The company has a popular ad campaign that encourages sharing by writing the name of a person on a coke bottle with the words, “share a coke with… (person’s name)” while one can of coke seen in South Africa had the words, “Share a Coke with Xitombo”
When a photo of the coke can with the word “Xitombo” was shared online, it quickly went viral. Social media users called out the company and there were massive calls for the company to correct its mistake. Xitombo means vagina in South Africa
Replying to the outrage, Coca-Cola explained that the campaign had three elements which included digital activation and engaging with consumers to personalize their own Coke cans.
The statement from Coca-Cola reads:
“The main element of the campaign was to place approximately 700 of South Africa’s most popular names on Coca-Cola cans and bottles, which were sold in stores.
These names were identified in partnership with the Department of Home Affairs and Stats SA.
The names spread across the 11 official languages and were sent to two professional linguists for phonetic treatment, reviewed by various internal approval teams and finally printed, distributed and sold in the market.
The Xitsonga word that led to this incident was not one of these names identified by the Department of Home Affairs, nor was the can marketed or sold by Coca-Cola.”
Coca-Cola acknowledged their blunder and said that they are “very disappointed that the controls we put in place could be taken advantage of in this manner.”