Even Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) isn't immune to social pressure. The beverage giant is bringing back Surge -- the citrus-flavored soft drink that tried but failed to take on PepsiCo's (NYSE:PEP) Mountain Dew -- after a 12-year hiatus.
In an intriguing partnership, Coca-Cola will sell the beverage exclusively through online retailer Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN).
This doesn't mean that getting your hands on a can of the heavily caffeinated soda will be a whole lot easier than it's been since 2002. The initial shipment at Amazon sold out within a few hours.
Surge hit the market in 1996, with its owner making no bones about competing with Mountain Dew. Both sodas had the same neon green color, and Surge's marketing campaign catered primarily to Mountain Dew's active young male audience of soda drinkers.
The buzz-building pop seemed to gain some initial steam, but Mountain Dew remained the undisputed champ in its niche. Sales then fell sharply, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, when schools started to boot high-caffeine sodas from their vending machines. With some retailers following suit, sales were off by 60% by 2000. Coca-Cola isn't kind to its sinkers. After just six years on the market, Surge bowed out.
Thanks to social media and the Internet, cult faves never die. Just as online campaigns resulted in the return of Arrested Development for a fourth season, fans of the short-lived Surge never let go. More than 140,000 folks have clicked like on the Facebook Surge Movement page.
It probably isn't a surprise if the quick sellout on Amazon was fueled by social media, but where do we go from here? The Surge Movement group -- which raised enough money earlier this year to rent a billboard near Coca-Cola's headquarters -- says this campaign is not over. Its page points out that the new goal is to ensure Surge's long-term success. That might take more than sales on Amazon, but Coca-Cola doesn't seem in a hurry to begin ordering bottlers to start servicing retail distributors again.
This could be where Keurig Cold comes in. Coca-Cola has invested roughly $2 billion for a 16% stake in the company behind the leading one-cup coffee brewing platform. A major part of that investment in Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR) was Coca-Cola promising its brand support for the upcoming Keurig Cold machine that will make carbonated beverages.
We still don't know which brands Coca-Cola will offer up as flavor pods when Keurig Cold hits the market during Keurig Green Mountain's new fiscal year (which starts next month). However, a no-brainer move by Coca-Cola and Keurig would be to make sure that Surge is readily available for Keurig Cold's launch.
It's not just that the Surge Movement page went from a little more than 142,000 likes to nearly 144,000 in the brief time that I've been working on this article. If there was ever a Coca-Cola brand that could be used in the home market without upsetting local bottlers and retailers, it would be a brand that it doesn't offer at that sales level. Surge's availability in something other than its current configuration of 12-packs through Amazon can only help.
Keurig Green Mountain and Coca-Cola need Surge to happen on Keurig Cold. Moody's Investors Service reported that carbonated soft drink sales declined 2.6% in the U.S. last year. Surge isn't going to single-handedly reverse this trend, but with Keurig Cold rolling out at a time when consumers are already turning on fizzed up beverages, Keurig might as well cater to a growing cult audience that could probably move more than a few of its new beverage makers. After all, many of the teens who enjoyed Surge in the late 1990s probably have a bit of disposable income on their hands these days.
Make it happen, Coca-Cola and Keurig. Don't miss the Surge. Then we can turn our attention to whoever wants to get Crystal Pepsi back on the market.
Rick Munarriz owns shares of Keurig Green Mountain. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Coca-Cola, Keurig Green Mountain, and PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and PepsiCo and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.