Oct 11, 2021

The pitfalls of packaging personalization

Coca-Cola's make-your-own label promotion allows customers to write short messages on custom bottles - but which phrases are allowed or conversely not allowed have raised some eyebrows.
Elisabeth Skoda

Coca-Cola (CCEP) tried to block some slurs and trademarks within its labelling tool, but according to reports from CNN Business, customers quickly noticed some glaring inconsistencies, with inoffensive terms blocked and controversial ones allowed.

For example, "Black Lives Matter," is blocked, but "White Lives Matter" isn't. Coke included a special rainbow label for pride month, but it's not possible to write "Gay Pride" on the bottle. However, it is possible towrite "I hate gays." "Hitler" and "Nazi" are banned, but users can customize bottles with the phrases, "I am Hitler" or "I am a Nazi."

It's unknown whether any bottles with these custom labels were actually purchased, but this highlights the challenge brands face when giving control to consumers over what words appear on their packaging, and the importance of control implementing control mechanisms that work. This is especially true in the age of social media, where even a pack preview shot can gain widespread attention.

"We're continuously refining and improving our Share A Coke personalization tool to ensure it is used only for its intended purpose," a Coca-Cola spokesperson told CNN Business. "Words or phrases that have appeared in the preview mode of the tool may not necessarily be approved, but rather are words we have not previously assessed, 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."

Elisabeth Skoda

Editor of Touchpoints magazine, writer for Packaging Europe magazine and design enthusiast!
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