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PR Fail: Coca-Cola Learns What's in a Name The Hard Way
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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What's in a name? A question that has been tumbling in the minds of parents for millennia. The Bible offers this in Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Then, this novice writer Shakespeare penned in Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." And don't get me started on the truckloads of cash publishers make on those numerous baby names books. 

The point is that there is much ado about something when it comes to a name. Just ask Coca-Cola with their much ballyhooed "Personalized Bottle" campaign. They call it "Share-a-Coke." However, many of the fizzy gold refreshment fans call it "crap." According to the Washington Postthis has become a political perfect storm for Coke. You see, as its creatives and marketing professionals all share a round of high-fives, they neglected about 85 percent of its drinking audience in the process. It all began when an Arab-Israeli citizen sent a legal petition to an Israeli calling the campaign "discriminatory." There is not one Arabic name available for selection. Well, there was one — Muhammad. And if you ask most Muslims, it's a huge no-no seeing his name in print. So, Coke removed that name. Then you have Africans who are peeved their names failed to make the list as well. 

What in the world made Coca-Cola think this was a good idea? Look at my name for exhibit one. You know how many "Shawn"s there are in this world? Nowhere near as many as those who spell their name "Sean." I hated those novelty stores growing up because Sean (or as I pronounced it out of angst "S-E-E-N") was everywhere — keychains, fake license plates, shot glasses. Shawn? Nowhere. Bupkus. I thought my parents made a mistake. Then if you add my French-Canadian heritage (my name is Shawn Paul), well, that left me out of everything. Fast forward to today: Have you been to any elementary school lately? Parents are jacking up kids for life everywhere, and Coca-Cola was under the impression 1983 called and said, "Use our names." 

Back then, names en vogue were David, Jason, Steve, Melanie, Stephanie, and Emily. No offense to those of you with those cutesy names, but today, naming is a skosh more...shall we say, entertaining. Let's start with Hollywood
  • Michael Jackson - Blanket
  • Jason Lee - Pilot Inspektor
  • Sarah Palin - Track...and Trig
  • Sylvester Stallone - Seargeoh...or Sage Moonblood
  • Arthur Ashe - Camera
  • Puck (from MTV's 'The Real World') - Bogart Che Peyote
  • Gwyneth Paltrow - Apple 
  • Heidi Klum & Seal - Johan Riley Fyodor Taiwo
I could go on, but I think you see the point. And don't even get me started about those made-up names that sound like parents added "La" to their car (e.g., LaPorsche, LaFord, Lamborghini). There's the myth of "Orangelo" (Orange Jello). Parents like spices — Cinnamon, Basil, Mint, and Rosemary (Hi, Mom). Other parents like to imbibe a bit too much, so they name their kids afterwards — Remy, Chardonnay, Hennessy, and Zima. Other parents seem to remember geography or chronology romantically — Nebraska, Montana, January, and Sunday. Some parents thumb their nose at the aforementioned tchtchokey shops and screw up spelling on purpose — Antwanette, Steph'on, Bethanee, and Natalee. And finally, there are the parents who either conceived or delivered their offspring while flying high on some premium weed with names like Dazanique, LaMontague, Shamondrick, and Quorkeshia. 

With idiots out there like that, I'm certain Coca-Cola wasn't targeting fans as much as shareholders. So while the Islamic community sends its hate mail, the rest of us will have to stick to delivering packages of flaming poo-poo to certain stores across any community. Maybe Shawn isn't so bad after all. Someone pass me some water, please?

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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