September 20, 2013
It’s not what you say….it’s what they hear…and sometimes, what language they hear it in.
Coca-Cola recently created a promotional campaign in which they paired a random English word with a random French word on the inside of their VitaminWater caps. All fine for a brief moment of entertainment for their customers, right? Right. That is until on one particular bottle, the English word “you” was paired with the word “retard” (meaning “late” in French), leaving one English-speaking customer feeling pretty insulted by the message she found on her cap (see photo below).
The lesson here is, while VitaminWater was clearly having some “on brand” fun, words always have an impact. What should have been a simple idea to engage customers, immediately turned into a crisis situation—resulting in a letter from the customer ending with “sincerely, an ex-coke drinker.”
Coca-Cola did issue a personal apology letter to the family, who happened to have a daughter with cerebral palsy and autism. But, had Coca-Cola paid a little closer attention to the message they were sending, they could have avoided this embarrassing situation all together. A little tip for next time Coke: “douche” and “preservative” also have different translations.