Coke defends slogan in Maori language, people not convinced

Coca-Cola’s attempt to popularise its soft drinks among the indigenous Polynesian Maori people of New Zealand did not impress them.

Coca-Cola Amatil NZ made a blunder by displaying the message ‘Kia Ora, Mate’, above, (Image credit: Twitter / @waikatoreo) in Maori language, also known as te reo, on one of its vending machines at Auckland International Airport. Coke did not realise that the vending machine slogan got lost in translation. The message in Maori means ‘hello, death’.

While ‘mate’ is a common term of affection in English-speaking countries, the word means ‘death’ in te reo Maori language. The appropriate slogan could have been ‘Kia ora e hoa’ which translates to ‘hello friend’.

Social media users mocked the slogan which suggests that the sugary drinks could affect the health of the indigenous community. New Zealand has one of the highest obesity rates in the developed world. Some 50% of Maori adults and 18% of Maori children are obese.

“While high-sugar soft drinks aren’t great, especially for dental health, they are not as far I know immediately lethal,” one user wrote.

The beverage giant defended the slogan by saying that it is only meant to bring Maori and English together and is no way using ‘mate’ as a Maori word.

The company said it is proudly Kiwi and respects and embraces all aspects of Maori culture and other cultures. However, Coke remained silent on whether it had checked with the Maori community on the slogan before running it.