Coca Cola has been known for many things in it’s more than a century on the American scene. Being refreshing and cold on a scorching summer day. Truly representing Americana with it’s iconic brand. Making delicious ice cream floats. Totally screwing up the formula in the 1980’s…well they probably should forget that one. Coke has also been a champ when in comes to marketing. (Well except for the formula thing in the 80’s).
Their “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing” jingle became a full-blown pop-culture icon when it was released and lasted for many years as part of Coke’s branding. They and their marketing folks have made some genius moves over the years, (except that formula thing), so when I heard and saw the Coke Super Bowl commercial with different people singing “America The Beautiful” in different languages and wearing different styles of ethnic dress, my gut reaction was that it was brilliant. Then I saw a girl wearing the traditional Muslim head scarves, and I knew they were going to hit nerves all over the place.
I’d love to say ‘I was wrong’, but I wasn’t. But, not for the reason I thought I would be wrong.
It wasn’t the video, but the audio that upset some people. The blogosphere, Twtterverse and Facebook erupted wit negative posts because the song was partially sung in many different languages. Demands that Coke should ‘speak English’, and ‘leave American songs American’, and the most outlandish claiming that our National Anthem should never be sung in a foreign language. If I have to explain that last one to you, then you may be reading the wrong blog.
But, the protests that really perplexed me the most were those that claimed the song’s interpretation insulted troops who have fought ad died to protect our country. I know a lot of people, and many are good friends, who are veterans and die-hard military folks. I can only think of one, or two at most who might feel that way. I had a man I did not know at all sum this up for me once.
These was a citizenship ceremony in Louisville at a well-known local festival, and I was observing as it happened. I nodded to a man with one of those baseball caps with a Vietnam-era unit number stamped on it I was next to him, and as has been my habit for a few years, I thanked him for his service, and offered my hand to him. He shook it, and without prompting, he nodded toward the crowd of new citizens saying, “this kind of thing makes it all worth it.”
I asked what he meant and he eloquently told me that our country had been built on immigrants, and he was proud to have been a career Army veteran, and to have fought to retain those immigration rights. I asked if he had any regrets, and he was smiling as he said, “No regrets at all! In this crowd you have Muslims, Asians, Russians, and many more countries that NEVER would have been able to be citizens if guys like me never signed up. These people are America.”
I left that ceremony feeling considerably better about our country, and those fighting for it. I never presume to speak for anyone, but I would bet that if you asked your own Veteran, or family member serving currently, they would likely feel the same way.
By The Way. By taking a chance on this commercial, to me Coke has hit another Home Run.
(But forget the formula in the 1980’s)