The more popular a brand is, the more attention its blunders receive from the public. Coca-Cola, the world’s leader in the soft drinks market, always tries to make its campaigns attractive and unusual. However, the attention driven by the organization’s advertising endeavors is not always positive. Over the long period of the company’s existence, Coca-Cola has caused several major scandals due to its marketing department’s mistakes.
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In October of 2018, Coca-Cola launched a new marketing campaign in New Zealand. The company combined English and Māori in its slogan, and it wrote “Kia Ora, Mate” on its vending machines (“‘Hello, Death’”). The idea was to say “hi” in te reo (another name for Māori) and then use a friendly English word “mate” to greet its customers. Unfortunately, the idea did not work quite the way it was expected. The problem was that in Māori, the word “mate” meant “death.”
Since it was natural for local citizens to read the whole phrase in te reo, the association that appeared in people’s minds was not at all pleasant. The blunder was immediately posted on Twitter by numerous users, and some of them ironically suggested that Coca-Cola’s slogan was an “accidental” case of “honesty in advertising” (“‘Hello, Death’”). People noted that obesity was the main cause of death in New Zealand and said that Coca-Cola was “self-aware” by announcing its relation to statistics (“‘Hello, Death’”). Thus, not knowing the local language led to a huge cultural mistake, which caused many losses to the company and damaged its image.
The mistake made by The Coca-Cola Company had adverse outcomes, but as a manager, it would have been my duty to resolve the unpleasant issue as soon as possible. The first reaction to users’ comments would have been acknowledging the mistake and apologizing for it. By doing so, the company would remind its customers that it was ready to admit problems and solve them. The next step could be removing the slogan from vending machines.
Changing “mate” to a Māori word probably would lead to an undesirable result since the phrase had gained a negative association. Thus, it might be necessary to come up with a new catchphrase. To eliminate the repetition of the blunder, I would have invited local people to help create a new slogan. It might also have been necessary to apply analytical tools to identify how much harm had been done (Kumar and Reinartz 324). Upon analyzing the losses, I would have been able to predict further strategies.
Avoiding a problem is much better than dealing with its negative outcomes. It is crucial to take into consideration the complexity and diversity of large markets (Schaffmeister 34). The Coca-Cola Company is popular in many countries of the world, so it should think through new campaigns very thoroughly and keep in mind the differences between regions and customers. To prevent such a blunder, I would have made it obligatory for marketing department specialists to discuss their suggestions concerning different languages with linguists. It may seem like an additional burden, but the outcomes of not discussing the slogan or thinking about some other cultural aspects can be damaging. Taking into consideration that the market’s diversity could have allowed the company to predict the problem and prevent it from happening.
“‘Hello, Death’: Coca-Cola’s Te Reo Marketing Blunder.” NZ Herald. 2018. Web.
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Kumar, V., and Werner Reinartz. Customer Relationship Management: Concept, Strategy, and Tools. 3rd ed., Springer, 2018.
Schaffmeister, Niklas. Brand Building and Marketing in Key Emerging Markets: A Practitioner’s Guide to Successful Brand Growth in China, India, Russia and Brazil. Springer, 2015.