Image via Abdul Razak Latif / Shutterstock.com
For a globally recognized brand with a heritage spanning over a century, you would have never expected Coca-Cola to mess up on its communications—but it’s 2018, when the impossible can happen.
In efforts to reach out to New Zealand’s indigenous people, the company unintentionally created a slogan translating to, “hello, death,” in the te reo Māori language.
The message, which was spotted on a vending machine, reads, “Kia Ora, Mate.”
“Kia ora” refers to the Māori phrase for “hello,” whereas “mate” is an English term of affection that’s widely used in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
What Coca-Cola failed to realize was that “mate” means “death” in te reo Māori. Essentially, it was insinuating that its beverages were greetings to death.
Locals were #literallydead at the expression. Luckily, they made light of the situation and even defended that Coca-Cola wasn’t exactly deadly to health.
“While high-sugar soft drinks aren’t great, especially for dental health, they are not, as far I know, immediately lethal,” tweeted New Zealand transport specialist Darren Davis.
Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand has responded about the gaffe, stressing that it meant no ill. Rather, it had attempted to blend Māori and English.
Neil Waka, Corporate Affairs Manager at Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand, told Australia’s Yahoo7, “The Kia Ora is in obvious reference to our New Zealand heritage through our indigenous Māori language, and the term ‘mate’ is a commonly used English phrase for friend… nothing more.”
Waka added that Coca-Cola’s application of the “mate” term had nothing to do with any Māori expression.
“That would have been inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Be that as it may, always have your cola in moderation, Coca-Cola fans.
When the languages don't mix well. pic.twitter.com/3piZIoptAE
— Waikato Reo (@waikatoreo) October 14, 2018
The Coca Cola company gains self awareness?
— Lulu Purda 🏳️🌈💚✊ (@LuluPurda) October 14, 2018
When attempts at cultural sensitivity go bad. In Te Reo Māori, "kia ora mate' means "greetings death". While high-sugar soft drinks aren't great, especially for dental health, they are not as far I know immediately lethal. https://t.co/Vi5CN3pw56
— Darren Davis (@DarrenDavis10) October 14, 2018
— Deiric Ní Mhurchú (@ThatsSoDerek) October 14, 2018
Finally, truth in advertising.
— ~ (@charliedrummond) October 15, 2018
man that sugar stuff is bad!!!
— shacks an shite (@shacks_an_shite) October 14, 2018