Coca Cola as The Global Product

Categories: Coca ColaLinguistics
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Introducing new products in a global market has never been easy, but companies continue to push their brands globally since succeeding globally means a dramatic increase in revenue and income. Of those that succeeded, Coca Cola is perhaps the most vivid example. The path of Coca Cola through various foreign markets has come across failures. Yet today the drink invented on 8 May 1886 by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton is sold in about 200 nations (Ilze).

Coca Cola in Germany

Although Germany and America have many things in common, taste preferences often differ.

In the 1980s Coca Cola made the mistake of introducing Cherry Coke that enjoyed great popularity in the US into the German market, renaming it Hülsken. As it turned out, the taste did not find admirers in Germany. The company was forced to withdraw the brand from the market and after some corrections work put it back again, but with a new taste “that was more palatable to German consumers” (Hinner, Rülke 2002:17).

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Coca Cola has learned its German lessons: recently it introduced a new variety of Fanta, Fanta Mango into the East German market that is sweeter than the standard Fanta. The company management knew that East Germans prefer sweeter drinks than West Germans.

Coca Cola in India

In India Coca Cola executives had to change the language to adapt to local tastes thoroughly, while keeping the message of the advertisement. Thus, Coca Cola ad “is the symbol of affluence for America from the use of the word ‘more’ in their advertisement, more coke, as in other usages like some more coffee, more to come” (Ramamoorth 1988).

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The marketers took the same approach in the Indian market, underscoring the meaning of affluence. They put the word ‘more’ in the Tamil phrase which they used in the ad. This is an example of who globalisation seeps through into the local market, where the general message in the marketing campaign is preserved but modified to suit local tastes.

Coca Cola image is associate with American culture

A major issue with Coca Cola image in foreign markets is its unique association with American culture. The brand is interpreted as thoroughly American and for many people thus represents the intrusion in their local world, a threat to the preservation of their national identity and originality. Coca Cola, Mc Donalds and a few other brands symbolise the approaching globalisation that may, as many fear, destroy their nations as cultural groups. On the other hand, the young in many nations admire the ‘feel good’ message of Coca Cola and react enthusiastically to the uplifting image of the brand.

Coca Cola in China

In China, the famous brand ran into the problem of translating their name into Mandarin so that people understood what the brand stood for and also so that the name retained it original identity. The problem was in the specificity of the Chinese language. In Chinese, each hieroglyph is a separate word that has a meaning of its own. As a result, if one does phonetic translation, choosing a combination of similar sounds, the result in writing is a string of hieroglyphs that often produce nonsensical meanings as a sentence or word combination. Coca Cola ran into exactly the same problem. When it was beginning to introduce its product, it was still deliberating on what the name might be. At the same time, vendors that were distributing the bottles “created signs that combined characters whose pronunciations formed the string “ko-ka-ko-la,” but they did so with no regard for the meanings of the written phrases they formed in doing so” (Mikkelson, Mikkelson 1999). In consequence, written phrases read something like “female horse fastened with wax,” “wax-flattened mare,” or “bite the wax tadpole”.

In the end, Coke executives arrived at a more meaningful combination that more adequately reflected the meaning of the brand. To do so, they had to discard all the words that sounded like “la”, because they interfered with the message. Now the name in Chinese sounds “ke kou ke le” and means a drink that “allows the mouth to rejoice”. The name was registered as trade mark in China in 1932.

This set of examples, both successful and unsuccessful, shows how a global brand was struggling through cultural and language barriers. By this time Coca Cola management has acquired great experience in entering new markets. Their past mistakes now serve as an important lesson to the marketers of today.


  1. Mikkelson, Barbara and David P. Mikkelson. Bite the Wax Tadpole. 5 April 1999. 30 Oct. 05 <>.
  2. Hinner. Michael B., Rülke, T. 2002. Intercultural Communication in Business Ventures Illustrated by Two Case Studies.  Freiberg  working  papers  # 03, 2002. 30 Oct. 05 <>.
  3. Ramamoorth, L. Language of Globalization: A Case Study of Tamil Advertisements. Language in India: Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow 3 (3 March 2003). 30 Oct. 05 <>.


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Coca Cola as The Global Product. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Coca Cola as The Global Product

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