Coca-Cola tried to do a good thing, but their efforts completely backfired. In an attempt to market their beverages to the indigenous people of New Zealand, Coca-Cola tried to combine the te reo Māori language with English on a New Zealand vending machine. Unfortunately, Coca-Cola ended up with a pretty offensive new slogan and yikes — talk about a swing and a miss.
The vending machine reads, “Kia Ora, Mate,” which was assumingely meant to translate to “Hello, Mate.” But the word “mate” in te reo means “death.” So, yeah. The vending machine reads, “Hello, Death.”
Te reo, an official language of New Zealand, has begun picking up steam with major companies. As The Guardian noted, Google released a Māori version of its site, and Google Maps is reportedly rerecording more accurate Māori pronunciations of places around New Zealand.
However, Coca-Cola’s attempt to hop on the te reo bandwagon has clearly not been as successful as originally hoped. In fact, as many have pointed out on Twitter, the new slogan is pretty ironic.
“The Coca Cola company gains self awareness?” one Twitter user asked. “Finally, truth in advertising,” another responded. Perhaps Coca-Cola did this on purpose. Maybe they’re finally owning up to the fact that Coke beverages aren’t good for us — it could be a warning.
The Coca Cola company gains self awareness?— Lulu Purda 🏳️🌈💚✊ (@LuluPurda) October 14, 2018
Finally, truth in advertising.— 🏴☠️ (@charliedrummond) October 15, 2018
Sadly enough, this isn’t the first time Coca-Cola has majorly screwed up.
In 2015, the company launched an online advert that meant to “unify,” but just came across as culturally insensitive. In the Coke ad, fair-skinned young adults show up to an indigenous town in Mexico with presents (Coke, obviously), and set up a Christmas tree. Activists stated that this ad “reproduced and reinforced stereotypes of indigenous people as culturally and racially subordinate.”
Watch it here:[fm_youtube url="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNBAYc3cRuk"]
And in 2013, Coca-Cola really got it wrong with French to English translation.
On a Vitamin Water bottle cap (Coca-Cola owns Vitamin Water), a Canadian man found the words “YOU RETARD” to be written. In French, that would mean something like “You’re late,” but “retard” has a different meaning and very different connotations.
Coca-Cola hasn’t yet commented on their te reo slip-up yet. Luckily, consumers kind of get what they were trying to say, so the slogan is more funny than it is offensive. But, the next time we crack open a bottle of Coke, you bet we’ll be thinking “Hello, Death.”