That's the problem with being really successful at what you do. Coke wasn't just a drink people bought because they were thirsty. It was a mega-brand; it went beyond a drink to being associated with childhood memories and classic ad campaigns where Don Draper made the whole world sing that song. Coca-Cola was so ingrained in people's lives that they almost didn't notice it anymore. So, when faced with the idea that this part of their lives might change, even if they liked the new taste, they took it personally. And those 12 percent of people, while not enough to tank New Coke on their own, put enough peer pressure on the people in their focus groups that they skewed more negatively.
"OK, how many people still prefer the new formula after Barry glassed you in the face?"
In other words, before launching New Coke, Coca-Cola had a perfect mini-example of what was going to happen in the real world. People would buy the new formula because they liked the taste, but a big enough segment of society was going to be very angry and very vocal and convince others to think like them. And, in the end, that is exactly what happened: Loyalty trumped flavor. After 79 days of calls, letter-writing campaigns, and protests, the company announced the original formula was coming back. And this was in 1985. If they tried something this dumb today, social media would take them down within 79 minutes.