One day in Nazi Germany, the president of Coca-Cola GmbH ran out of Coca-Cola syrup. Now, is it even possible to make Coca-Cola without Coca-Cola Syrup? No, it isn’t. It’s like trying to fry KFC chicken without the 11 herbs and spices. You cannot honestly still call that KFC, can you? That’s only TFC.
So, what did Max Keith (that’s the Coke President’s name) do? He got creative.
He whipped up something with carbonated water and some tangy orange flavour and something else and something else. People who tasted the product at the time said it looked and tasted something like ginger ale. Great, said Keith, that’s exactly what I was going for. He turned to his staff and said, Use your imagination; give me a cool name for this new drink that we have just invented!
You see, in German, the word for imagination is Fantasie. So, his employees looked at one another and said, that’s a no-brainer, Herr Keith. Just cut off the “sie” from “fantasie” and you have your nice name. Cool story, right? Yes. Until a few years ago when the Coca-Cola company got carried away in 2015 with the whole 75th anniversary of Fanta thing.
They went and made a fanfare-ish commercial and guess what they say in the ad: “To celebrate Fanta, we want to give you the feeling of the Good Old Times back!”
Sorry? What did you just say? Bring back the good old days of Nazi occupations and a devastating world war? I don’t understand. Actually, no one understood. Which was why the ad became a big controversy for Coke and Fanta. Were they trying to slyly tell us they are a Nazi-sympathising company? The funny thing is that before this time, most people didn’t even know that Fanta had been invented because of Hitler.
Now, even somebody had argued in 2015 that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, I doubt if Fanta would have wanted to be known as the people putting a price tag on The Holocaust.
Speaking of washing your hands clean, there was also the story of Pepsi. Remember the Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner? In that ad, there’s a massive protest— something like the Black Lives Matter movement meets the Great Women’s March of 2017 meets the Anti-Muslim Ban Protests.
Then, as the tension heats up, Kendall pushes through the crowd. She hands out a cold can of Pepsi to the police and, what do you know, everybody calms down… then hugs and kisses ensue. It’s a miracle! Who knew Pepsi had such tranformative powers. Pepsi needs to open a mega church in Lagos, or something.
But the people weren’t having any of that. What are you even saying? That all the people who have died in the hands of the American police, the reason there’s such a thing as BLM, would be forgotten just because a supermodel does an ill-advised soda water giveaway in real life? Come on!
But some individuals who like analyse these things have said, well, Pepsi could actually chalk this one up as outrage marketing.
Quickly: outrage marketing is when you purposefully publish marketing messages that go against the beliefs or respected icons of a group of people so as to get them mad. The angry lot would then come for you through media complaints and declarations of war. Now, because bad news is good news, you will earn massive notoriety via free publicity. By the time you come to apologise, the world already knows about your new campaign. You win.
Some of the recent controversies that you could appropriate as outrage marketing include. Gucci Black Face and H&M Coolest Monkey. If they were genius creations or innocent mistakes, we may never know.
Which brings us to Sniper, the poison of choice for suicidal Nigerians since 2018.
The government, via NAFDAC (the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control), is banning the small package of Sniper (Dichlorvos or 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate) which people use at home.
“We have also placed a ban on the manufacture of smaller packs of Sniper which are easily purchased for household use,” said Husman Bukar, head of the NAFDAC’s Veterinary Medicine and Allied Products Directorate.
It is not clear if this sanction will taint the reputation of the entire Sniper brand.
For now, the public appears to be divided on the matter: shouldn’t the government just face its job and deal with the causes of suicides rather than try to punish Sniper insecticide? Shouldn’t Sniper do something about its product’s accessibility?
If your product is killing people or if people are using it to kill one another, should you be concerned? Is it enough to just say, but that’s not the intended design? Could you argue, like the American Gun Lobby, that Sniper doesn’t kill people, only people kill people. But then…
Remember the #TidePodChallenge?
Here’s what happened. Procter & Gamble created the Tide Pod, cute easy-to-use liquid detergent pacs you could just pop into your washing machine. But the Pods were so beautiful and fun looking. So much so that little children and other young Americans thought it would be a great idea to eat them and see what happens.
Yeah, you guessed it. A whole lot of them ended up in the ER. Fortune, at one point, said, the Tide Pod Challenge “has reached epidemic levels.” Soon, there were campaigns against Tide Pods, as if P&G pressured anyone into eating its soap. As if it was Tide Pods killing people, rather than people killing people.
But P&G did something about their own sticky situation. First, they showed genuine-looking concern. They said they “are deeply concerned about the intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs by young people engaging in intentional self-harm challenges” and are working with the American Cleaning Institute which would assist “post-secondary education institutions [aka universities and colleges] to educate their students that laundry detergents should only be used to clean clothes.”
- Made Tide Pods bitter. Even though it still looked sexy, any child who touches it with his tongue doesn’t feel inclined to swallow the whole thing.
- Went on social media to provide information on the risks and also help people who might have ingested the Tide Pod.
- Worked with YouTube and Facebook to pull down videos of the Tide Pod Challenge, which was how the madness spread in the first place.
- Paid influencers, such as sports stars, to speak on how it is dangerous and just dumb to eat soap.
Now, does Sniper have a plan? Would it educate the public on the best use of its product? Or think about accessibility? Can it contribute to suicide prevention campaigns?
Whatever it does, there’s a chance here to gain notoriety or make itself a champion of the people— two ideas that are not mutually exclusive. But as the clock ticks on, you can be sure some other brand is waiting to see Sniper washed away by the tide of its own inaction.