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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 06
Jul
2006

No! No! Not my secret recipes!

Syrup Well, you must have heard the big news. The story, essentially, is this: three people, one a Coca-Cola employee, tried to sell Pepsi some of Coke’s secret recipes. Pepsi called the Feds, and, because spreading a person’s secrets is bad manners but spreading a corporation’s secrets is illegal, those three people are now probably going to prison.

I have a couple of thoughts about this. First, if I was Pepsi, I’d be a little insulted. I mean, what’s the implication: that the only reason my cola tastes like that is because I don’t know how to make it more like Coke? The hell with that! If you ask me, Coke should be trying to buy my secret recipes! I’ll tell you something for free, mister: we here at Pepsi already know how to make Coke. Coke, that’s what we scrape off the bottom of our vats and give away to pig farmers and the homeless.

Second, if I was Coke, I’d be insulted, too. These guys were offering up Coke’s newest product, which hasn’t even been released yet, and for that they wanted $75,000. I bet that’s less than you can win if you look under the right bottle cap of that product, when it comes out. And not only that, but Pepsi wasn’t interested. That’s got to be deflating. Those Coke developers probably spent months, maybe years, creeping around and looking over their shoulders for Pepsi spies. Then the recipe gets out, Pepsi takes a look, and says, “Nah, we’re good, thanks.” How is Coke meant to market that now? It could come up with the most brilliant campaign in advertising history, and all Pepsi needs to do is say, “Yeah, we got offered that. Didn’t want it.”

The only good for either company is that it encourages people to believe that colas are the result of secret, mystical recipes, and not cough syrup plus sugar. (I mean, come on. What’s all that advertising for? Because you’ve never heard of Coke or Pepsi? I get very suspicious about products that need to teach people why they like them. And food is the worst; we already know that what we think of as “taste” only bears a tenuous relationship to the chemical composition of what we put in our mouths. Taste is mostly marketing. All you need to do to prove that is try to feed a three-year-old.)

Comments

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shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 2938 days ago

That's probably why no 3 year old can stand NationStates?
JOKE! U know I love ya Max :)

I esp. agree on the last comment... the last thing breast(s) milk/[feeding] needs is a marketing campaign... them _cans_ are proven :)

and finally I further agree on the taste is marketing point...
that's why when you first start dating a girl she has no problem with "taste" --then ya wife her up and that's the end of that act :)

cheers!skeet!andlove!

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 2938 days ago

Well, didn't you ever think of marketing Finlay's food to her?

John Doe (#797)

Location: Live from Omicron Persei 8
Quote: "You're just jealous because the little voices only talk to me."
Posted: 2938 days ago

Classic Max Barry. Putting both an intelligent and funny perspective on things. Very funny.

Guido (#2510)

Location: Bern, Switzerland
Posted: 2938 days ago

What we all don't know: It's a secret marketing ploy, they actually planned this in advance, they'll settle for a monetary amount that's much lower than what a commercial effort of similar impact would have cost.

Oh, and the feds are just puppets in this game of course :)

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 2938 days ago

I'm picturing the guys at Pepsi saying, This has got to be a setup. If we take them up on this, they'll get us on hidden cameras and it'll look like we need to steal their ideas to compete.

Plus, I would expect the labs at both companies have a pretty good bead on how the other one does their thing. And you're absolutely right about the marketing 'ingredient.' Remember New Coke? Which, I suspect, was just old Coke with corn syrup instead of cane sugar, and they just couldn't get it to match at all, so they pretended to reinvent the soda on purpose.

Then they brought back the 'old' Coke and claimed it was Classic, and everyone said, Wait, this is NOT the same as the old stuff. Why can't they just go back to the old formula?

Because cane sugar costs a ton more, that's why, but if we bombard you with enough commercials, you'll drink the corn syrup and think you like it.

Christopher Okula (#1490)

Location: Norfolk, Virginia, USA
Quote: "There's no sense in marketing to a marketer."
Posted: 2938 days ago

I just read that the stolen recipe concerned a marvelous "new" take on the cola experience -- coffee flavoring. Laugh if you must, but I'm sure I'd enjoy it. In fact, I know I enjoyed Pepsi's version of a similar beverage when they test-marketed the formula in Philadelphia 10 years ago. It was called "Pepsi Kona" and it was delicious. The real intrigue here is that Pepsi turned down the offer, not because they were being neighborly... but because they've already done it! Way to go R&D!

Dom Pody (#2475)

Location: Philadelphia, PA, USA
Quote: "I may not agree with a word you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it. - Voltaire"
Posted: 2938 days ago

The product was obviously going to be marketed in a black can, and be, as one Coke marketer was quoted as saying, "the drink of cynics."


<3 Syrup

prodigal_son (#2479)

Location: NYC
Quote: ""For the love of God, man -- put some pants on!""
Posted: 2938 days ago

The irony here is still all comes down to this...

Consumer X - "I'll have a Coke"

Soda Jerk - "No Coke, Pepsi"

Consumer X - "Okay, Pepsi then"

Christian (#2192)

Location: Calgary, Canada
Quote: "If being a nerd was baseball, I'd be starting quarterback!"
Posted: 2938 days ago

Well, I think it's mostly a matter of how seriously bad it would make Pepsi look if word got out that they purchased secrets from someone who works for Coke. But not only that, what good would the secrets do them anyway? It's not as though Pepsi could actually take the recipe, sell the product, and expect to not get sued by Coke.

The three people who came up with this "brilliant" idea may very well belong in prison as a part of natural selection.

David (#1848)

Location: Texas
Quote: "Delighted!"
Posted: 2938 days ago

Like everyone here, I immediately thought of you, Max, when I heard this story on the news. I do that a lot, anyway, but this one also made me recall Coke's announcement of Blak, and it just seemed like another example of the world ripping off Max Barry.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 2937 days ago

I have to agree with prodigal_son on this... whether you drink coke or pepsi is absolutely nothing to do with the taste or the marketing or any of that crap. It's whether the cafe or restaurant you happen to be in sells coke or pepsi, and they never do both.

In fact, as I said to Max in an email once, the place where I eat every Friday doesn't do either as such, but rather imports cokes from different countries around the world and charges twice as much as a normal can of your UK coke variety for you to see the difference. Though you don't get to choose which country, that would be too easy. I was surprised to discover that the different nationality cokes actually do taste differently, which I can only assume is a product of what companies are allowed to pollute food with in individual systems of law.

An extension of the "do they sell coke or pepsi here" law is the "buy-one-get-one-free" corrollary, where the supermarket always has at least one softdrink on special offer and not the others. Who doesn't just get the cheapest anyway? "Err, coke is two for the price of one, but I'll get the pepsi anyway" just makes you look like a moron at the till.

This week it was neither at the local Tesco. Irn Bru was the one on offer, so up yours coke and pepsi.

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 2937 days ago

Didn't they already release the coke and coffee stuff? That stuff is good. Twice as much caffein as you need in one serving.

But yeah. No one really cares whether or not they drink coke or pepsi. When coke comes out with the new stuff, pepsi will do the same. like always. Cherry coke =cherry pepsi, coke with lemon= pepsi lemon, vanilla coke = vanilla pepsi. It's the same stuff in different brands that are released at different times.

anyway, enough with my rant.

CameoAppearance (#2439)

Location: Vancouver, BC
Quote: "Please tell me I'm not related to these people."
Posted: 2935 days ago

Taste isn't ENTIRELY marketing; I don't really like cola, but when I do end up drinking it, I actually have noticed a difference between Coke and Pepsi. I'm not sure what it is, but Coke tastes slightly better.

However, most other types of pop (which I will always take over cola) are more or less interchangeable within their flavours, although some (root beer, for example) have some sub-flavours and/or regional variations. But the point being made is that the two big COLA brands taste different.

gdotcom (#2522)

Location: Oz
Quote: "I can explain it to you, but I can't understnad it for you."
Posted: 2933 days ago

Didn't know where else to put this, or if it's been asked already, but. . .

Just finished "Syrup" (the book I mean, my daily dose of the product itself can wait until morning), and I was wondering where Scat's name came from. Is it more than just coincidence that "scat" is slang for someone who derives pleasure from being shat upon by a loved one?

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=scat

G

Lancer Kind (#1547)

Location: Redmond WA
Quote: "Be nice to the man with the gun."
Posted: 2924 days ago

What really puts a bee in my bonnet is that in some countries, Coke and Pepsi don't even bother to use sugar but instead use corn syrup.

The execs are concerned that sugar doesn't spike your blood sugar hard enough, so they've come up with a more damaging substitute. Naturally, the very officious people in the US's Food and Drug Agency don't have much comment about this and it's relationship to diabetes. However, they are very officious about drug re-importation because those low-cost Canadian drugs are going to kill Americans.

By the way, ever notice that places that serve only soft drinks like coke or pepsi products are places where the food is crappy for you anyway.

==>Lancer---

Theo (#2909)

Quote: ""I don't take no stock in dead people"- Mark Twain, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn""
Posted: 2741 days ago

Well, it'd e confusing if the drink tasted good, cause you'd hear people every now and then in the subway or on the street or in a waiting room say "Gee, I really need some Cocaine" and your eyes would shoot up a couple of feet, you'd turn to then, your mouth would hang open a little, and THEN you'd realize they were talking about the energy drink.

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