Defending Your Brand

Coke’s Difficult Choice

31 Jan , 2013  

Coca-Cola has a Super Bowl problem.

The iconic brand’s Super Bowl campaign is coming under fire from people who claim it reflects negative stereotypes of Arabs. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, for example, is calling on Coke to change course.

Coke has to be concerned; you never want your brand to be accused of discrimination.

Back when I was at Kraft Foods I worked on a spectacular commercial for Miracle Whip that featured an Indiana Jones type character making his way through a traditional Moroccan market. I can’t recall the plot but at some point he ended up with an empty jar of Miracle Whip and this caused much concern, as you might imagine.

We put the spot on network television and immediately received word that some groups (including, I believe, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) found it offensive because it promoted stereotypes. We quickly took the spot off the air and ran another one instead.

It isn’t quite so easy for Coke; companies don’t have lots of Super Bowl spots sitting around.

So what are the options?

– Drop the entire campaign and run something else. This is not an appealing proposition.

– Run it despite the criticism. This is also an unattractive option.

– Edit the spot to reduce the offensive images. This is not a good option, either; changes might impact the quality of the spot and fail to address the criticism.

I understand why some marketers choose to avoid all the Super Bowl scrutiny.


5 Responses

  1. Abbas Mooraj says:

    According to the below linked new report, the Arab winning is not even an option in the choices, then why portray him. IMO, Coke can easily take that piece out of the Ad and shorten it without losing its message.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/business/arab-american-groups-say-coke-super-bowl-ad-racist-1B8191874

  2. Stereotypes are a form of creative crutch. Lazy storytellers depend on them.

  3. Shira Abel says:

    Coke has a history with the arab population. The Arab League boycotted Coke in arab nations for decades because after the Arab League threatened Coke if they sold Coke in Israel – Coke went ahead and sold Coke in Israel.

    http://articles.latimes.com/1988-07-08/business/fi-6762_1_arab-league

    My guess – they will go ahead with the ad as is. I haven’t seen the ad and have no opinion on the offensiveness of the ad or whether it’s right or wrong to do.

Leave a Reply

Archives

Conversation Across the Site

  • emitahill { Troy Cracker Barrel has internet. I have brunch there with a friend 2-4 times/year coming and going from Hamburg. The display of merchandise is hilarious.... } – Brand of the Month: Cracker Barrel
  • Rod Taylor { It helps that they have a relatively large and high margin "country merchandise" section in the waiting area and that they get 14K visitors on... } – Brand of the Month: Cracker Barrel
  • Stephen Calkins { You were kind not to protest. For an argument that customer service is a key part of iPhone success, see story in today's New York... } – The High Cost of Poor Service
  • emitahill { Wonderful, Tim. I am wildly envious. Love all three of those cities and haven't been in far too long. } – Branding Observations from a Trip to Europe
  • Stephen Calkins { If Whitmire followed other advice you've given--live frugally and save regularly--at least he'll not have serious financial worries. He's 57 and presumably still receiving movie... } – Learning from Kermit’s Downfall
  • Dana { Charging fees is only one part of the racket HA is doing. They are also collecting all monies, collecting interest on the homeowners rents and... } – Why Homeaway’s New Fee Makes Sense
  • Read more Comments »

Collaborate with Tim

Tim helps companies around the world build great brands. To schedule a program or event click here. To learn more about Tim’s books, click here.