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Coke Campaign Accidentally Insults Customers With Shocking Messages


The hazards of juxtapositions in branding extend to the Olympics.

As the mathematical theorem goes, a hypothetical monkey hitting random keys on a typewriter over an infinite amount of time will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

Or, if you start a program to write a random English and French word on bottle caps, you eventually deliver an insult to the drinker. This is what Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) learned this week in Canada.

In the nominally bilingual country, an ill-devised campaign printed two random words, one for each language, on the inside of Vitamin Water caps.

The result was not poetry. A couple in Edmonton saw the words "YOU RETARD" on their bottle cap. It just so happens that their daughter is developmentally disabled.

Was this the work of a rogue employee? No. Just pure chance. A Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada representative explained to the Vancouver Sun that the company had planned the campaign as a fun way for consumers to collect bottle caps and create humorous and nonsensical sentences. The game could be played in English or French. coke vitamin water campaign you retard

The "retard" in this sense was the French word for "slow" or "late." A separate complaint was that the word "douce" was printed on another. The meaning in French, "shower," is considerably less interesting.

Realizing the hazards of this campaign, Coca-Cola canceled the campaign and plans to destroy the potentially offensive caps.

Coke is also getting flack for its sponsorship of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In this case, the winning combination of elite athleticism and high-fructose corn syrup is backfiring because of Russia's antediluvian anti-gay discrimination laws and the recent surge in anti-gay hate crimes. A new Russian law allows police to detain anyone, including foreigners, for promoting same-sex relationships. Just wearing a rainbow t-shirt could get you arrested at the games.

Other US brands, such as McDonald's Corp (NYSE:MCD), Visa (NYSE:V), and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), are coming under fire for sponsoring the games, too. So far, they are staying committed to the sponsorship despite protests because there might be someone in the universe that is unaware of their products and services.

Coke doesn't allow discrimination based on sexual preference in its own hiring. And presumably, the company doesn't condone insulting disabled people, either.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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