by Marion Nestle
Jun 5 2013

Coke as a broker of peace and conflict

Coca-Cola as a peace broker

I don’t know what to make of Coca-Cola’s recent marketing strategies, as reported in the Washington  Post.   The ad,

“Small World Machines” starts with a relatively straightforward premise: India and Pakistan do not get along so well. It ends with the promise of peace: “Togetherness, humanity, this is what we all want, more and more exchange,” a woman, either Indian or Pakistani, narrates as the music swells. Sounds great. How do we get there? By buying Coke, of course.

The idea is to have two vending machines, one in Lahore and one in New Delhi, each with views of the other.  To buy a Coke, buyers have to cooperate.  Here are photos showing how it works.  And here’s how Coke explains it, with video and slides. 

As the Post explains, this may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

Sharing tasks and short-term, low-risk social interactions are classic conflict resolution tactics, including as a part of the civilian-to-civilian interactions sometimes termed “track two diplomacy.”  Indo-Pakistani tensions could use all the help they can get.

But the Post concludes with an update: 

Deputy foreign editor Karin Brulliard, a former Pakistan bureau chief, alerts me that, per the Wall Street Journal, Pepsi dominates the soda market there. Maybe that’s what’s been holding back peace?

This is not the first time that Coke markets its products as the key to world peace.  Those of you who are old enough might recall the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” video from 1990.

Coca-Cola as a conflict promoter

Who at Coke got the clever idea of producing personalized bottles with 150 popular names—in Israel, of all places?

Oops.  Forgot the 1.5 million Arabs who live there.

Alas, the campaign has caused a huge controversy in the Mideast.

Recall: All this is about selling Coke internationally.  Americans aren’t buying it so much anymore, so overseas it goes.

  • B.

    And, of course, there will peace in the middle east when all these people DIE from diabetes by drinking high sugar beverages! No people, no conflict.

  • Tim

    That is cynical, B. They don’t have to die from diabetes. It suffices to turn them into obese couch-potatoes in order to dramatically diminish their ability to fight wars.

    Therefore, in the name of opeacity, I demand personalized coke bottles for the Palestinian people too!

  • Amanda

    Despite being Coke, that’s kind of a stupid marketing idea for anything. If I want to buy a soft drink (or anything else), I might use the novel machine ONE TIME to see what it’s about. However, normally I would go with the one that just takes my money and gives me the stuff (unless the peace sign one is free, I didn’t see that mentioned in either post). Otherwise, I’m just buying a Pepsi. It’s quicker and doesn’t judge me.

    I guess if it’s giving Coke away free, that’s a good gateway drug way to get people hooked.

  • B.

    Yes, Tim, that is cynical and maximum snark-my specialty!