A Coke bottle, that is. I’m teaching Trademarks and Unfair Competition this fall at Wayne State, and one of the first examples I use to illustrate how consumers recognize marks is the distinctive Coca-Cola bottle design. It was trademarked in 1959 (see Registration 0696147 at the USPTO site). Now, Coke is changing the bottle, slightly, to be more eco-friendly and to be easier to open. I blogged previously about the risks involved in modifying one’s own brands (calling out Ford and Tab). In discussing the post (which I shamelessly assigned to my class to read), one of my students mentioned that customer expectations are key: if car buyers expect that the Taurus will change year-to-year, and the difference between the old Taurus and the new
Five Hundred (er, Taurus) is less than that standard expectation, the shift may not be as problematic as I portray. This is a great insight – one of the joys of teaching! – and I think it applies here as well: the new bottle alters the old design, but gradually, and it maintains existing consumer associations (at least, according to Coke’s testing).
Are there any other good examples out there of companies altering or manipulating their own trademarks, either for good or ill?