Coke Mixes Languages but Should have Checked with a Translator

Posted on by Patty Odell

As marketers know, all kinds of crazy things can happen once the “go” button is pushed, launching a campaign live in market.

Marketers operating in New Zealand have latched on to a resurgence in popularity of the country’s indigenous Maori people’s language, Te reo Moori, and are using the language in marketing and advertising campaigns there.

marketing blunders
@waikatoreo tweeted this photo with the post “When the languages don’t mix well.”

“There’s an increasing sense that te reo is good for identifying your business as committed to New Zealand,” Ngahiwi Apanui, chief executive of the Māori Language Commission, told The Guardian.

Coca-Cola gave the language a try  with a new promotion it launched in New Zealand. But it’s attempts to be “authentic” by mixing words and phrases in the Maori language should have been cross-checked with a translator before going live.

A new slogan appearing on vending machines combined the Maori language with English slang, “Kia Ore, Mate.” The brand got the first part of the phrase “Kia Ore” right, a common Maori greeting which translates into English as “Hello.” But the word “mate,” which across New Zealand, Britain and other places refers to a friend or buddy, translated into the Maori language as “death.”

“In other words, the Coca-Cola company was greeting its thirsty customers with the slogan, “Hello, Death,” the Inquisitr reported.


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An observant Twitter user first discovered the marketing blunder and in usual Twitter fashion, jumped in as did others who used the marketing blunder as a catalyst to criticize the brand. For example, @davemacpherson7 tweeted: “ ‘Hello, death’: Coca-Cola mixes English and Māori on vending machine – and lets us all know what the end result of drinking their stuff could be!” Another post by @Kiwimrsmac read: ” “Hello, death” is a literal translation of what drinking coke will do to your body. And what plastic coke bottles are doing to the environment…

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by Patty Odell

Damon Swenson, Brand Activation Manager at Dr Pepper, on crafting a retail program using custom labels tied to Millennials’ passion points and lifestyle interests like fashion, music and pop-culture. He presented his case study at Marketing to Millennials 2017.



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