The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) can’t seem to catch a break. The soft drink company is in hot water again, and this time, it’s in Israel.
Coke launched a new marketing campaign there earlier in May, and at first, it seemed genius. As explained by The Washington Post, Coke identified the most popular Israeli first names and then printed them on its bottles and cans, hoping to personalize the drinking experience.
And who wouldn’t be tempted to grab a bottle of Coke off a shelf when it had your name on it? Tablet Magazine reported that shoppers of all genders and ages squealed as they found their names on Coke cans and rushed to the cash register. Pictures of Coke exploded on social media portals in seconds.
But not everyone is happy. Critics (and there are a lot of them) complain the program is discriminatory, including certain names on Coke cans and not others. The soft drink company failed to recognize just how closely cultural identity in Israel is tied to religion and identity, and how sensitive issues of inclusion and exclusion are.
The Washington Post reported that one Arab-Israeli citizen sent a legal petition to an Israeli court earlier in the week, pointing out that not one Arabic name is among the most popular Israeli names printed, even though the country’s Arab population is over 1.5 million. While Coca-Cola rebutted this argument, explaining via Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) that anyone who cannot find their name can easily print them out on a coke label at certain designated stores, customers charged that the printers would not be enabled for Arabic script. Coke disagreed.
It should come as no surprise if Coke ends up canning (no pun intended) the campaign. It has already faced similar problems in Sweden, when it decided not to put the name “Muhammad” on cans, worrying that it would be too controversial. Needless to say, some Swedes weren’t very happy about that one.
Good try, Coca-Cola. Better luck next time.
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