Coca-Cola: Call me anything, just not ‘gay’

29 Jan

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Coca-Cola or Coca-Cock up? It’s hard to tell when this global brand keeps making marketing mistakes.

After asking fans to share a personalised coke, Coca-Cola’s sub brand – Vitamin Water – fell foul of calling one unlucky US customer a ‘retard’. And now, according to BBC Trending, the South African coke microsite has banned people from calling their can of coke ‘Gay’.

‘Computer error’ I hear you ask? Well, technical glitches don’t tend to read:

Oops. Let’s pretend you didn’t just type that. Please try another name.

The brand has since apologised and resolved the issue by clarifying which names can be used on its social media led channel by listing them on the site. But, if Coca-Cola thinks it can move on swiftly it’s highly mistaken.

With the 2014 Winter Games around the corner – featuring Jamaica (probably the most exciting thing about the event) – rightly or wrongly this has definitely become a gay rights issue.

Although the Games wouldn’t happen without its sponsors, it’s down to all marketeers, regardless of what country they’re based in, to communicate with one another to ensure they have an integrated approach. Remember that word? In this industry it doesn’t just look pretty on paper, it means something.

Sure, some might agree that Sochi shouldn’t be punished for South Africa’s mistakes but the truth is a quick phone call could have ensured the brand isn’t tarnished in every time zone. With Russia attracting attention for the wrong reasons since it passed legislation banning propaganda of ‘non traditional sexual relations among minors’, it’s important that businesses know which side of the fence they’re sitting on. Otherwise you’ll have international media, bloggers and entire communities hating on you, including Gay activist John Aravosis.

It’s time for marketeers to take responsibility for their actions because, with this company in particular, ‘sorry’ is wearing thin. If you’re going to put consumers in charge, then you have to be prepared for the consequences.

If in doubt, leave it out! What do you think?

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