Coca-cola hits sour note with te reo faux pas

By Kelvin McDonald , Tepara Koti
Credit: Twitter / @waikatoreo

It seems drink company Coca-Cola's effort to "turn up the fizz" on te reo Māori has hit a sour note, but they say no disrespect was intended.

One tweet on the company's latest marketing campaign has raised eyebrows across Aotearoa and abroad on their te reo Māori faux pas.

Riding the current wave of te reo popularity, Coca-Cola sprung to action recently adding the Māori greeting "Kia ora" to its drink vending machines. However, they also tagged the friendly Kiwi-ism "mate"  onto their te reo greeting, and in te reo Māori, "mate" means "death", essentially saying, "Greetings, death".

Twitter user @waikatoreo quickly took to social media with his post saying, "When languages don't mix well."

In a statement to Māori Television today, Coca-Cola was clear that there was no disrespect intended towards Māori culture, that the words used were "meant to bring Māori and English together."

Coca-Cola's Corporate Affairs Manager, Neil Waka says, "The label was in no way being disrespectful to any culture let alone our own Māori culture, that’s not how we operate. That would have been inappropriate and unacceptable.”

He says, “The Kia ora is in obvious reference to our New Zealand heritage through our Maori language, the ‘mate’(phonetically spelt – meit) is a commonly used English phrase for friend and used widely in many countries including New Zealand, Australia and the UK. The two words were only meant to bring Maori and English together, nothing more."

There's been mixed reaction from Twitter users - with jovial pokes at the unintentional mishap.

One post says, "While high-sugar soft drinks aren't great, especially for dental health, they are not as far as I know immediately lethal."

Source: Twitter @DarrenDavis10

Others referencing the popular 1964 Simon & Garfunkel song, The Sound of Silence,

Source: Twitter @RaPomare

Or offering friendly tweaks to the post;

Source: Twitter @filikudesignco 

The original tweet has also been picked up by international media.

Image: NITV Australia news headline

Image: The Guardian Headline, 15/10/18

Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand says they are proudly Kiwi, and that they respect and embrace "all aspects of Māori culture and any other culture."

 "Our Diversity and Inclusivity values are incredibly important to us as a business and as a people and we work hard to ensure our people feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work no matter their culture, beliefs or preferences,” says Waka.