Embarrassing Coca-Cola design fail bemuses the internet

One inevitability of Pride month is what's (un)affectionately known as Corporate Pride – which, as the name suggests, involves all manner of brands paying lip service to the cause with rainbow logos and the like. One of the slightly more creative efforts this year came from Coca-Cola – but it appears to have backfired spectacularly.

The company's new custom bottle creator lets users personalise a rainbow-coloured Coca-Cola bottle sticker by entering a word, name or phrase of their choice. But the list of banned phrases, as well as some that are allowed, has proven somewhat questionable. (Check out our best print ads for some bold advertising that actually works.)


Coca-Cola's custom bottle creator (Image credit: Coca-Cola)

If the user attempts to create a bottle with one of Coca-Cola's prohibited words or phrases, they'll receive the message: "Oops! Looks like the name you requested is not an approved one. Names may not be approved if they’re potentially offensive to other people, trademarked, or celebrity names. We’ve worked hard to get this list right, but sometimes we mess up. If you think this is an error, please contact our Customer Care team. Otherwise, please try again, keep it fun and in the spirit of sharing!" 

And, naturally, users have been testing the limits of what Coca-Cola considers "fun and in the spirit of sharing". In one of many eyebrow-raising examples, 'White Lives Matter' = fine, whereas 'Black Lives Matter' = not fine.

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"We're continuously refining and improving our Share A Coke personalisation tool to ensure it is used only for its intended purpose," a Coca-Cola spokesperson told CNN Business. "Actual bottles are not made with words that are inconsistent with the program's intent. We have clarified in the tool's preview mode that proposed language may require further review."

While we appreciate the company's desire to filter out offensive phrases, one can't help but wonder whether Coca-Cola's half-hearted censorship mechanism is actually better than no mechanism at all. Like McDonald's tasteless coronavirus-themed logo, Coke has ended up, no matter how well-intentioned, with a bonafide marketing fail on its hands. Still, at least it's in good company this year – who can forget Burger King's abysmal attempt at humour on International Women's Day a few months back?

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Daniel Piper
Senior News Editor

Daniel Piper is Creative Bloq’s Senior News Editor. As the brand’s Apple authority, he covers all things Mac, iPhone, iPad and the rest. He also reports on the worlds of design, branding and tech. Daniel joined Future in 2020 (an eventful year, to say the least) after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more. Outside of Future, Daniel is a global poetry slam champion and has performed at festivals including Latitude, Bestival and more. He is the author of Arbitrary and Unnecessary: The Selected Works of Daniel Piper (Selected by Daniel Piper).