stuff. Never tasted it but I remember the marketing in Seattle (one stupid billboard in Wallingford in particular), where it felt like the fitting end to the unfortunate Grunge Mecca years there. As I recall Clowes' "indie cred" (ewww..) would have survived because lackluster "selling out" (moping along doing exactly what you were going to do anyway, too dispirited and bored to move your hand when the record companies and cola giants pile cash into it) was part and parcel of the alt-mystique. I don't recall anyone admitting to purchasing it, and don't remember any response to it other than eye-rolling.

    I do wish I had stolen that giant billboard Daniel Clowes face now.

  • Aw, this was a extremely high quality post. In theory I'd like to write like this as well – taking time and true work to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get one thing done.

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