I tried OK soda somewhere in the Northeast the summer it was out (1993?) As a 13 year-old it looked cool and was unlike anything I had seen. I was traveling to a few weeks summer camp in Maine and picked some up there or around Boston on our trip. I remember bringing the cans home with me so that my friends and I could call and listen to the hotline. I don’t remember leaving any messages, but thought one about someone drinking one and then trying to jump out a window was pretty funny, and something that should not have been used to market a product. Years later, I remember the promotion and the experience greatly, but have no idea what it tasted like.
Coca Cola’s OK Soda from the 1990’s is pretty cool looking, I wish I could’ve tried it. The article (here) is an interesting read. It seems like they were trying to advertise to people who didn’t want to be advertised to. It makes me wonder if it would have a similar word-of-mouth, hipster following like Jones Soda or PBR if it was around today. The look of it is really similar to Jones Soda or Obey Giant with the different labels and the use of black and white. There’s some more photos and trademarks (here).
This is funny, from Time Magazine, here’s a quote from one of OK’s 800 numbers:
“Ah, this is Pam H. from Newton, Massachusetts, and I resent you saying that everything is going to be O.K. You don’t know anything about my life. You don’t know what I’ve been through in the last month. I really resent it. I’m tired of you people trying to tell me things that you don’t have any idea about. I resent it. (Click!)”
At the time it very much did have a word-of-mouth, hipster following. Though the ad campaign was pretty mass market, at least in the markets it was selling in (and Boston, thankfully, was one of them). We stole the beautiful, Daniel Clowes-illustrated billboards off of the trains of the OK soda posters (which were just beautiful). My roommate at the time, Liz Enthusiasm, still has a six pack of it. It tasted like a mix of half Sunkist and half Coca Cola. We even saw a few of the AG-rebranded Shepard Fairey posters around in Boston, though considering the design was very much Clowes-inspired, and Obey was still a pretty underground thing over in Portland*, where Weiden was, I always thought that was a coincidence.
We called that 1-800-I-Feel-OK number every night. We called it drunk. We called it happy. We called it sad. We kept calling it well after it was disconnected. I miss calling that number.
It was a great pre-web attempt at viral marketing and niche marketing. It didn’t work, it was ahead of its time, but it was pretty damn awesome.
The biggest problem with OK soda was its flavor. If it had Red Bull in those cans - or some sort of interesting, new flavor, rather than what any kid could concoct at a McDonald’s soda fountain - it would have been a hit, I am sure.
* this was in the period where, as a New Englander, whenever you travelled, and you spotted an “andre the giant has a posse” sticker, it was still a remarkable, weird, disorienting, exciting thing. I still miss that sensation.