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Killer Coke Uses Color To Rebrand Image

Coca-Cola won over most of the U.S., and my Facebook timeline this past week, on its multi-lingual ad spot, America The Beautiful, for the Superbowl. Watch it here:

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Of course, not everyone was happy. The English-only crowd is never happy when they cannot understand any other language besides English. We’ll just mark up all the bigoted comments about the ad spot to a competency problem.

But liberals rejoiced. And therein lays the real problem with the advertisement.

I can’t be the only one who is critical and unhappy about how Coca-Cola, a union-bursting company selling toxic products, is now using people of color to rebrand itself?

For a company that declares that America is beautiful, Coca-Cola has surely done some things to make parts of America less beautiful. For years, Coke has worked to stifle unions across Central America, most notably in Colombia. Colombian unionists have alleged that the company has used right-wing paramilitary groups in Colombia to intimidate and assassinate labor organizers. Similar complaints alleging rape, murder and torture have been filed by people in Guatemala. Trade unionists have called for an international boycott of Coca-Cola, and demanded that the soft drink giant print a memoriam of murdered workers on its products.

Thus, the multi-lingual ad spot with happy brown faces masks the real face of Coca-Cola as a company that makes a profit on the pain of the people of Colombia, Guatemala and elsewhere.

Also problematic is the fact that brown people appear prevalently in an ad about how America is beautiful, but they are hardly featured in most other commercial mediums. Suffice to say that the only way that Super Bowl U.S. can consume people of color is when we are raving on about how this country–with a shameful past of murdering the indigenous, enslaving black people, and an embarrassing present of record incarcerations, to say the least–is beautiful.

Sure, the ad spot is beautiful. There is no denying that. But what Coca-Cola is selling is still bad for all of us. In fact, in addition to all the horrible things done by the company, as a product, Coke is toxic to our bodies. No amount of artificial coloring is going to change that and brown-wash a toxic reality.


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By Prerna Lal

Prerna Lal is undocumented, unafraid and unapologetic. As a founder of DreamActivist, Prerna helped to create a robust network of highly-organized and diverse undocumented youth with digital engagement capacity. Since then, her model of organizing has been used by immigration organizations across the country to end deportations. Her work and commentary for immigrant rights has been featured in newspapers such as The New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and magazines such as the US News and World Report, as well as international outlets in a dozen countries.

Prerna currently resides in Washington D.C. with her same-sex U.S. citizen partner, and has been a Board Director at Immigration Equality, an organization that works on issues around LGBT immigrants, since 2010. She is currently working on publishing her first book.

6 replies on “Killer Coke Uses Color To Rebrand Image”

lol!!!!!! Ridiculously funny. Killer Coke is not showing any shame with this showcasing of happy brown faces.

i understand the arguments you are trying to make certainly. However when you stipulate as a main argument that “Coke Uses Color To Rebrand Image” perhaps you should have reviewed the early iconic advertisements of Coke such as their 1971 “I’d like to teach the world to sing” advert linked here: Upon review it would seem that the branding has been previously articulated at least since 1971 with similar cross sectional multiracial multiethnic representation. I remember this advertising from 1971 and instantly thought of it when I viewed the target advert of which your article is based from Superbowl 2014. It is possible that because of your age that the cultural reference to the iconic 1971 ad was not understood or even known. Nevertheless it is there and many from Generation X understood the brand value Coke was conveying. I enjoyed your views and you articulated many things well. I hope however that you take a couple minutes and actually research past history and make a comparative analysis before you render opinion that something as ubiquitous as Coca-Cola has “rebranded” an image when in reality they have been extolling these brand values since at least 1971 at the sunset of the sixties generation.

I’ve seen the advert. Perhaps the headline should read “Coke continues to use people of color to brown-wash.” It’s a non-sequitur to pick on one word-“branding” to divert from the actual content of the blog. Appreciate your post but it takes nothing away from the fact that Coca-cola has a horrible track-record and it is brown-washing that record through its latest advert.

It’s quite easy to fool most of the people most of the time with superficial overtures to “we’re all one big happy human family” while at the same time building your corporation on the foundation of exploitation.

In my less cynical moments, I like to take heart in the fact that ads like this get the response they do because the majority of people do want to have a common humanity like the one depicted in the ad, and want to live in a world in which all are respected and valued. They just have no idea the work it takes to get to that place (which, of course, leads to the big sigh after that less cynical thought….).

I had a similar reaction to you. I don’t know why my liberal friends were on the verge of puppy tears at an advertisement (i.e., a super expensive TV spot to get a huge company to make more money) where one of the most exploitative corporations, a huge icon of America’s cultural imperialism is having people from other countries sing the praises of our empire. Is that supposed to be touching or something?

I worked in advertising in NYC for over 10 years. We must remember that advertising is about smoke and mirrors. Creating a brand image. Its not about honesty or reality. Nasty amoral people walk around smiling in expensive suits everyday. Wherever you find money and power you find a polished facade that represents a fantasy or idealized version of reality. Under the surface? Consumer beware. Advertising as we know it isn’t going away. It is what it is and will be no matter how much we rail against it. All you can do is educate people to view ALL advertising with a critical eye… or in the words of Public Enemy “Don’t believe the hype”. 🙂

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