Coke's personalized bottle promotion backfires

By using a limited list of people's names for its Share A Coke campaign, the company has done itself more harm than good.

By Jason Notte May 30, 2013 3:24PM
'Share a Coke' personalized bottles from Coca-Cola Great Britain's website (© The Coca-Cola Company)Every few decades or so, Coca-Cola (KO) gets high-minded notions of uniting the world under its red-and-white logo and showering it with fizzy brown beverage.

In 1971, TV viewers worldwide were subjected to a Coca-Cola ad featuring people singing on a hilltop about the company's desire to instill global harmony by having folks buy their neighbors some soda. When that notion failed in tragic fashion at the Munich Olympics a year later, Coca-Cola put a cap on it for 20 years before getting everybody back on the hill for a Super Bowl reunion. Again, the timing wasn't great.

This year, however, Coca-Cola figured it would stop the singing altogether and allow fans in Europe, Israel and other places outside the U.S. to put friends' names on bottles of Coke in the spirit of global togetherness. Of course, that works only if you don't limit the names to some arbitrary list of the most popular monikers.

Coca-Cola's latest attempt at a global hug has been rebuffed, and National Public Radio says the company can thank its short list of accepted names in each participating country for the backlash. Furious fans with overlooked names like Libby, Beverly, Graziella and Rhiannon took to Coca-Cola's Share A Coke Facebook (FB) page to share their outrage.

Those were just the folks who decided to go easy on the maker. The Washington Post reports that an Arab-Israeli person petitioned an Israeli court over the lack of Arab names on Coca-Cola's list, calling it discriminatory. Russian- and Ethiopian-Israeli immigrants have voiced similar complaints.

In Sweden, the issue isn't the names that aren't on the list but a few that almost made the cut. According to Food & Drink Europe, Sweden's Muslim population asked that the popular and varied takes on the name Mohammed not appear on Coca-Cola's bottles. The company obliged.

Although Coca-Cola's global revenue in the first quarter dipped to $11.04 billion from $11.14 billion in the same period last year, sales volume increased worldwide. While that uptick came with only 1% growth in the U.S., sales in Europe, Asia and Africa spiked 15%.

When Coca-Cola's target markets seem to have no problem buying its product, there's no reason to go angering them with some halfhearted marketing ploy. Coca-Cola's name game is uniting the world -- but only in hatred of the company promoting it.

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May 30, 2013 6:59PM
I wish that the worst thing that I had to worry about was whining that I couldn't find my name on a Coke bottle...
May 30, 2013 7:01PM
The article states some people are outraged. Really, outraged over this? Peeps, get a life.
May 30, 2013 6:17PM
The last sentence states: "Coca-Cola's name game is uniting the world -- but only in hatred of the company promoting it."  Seriously?  Hatred?  Over soda? 


May 30, 2013 7:24PM
I absolutely cannot believe the petty things people find to moan, whine, gripe, and complain about. They need to get a life.
May 30, 2013 6:52PM
Luckily my actual name is Coca Cola. They've been making it for me all my life!
May 30, 2013 8:28PM
I'm sorry, but if your name is something like Graziella, do you really expect to see your name on customized things anywhere?! 
May 30, 2013 8:25PM
How about names like D'Anton and Kamithia on bottles of Colt 45.
May 30, 2013 5:13PM

the concept should never have left the planning board room....


we found out by accident from our korean employee, yong bong song.  we all called him "bongo".  months later we found out from another korean interviewing that "bongo is a bad word".  we asked bongo about it and he said it did mean something bad in korean.   But he was proud that we gave him a nickname and knew we didn't know what it meant.  But he felt accepted that us americans even GAVE him a nickname. 


so how many of these various names mean something COMPLETELY different in another language?

May 30, 2013 8:33PM
Geez, A company actually tries to make people feel good about themselves and others and what happens?...People find a way to turn it into a damn politically correct argument, or worse yet start throwing racism into, or just want to try and generally bitch...I guess the next company that is in the crosshairs will probably be those key chains or necklaces that girls wear huh?  something like  "They don't have quagimishutakianimustafaquiolm" on a necklace!"  "I am gonna sue!"  People need to stop being such "a**holes
May 30, 2013 6:29PM
How about some of these made up names the blacks pull out of thin air. That should be interesting.
May 30, 2013 9:06PM
what is that old adage? You can judge the size of a man by the size of what makes him angry?
May 30, 2013 6:30PM
I love it when Corporations shoot themselves in the foot. Be good to your employees, be good to your customers, and stay out of everything else.
May 30, 2013 7:47PM
People need to chill the **** out, it's just an ad. 
May 30, 2013 7:20PM
all these a-holes bickering are probably the ones driving around with the 'coexist' stickers on their bumpers.  Pathetic!!
May 30, 2013 8:32PM
Maybe they should just print an outline of all the letters in the alphabet several times in a spiral around the bottle and everyone could color in their own name. They could have a promotion and include a nice red marker with each bottle.
May 30, 2013 7:41PM
no such thing as bad press, coke just got a free commercial
May 30, 2013 8:20PM
Of course people will be outraged.. everybody knows that obscure name are common. The only people who would be offended their names arent located are liberal people who think the world should evolve around them..STFU..that's like some person with a crazy name like ziggy stardust getting mad at the convenience store key chain and wanting to sue...God ..I'm sick of this BS
May 30, 2013 7:37PM
would you want to make a whole bunch of coke bottles with a name on them that so few people had that they could never possibly sell them all and would lose money as such....people it is business...the name must be commonly held enough for there to be enough resultant sales to be worthwhile to put on a is just business don't take it any other way.  Maybe Coke should offer custom names for an extra fee...
May 30, 2013 8:19PM
why not put emotes on the label? why names? or have an area to write the name in... wtf coke.  why.  Hire me for your martketing and never have this crap happen again.
May 30, 2013 11:03PM
Anger over this?  Further evidence of the downward spiral of intelligent life on this planet......
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