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Coca-Cola loses its fizz after insulting customer

22 Sep

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Have you heard the one about Coca-Cola calling one of its customers a ‘retard‘ via its latest promotion?

Ok, maybe you haven’t because it happened in Canada. But here’s what happened:

Blake Loates bought home a bottle of Coca-Cola’s Vitamin Water earlier this week and she was in for a shock when she unscrewed the cap, which read ‘You Retard’ on the inside. Some people may have found it funny (personally I don’t, and even less so coming from a global brand) but Blake certainly didn’t because her sister suffers from cerebral palsy.

Her father wrote a letter of disgust forcing Coca-Cola to own up to its politically incorrect mistake – which it did quite well. But the reason the brand manager (or PR) cited for the inappropriate wording was a language mix up (‘retard’ meaning ‘delayed’ or ‘late’ in French), which relates a wider promotion the brand was running.

The fact that more people may have or will continue to open up the phrase before the manufacturing process is discontinued is shocking – and the fact that Coca-Cola has undone its apology to the family, by not noticing the mistake long before it went public, is dumb.

There’s some small-scale crisis management to be done now, in my opinion, because consumers won’t remember the story being a water bottle lid ‘lost in translation’, it’ll become ‘Coca-Cola calls cerebral palsy teenager a retard’. But for some reason the drinks company has put this issue to the bottom of its ‘to do’ list as it looks to push ahead with its international obesity campaign.

Of course a stunt like this won’t damage a brand like that, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t show empathy. I’d have liked to have seen Coca-Cola show some personality by making the Loates family feel like a valued customer and sending some freebies. Essentially, the company needs the family to publicly say the right things to override the negative comments so everyone can see that the situation was dealt with.

This time, Coca-Cola might not have lost its bottle with the complaint, but it’s certainly lost its fizz.

Would this bad PR put you off your favourite soft drink?

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X-rated car advert gets tongues wagging

31 Jul

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It’s a brand’s worst nightmare – an advert appears in print complete with a big mistake. No, not an incorrect spelling or wrong call to action. Either of those could easily be resolved with the help of a PR agency. Car hire firm Enterprise has had to deal with something much worse: an advert in the Pembrokeshire Herald, published last week, suggested that the firm offers inappropriate sex acts for customers. See the advert here.

To add insult to injury, the advert went hand-in-hand with the company’s Twitter launch. Although, this might be its saving grace. When the incident was spotted yesterday, Enterprise only had 61 followers – all of which were told that the service is ‘not offered at any of its branches.’

Twenty-four hours later that number has only risen by 13 – and the brand has responded to everyone that commented offering its single crisis-management message.

Of course, it’s not like the age old saying ‘if a tree falls in a forest and no-one’s there does it make a sound?’ Customers – existing and potential – are likely to hear about this via social networks or friends (the Mirror has already published the story too) But, when it comes to Twitter, I think people are less likely to get involved if they don’t think they can directly link with the brand. After all, that’s one big reason we make comments online isn’t it? To humiliate, complain or praise companies that we’re engaging with. The fact that few people knew about Enterprise’s Twitter page at that time has curbed the majority of comments.

I think the brand handled the process well. Although, I’d have suggested that they tailored their responses to show personality and a sense of humour. After all, the advert is clearly a joke.

At the time of writing this, I asked the Pembrokeshire Herald what its thoughts were and whether the error was from their side. According to reports they maintain the artwork was tampered with after it’d been signed off – and other brands were affected.

Surely, Enterprise will want an apology from the team if it was the paper’s fault – not to mention free advertising space to overright the problem.

However it progresses, this faux pas has certainly worked in Enterprise’s favour – in terms of PR and talkability. After reading this article how many hire car companies can you really think of?

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