I occupy a weird space, generationally. I’m an older “millennial,” but my mom was young when she had me, making her a “Generation Xer.” So while most of my friends grew up with properly established adult boomers for parents, I had the younger “cool mom.” I had the mom who had Nirvana’s “Nevermind” on cassette, and this was largely positive for me. She never experienced parenthood as a break with popular culture the way a lot of older parents did, and to this day she remains very open-minded about music, art, and literature.
So when I learn about stuff like OK Soda, Coca-Cola’s desperate attempt to court the youth market, I have to wonder… how stupid did they think she was? I mean, as a parent, she might have been more “adult” than your average Gen Xer, but did they really think the tagline, “Things are going to be OK” would relate to the disaffected young masses? As if the flannel-wearing youths would watch these commercials and think, “Yes. This is a soda that isn’t trying too hard with its Charles Burns-designed cans. This is the soda of choice for Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites. This soda speaks to me.”
OK Soda had its trial run in a few test markets from 1993 to 1995—it was a total flop. But while we’re left with only a few remaining cans on eBay and this absurdly transparent marketing campaign (commercials in the video below), these ads are such a perfect moment in 90s pop culture. At a time when Vogue was doing high-end grunge fashion spreads, OK Soda was doing the exact same thing—trying too hard to look like you’re not trying too hard.