Tue, 16 Oct, 2018
Coca-Cola's embarrassing vending machine blunder
It’s a pitfall marketing departments must come across regularly, the risk of a message painfully missing the mark, lost in translation.
Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand is currently feeling the heat over that very pitfall, with some vending machines in the country causing much mirth on social media.
The offending slogan on the machines reads: “Kia ora, Mate”. ‘Kia ora’ is a greeting you’ll often hear in New Zealand, but “mate” in te reo Māori means “death”. So the slogan essentially reads “Hello, death.”
When the languages don't mix well. pic.twitter.com/3piZIoptAE
— Waikato Reo (@waikatoreo) October 14, 2018
One of the machines is at Auckland International Airport and is where Gareth Seymour spotted the vending machine.
"I read with Māori language eyes and thought, ‘They haven't had this checked by a Māori,” he told NITV News. He suggested the slogan should have read “Kia ora e hoa” or “hello friend”.
The response on social media after a shot of the vending machine was posted was merciless.
“This reminds me of being back in uni and learning marketing 101,” said one Facebook user.
“The coca cola company gains self-awareness?” tweeted another detractor, referencing the potentially dire health effects of Coca-Cola.
But the commentary became serious with this comment on social media: “Totally spot on, it does mean death for a lot of Indigenous people.”
There are some that have argued that the Māori native tongue and English language commonly mix, and that’s the line Coca-Cola Amatil NZ has taken.
"In no way was the ‘mate’ in reference to any Māori word, that would have been inappropriate and unacceptable,” the company said in a statement to NITV News.
It said that by merging the two words, it "only meant to bring Maori and English together".
"Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand is proudly Kiwi and respects and embraces all aspects of Maori culture and any other culture."
The company wouldn’t say, however, whether the Māori community had been consulted on the marketing campaign.
Seymour said that, “Even a Māori-speaking school kid would notice the mistake. The moral of [the] story is – if you use it there are ways of doing it right.”
What "lost in translation" blunders have you seen? Let us know in the comments section.