The not-so-good times: Coca-Cola faces backlash in light of offensive German Fanta commercial
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of Fanta, parent company Coca-Cola sought to create an advertisement that recounted the history of the beverage and told the story of its birth. It explains that Fanta was created thanks to the innovation of bottlers in 1940’s Germany who were forced to get creative when a scarcity of cola-making ingredients became an obstacle in producing other popular beverages at the time.
The commercial notes that Coca-Cola will be looking to bring back the feeling of the “good old times” during which Fanta was created. It announced that this will be accomplished with the debut of the new Fanta Classic, which will more closely resemble the original Fanta in taste and appearance.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to enjoy the fun advertisement and prospect of a taste of the good old days when another reality is all too difficult to ignore: 1940’s Germany was most certainly not the good old times.
This was a period tainted by war, Nazism, and overall turmoil. Not to mention, the very series of events recounted in the commercial by which Coca-Cola employees were faced with a scarcity of cola-making ingredients came as a result of trade embargoes associated with wartime circumstances.
Needless to say, Coca-Cola’s complete avoidance of this history led to major backlash against the commercial, which was eventually pulled as a result and formally apologized for by the soda company.
This could not be a clearer example of the importance of considering historical context when framing a marketing message. In a case like this, it is understandable that seeking to tell a positive story commemorating a soda that was created as a result of ugly circumstances is difficult. However, it is insulting and offensive to consumers for Coca-Cola to not only disregard and neglect a major part of history, but to almost cover it up and create a sense of nostalgia around events that were in fact horrendous — all in the interest of marketing.
A more effective approach may have been to tell a story that highlighted Fanta as something positive that came out of a negative time in history; to look at Fanta Classic not as a taste of the good old times, but a taste to remind us of the necessity and importance of resilience in the face of adversity. Such a story would have respected the true course of historical events while simultaneously framing those events around Fanta in such a way that puts the soda in a positive light without appearing disingenuous.
Successful marketing and communication calls for telling stories in a way that connects with audiences while putting your brand in the best possible light. However, failing to respect the past and take historical context into account while attempting to achieve those goals is to risk compromising the goals altogether.
Do you think Coca-Cola’s brand image will suffer as a result of the company’s lack of foresight in this case of advertising gone wrong? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi