THEY ARE BRINGING back the old Coke and will call it Coca-Cola Classic, so perhaps we had better be on the lookout for Billy Beer Classic, Reggie candy bar Classic and Walter Mondale Classic.

I suppose the message of this entire Coca- Cola episode, other than the fact that it was not market research's finest hour, is that the new Coke would have made a great official soft drink of the Comet Kohoutek.

The imagination whips you back to the election of 1948 and the famous photograph of Harry Truman holding up a Chicago Tribune headline -- "New Coke Wins."

At Coca-Cola World Headquarters, where the controversy has apparently had the same effect on Atlanta as Gen. Sherman's boys on a three-day pass, they brought back the popular old drink and by doing so put the new drink into sharper focus -- definitely inferior.

Yuppies, for whom new Coke was strategically targeted, had conjured up an anger usually reserved for polyester and red meat and proclaimed, "We don't like it. Really."

The situation made it logical that the machines dispensing the new Coke would only take Susan B. Anthony dollars.

Research, pulse-taking, polls, intelligence -- whatever the classification -- will always be suspect. This year's new Coke is another year's sack dress. I'll see your mood ring and raise you one pet rock. Busing is the only answer. Khomeini is just a harmless old crackpot. Chablis in cans -- for the gourmet on the go.

Watching the Coca-Cola pratfall and attempted recovery is light summer fun as opposed to observing the heavier-handed techniques of Pepsi. Last year there was that widely reported $47 million public bludgeoning in which the name Michael Jackson was forced upon the 26 or 27 of us in America who didn't know who he was.

All right, an exaggeration, but an election year poll showed that the number of people who never heard of Michael Jackson was in exact proportion to the number of people who supported Sen. Ernest Hollings for president.

The Pepsi folks spent $47 million to make sure no man, woman or child in America would go more than five minutes without thinking of Michael Jackson. They spent $47 million to make sure we all knew that Michael Jackson's hair had caught on fire while making a Pepsi commercial. The strategy was to make sure everybody in the United States remembered Michael Jackson's hair, and, if they remembered Michael Jackson's hair, of course they would remember to drink Pepsi.

Then, of course, there was the $500,000, 30-second Geraldine Ferraro Pepsi commercial -- "When my hubby comes home from a hard day of court-ordered community service, I always make sure a nice cold Diet Pepsi is waiting for him." I guess in the best of all satirical worlds Ferraro would plug the new Coke.

Which brings us back to Walter Mondale. The other night I dreamed that I saw him drinking a new Coke. He was wearing a leisure suit and driving an Edsel to a 3-D movie about the Baltimore Colts. Mondale was meeting some friends for lunch -- Tom Snyder, John Cameron Swayze, Tiny Tim and Vaughn Meader -- for a discussion of Hitler's diary.

"Something from the bar?" asked the waiter.

"Bring us a round of Cokes," they cried out. "And make sure it's the new stuff."

"That new Coke sure is popular," said the waiter. "Yesterday, Spiro Agnew came in here and drank a case of it.