Coke nearly upsets the Chinese

Poor Coke, minding its own business when suddenly it finds itself in the middle of a global controversy. The first it heard about it was when a Chinese blogger came out with the following

Germany has started to really show adverts for Tibetan independence. Coca-Cola! Okay, I will remember. From now on I will not touch this shitty product! The three monks represent Tibetan lamas. They are riding a rollercoaster, which represents freedom. ‘Make it real’ means ‘make this [ie freedom] real’

How did it happen? It was on a German cornershop type outlet that hadn’t updated its shop fascia for years (well, since 2003). This was an old ad. But did the blogger know that? And did Coke know its past would suddenly be forcing the company to make an official “apology”?

One thing that was good: Coke’s instant and professional reaction. A sign that they’ve understood the power of modern consumers and how to manage a crisis. This was their statement. Without it, their brand in China could get it straight between the eyes, a catastrophe in any brand manager’s books.

Coke statement from here:
Recently, certain Chinese bloggers and forums carried a photo of a Coca-Cola advertisement. That advertisement was part of the 2003 series with the theme of “Make It Real” to promote sales in Germany. The theme was to encourage people to try new things and enjoy life. The series contains more than a dozen different advertisements featuring people from different walks of life enjoying themselves in different situations.

This advertisement did not contain any political or religious background and it is unrelated to Tibet independence. We regret that this old advertisement should become misunderstood by certain Chinese bloggers and forum users who were not aware of its background. We respect the feelings of Chinese consumers. This old advertisement at the Bremen train station has been taken down on the same day.

Coca-Cola is an apolitical organization, and one of the accommodating brands in the world. Coca-Cola provides services to consumers in more than 200 countries of different cultures, religions and histories. Coca-Cola and its local bottling partners will follow international business practice and not interfere or participate in any political or religious affairs in any country. We adhere to this position in every country around the world.

Coca-Cola began supporting and sponsoring the Olympics in 1928. For 80 years, we have continued to support the Olympic movement around the world. As a partner of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the Olympic torch relay, we are actively participating in this global athletic competition.

Alex Woodruff

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