Coca-Cola has traditionally been a brand that touches hearts and creates a warm connection, especially at this time of year. Many of Coke’s campaigns are pretty memorable. Would the holiday season be the same without a Coca-Cola polar bear opening some bottled happiness?

A furor over its recent “Open Your Heart” campaign in Mexico means all is not well at Coca-Cola HQ. In the ad, young white millennials bring holiday cheer, and plenty of soda, to a village in Mexico. Indigenous rights’ groups have called the ad offensive, discriminatory, and nothing short of racist.

In its attempt to target the next generation, Coca-Cola has fallen flat. Similar to Bloomingdale’s recent snafu, the long-term impact of an editorial misstep should be minimal if lessons are learned. That’s the thing about brand equity; it gives you permission to ask for forgiveness and to recover if you do it quickly and demonstrate contrition. And that’s pretty much the playbook that Coca-Cola followed by releasing the following statement:

“Our intention was never to be insensitive to or underestimate any indigenous group. We have now removed the video and apologize to anyone who may have been offended. In nearly 90 years in the country, Coca-Cola Mexico has worked to share messages of unity and friendship to contribute to build a society free of prejudices.”

It’s rare to see Coke make a mistake. In the continued search to resonate through a purposeful message, the line between authenticity and exploitation can be a fine one.

Coca-Cola is in it for the long haul, taking a long-term approach to crafting the story it wants to tell. Just one example is the new packaging design that turns bottle labels into bows. It’s purpose driven and brings you happiness, which is what the Coca-Cola brand is all about.

Monigle is passionate about building brands that work, and (moderate) soda consumption to help us burn the midnight oil.

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