Israeli-Arab consumers asked Coca Cola to add Arab names to labels on bottles in the new "Enjoy Coca Cola with…" campaign, and received a reply that left them off the communal shelf. The "new consumer" does not want to be a segment — he wants to be an individual in the mainstream. A short lesson on diversity and inclusion for marketers
Personalization in the age of globalization
Coca Cola launched a new campaign at the beginning of May 2013, in which the most common personal names in Israel have been printed on Coca Cola bottles. A similar campaign was launched in Europe and Australia. The campaign was intended to renew the company’s affinity to young consumers.
“Personalization” is the name of the new game in marketing, and this game has rules of its own. Researches show that teenagers and Generation Y (born in the ‘80s and ‘90s) like to see themselves as individuals with unique identities, but it is also important to them to feel part of the trend and of the mainstream. The Coca Cola brand represents the desired mainstream.
First names — a social predicament
On the one hand — a first name is a clear component of an individual’s personal identity. On the other hand — a first name also has cultural significance: it is created and given within a religious or national context, as part of a trend or period, or of a social group.
When a powerful brand such as Coca Cola chooses to create a campaign based on first names, it is already challenging dealing with cultural-social dilemmas.
According to the view of corporate responsibility, it is good to have clear principles guiding how these dilemmas should be dealt with, and for these principles to be clear to the public and to even be determined through dialog with representatives of the public in question.
In Sweden, for instance, a decision was made not to print the name Muhammad on bottles, despite it being a very popular name in that country. The marketing manager of Coca Cola Sweden explained that because the brand is symbolically associated with the U.S., there was a fear that printing the name Muhammad on the bottles would provoke Muslims in Sweden. After consulting with the Muslim Association of Sweden, a decision was made not to print the name.
The Arab segment wants to be like everybody else
In Israel too, it was decided not to print the name Muhammad or other Arab names on bottles and cans, despite the brand’s high popularity among Israeli Arab consumers, despite the fact that it does not suffer from the problem that Sweden has (Coca Cola advertises extensively to the Arab segment in Israel), and despite the assumption that there are probably one or two Arab names among the most popular names in Israel (Arabs constitute 20 percent of the Israeli population).
A new social initiative העתיד - المستقب Ha'atid (Lit. “The Future”), which was established by Afif Abu Much in order to promote the integration of Arabs in the circles of life in Israel, contacted Coca Cola’s consumer services via the brand’s Facebook page and asked why there are no Arab names on bottles in stores, alongside other names.
The answer he was given was that any name in Hebrew, English or Arabic could be printed on personalized labels in a number of points of sale. This could seemingly provide a solution for everybody. But from the Arab consumers’ standpoint, it misses the main point: to see Arab names printed in Hebrew letters, alongside other names on the shelves. Or in other words: to be part of society as a whole. To be included.
Diversity without inclusion does not allow for social change to occur
The terms diversity and inclusion refer to the degree of heterogeneity within a given social framework. The term diversity reflects the variety of different groups represented within a framework. Inclusion expresses the degree of the framework’s openness to include within it different groups, and to enable them to be partners in determining the nature of the framework and its agenda.
Diversity without inclusion — this will not create continuous and sustainable social change; rather it will preserve the basic exclusion of certain groups from centers of influence.
Listen to the consumer with a social ear — and recognize a marketing opportunity and competitive advantage
Every company in Israel that publicly supports the social principles of diversity & inclusion needs to respond to the voice of the new Arab consumer; to listen carefully with a socially sensitive ear.
This is a consumer who does not want to be defined as a segment and to receive offers exclusively in Arabic, on Muslim holidays and in Arab shopping centers. This is a consumer who works, buys and spends time in general commercial centers. He wants to see change in marketing norms, which are influenced by social norms, but can also influence them in return.
There might be a dilemma in dealing with those Jewish consumers who do not feel comfortable seeing Arab names on a Coke bottle in a Tel-Aviv supermarket. This is where the people behind the brand need to hold an internal debate on the set of social values that guide the brand’s activities, values that they committed themselves publicly to.
A powerful brand can lead to change in the social views of consumers. A brand that does not want to take risks regarding social issues, should carefully weigh which social values it will take a stand on.
Brands that have suited themselves quickly to the coming winds of change will be able to catch those winds and create a competitive advantage for the brand, while they are promoting social goals. Others are expected to deal with ravaging storms.