Coca-Cola’s WWF white cans Christmas promotion for polar bears bites back

Selling Coca-Cola at Christmas in white cans to promote a tie-up with the World Wildlife Fund to help the declining polar bear population must have seemed a good idea at the time but, one and a half billion cans later, it has proved to be one of the mighty soft drink maker’s rare but spectacular marketing disasters.

Customers in the US have protested in droves, some believing that their local stores had sold out of regular red can Coke, others thinking it was Diet Coke, which always comes in white cans. And Americans don’t like their Coke being tampered with, oh no.

It’s not such a marketing disaster as Coke’s notorious ‘Project Kansas’ in 1985 which led to the introduction of ‘New Coke’ with a supposedly improved formula (Americans didn’t like this either, ‘Classic Coke’ was hastily re-introduced and New Coke phased out). But it still doesn’t look very clever.

Coke is now busy whacking out red cans with the polar bear promotion on them, so presumably the threatened carnivores will still receive their $2m from Coke and promised $1m from the public.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.