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Coke Pulls Polar Bear Cans after Customer Confusion

Coca-Cola has been forced to re-design cans meant to highlight its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, after customers complained that the cans looked too much like those for Diet Coke.

Coke unveiled the white cans emblazoned with silver polar bears on November 1, as it launched Arctic Home, a commitment of $2 million to WWF efforts to protect polar bear habitats. Coke also asked U.S. consumers to text in $1 donations, and pledged to match their gifts up to a total of $1 million.

The initiative appeared to be a neat confluence of marketing and sustainability, based around an animal that’s both a threatened species and a Coca-Cola icon, used by the company since 1922. As well as turning the classic Coke can white, the company also stuck white caps on bottles of Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite, Nestea, Minute Maid and other drinks.

But it was also the first time Coke changed the color of the can to support a cause, and the move appears to have backfired, with drinkers of Diet Coke – including diabetics – complaining that they bought the real thing instead, Time reports.

At the time of their launch, Coca-Cola had promised that more than 1.4 billion white Coke cans would hit the shelves, from November through February, but this week it will start shipping red cans again, The Week reports. Still, Time says, more than a billion cans have been shipped so far, and though production of these will stop, the white cans won’t be yanked from shelves.

The blunder recalls packaging missteps of the past, such as Frito-Lay’s first attempt at a compostable bag for its SunChips snacks. That move caused an outcry from consumers who said the bag was too noisy, causing Frito-Lay to temporarily transition back to original packaging in October 2010, before introducing a quieter compostable bag in February of this year.

Frito-Lay is owned by Coke rival PepsiCo.

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24 thoughts on “Coke Pulls Polar Bear Cans after Customer Confusion

  1. Packaging issues can be fixed. What is harder to fix is if this well intentioned campaign is not a success. It would be great to see it rolled out to other markets, and that it might create the opportunity for further engagement with consumers and shoppers around the Environment and Sustainability for all brands so that there is greater momentum and opportunity for leadership, and demand by consumers for it. The red cans look great.

  2. And what’s even harder to fix than packaging or marketing campaigns is the damage done by melting Arctic ice and climate change! If Americans are unable to discern the difference between bands of Coke and too bothered by noisy chip bags, I can’t help but wonder how the heck we are going to tackle the large, looming, and deeply complex eco-challenges facing us now…does not bode well.

  3. It is disgusting that Coca Cola is greenwashing in greenback giving.
    Coca Colas support of gmo corn via corn syrup allows big agribusiness to destroy billions of acres of soils, billions of plants, and billions of (beneficial) insects – and other animals – each day.

  4. People are really ridicules. It is not that hard to tell the difference between the two cans. You are complaining that you can’t tell the difference between a soda can, while all they are trying to do is help out an amazing cause.

  5. I agree with Betsy people should be reading what they are buying. The case was red and the cans are white and siver not just silver. I love that COKE is supporting WWF and the Polar Bears. Disappointing all the effort they did to bring attention to the cause was met with complaints.

  6. 1.4 billion cans being recalled for labeling? The coke will not be reused. That is equal to 131 million gallons of coke. 131 MILLION GALLONS. What a waste of resources and time to appease stupid people. Further to the point at hand, $1M is all Coke is putting to the cause, asking it’s customers to pony up the other million…and if Coke is RECALLING 1.4 billion cans, how much money could Coke REALLY afford to donate to the cause…maybe another $10 million or so you’d think.

  7. Its too bad people don’t realize that Polar Bears are not endangered and they were just backdoor tool to push the CO2 and global warming agenda. Sad that you have to put a polar bear on a can of pop to increase sales.

  8. This campaign to raise money for the WWF is so diappointing. The polar bear is not endangered.This is a plan to prevent oil and mineral development in the arctic regions. The areas to be explored is relatively small in the grand scheme of the region. The WWF is pulling at the heart strings of the nieve to push their own agenda to inhibit economic growth. We need jobs world wide. Harvesting resources can be done safely and environmently friendly. No one today wants to harm the environement.And BTW global warming is a false religion with fake science for evidence. In addition maybe you should stop drinking cokes with a the CO2 that you release from the cans to lower your so called carbon footprint.

  9. Lain — If you extend your thought process, Coke could just not produce anything this year, and give all of it’s operating budget to charity. GREAT! Until next year comes, and it doesn’t exist. Don’t be blind to the business decisions that are necessary for a business to be around long enough to contribute to a charity.

  10. Polar bears have tripled in population in the last ten years. The ones that are perishing is because of too much pack ice not too little so how do these eco guys think they are going to save a thriving species. I’m willing to bet they don’t go to Alaska and hand feed them baby seals and beluga whales. These guys are at the very top of the food chain they wouldn’t think twice about eating you,they are not puppies in a commercial.

  11. C’mon, people…
    It doesn’t say “DIET”, and it has the ingredients listed on the side.
    “Doh! Me no understand! Is drink white now? Picture on can, has Polar Bear Meat in drink? I confused! Me smart, no buy Santa Coke before, mean people grind up Santa Claus and put in can! No more Christmas presents! :-(“

  12. I don’t consider myself dumb, but I am a creature of habit and convenience. I can recognize the difference between the new Polar Bear Coke cans and diet Coke (or other varieties) if I have them in front of me. However, during the holidays and other large family gatherings, we fill a very large cooler with ice and a variety of sodas. We leave this outside on the patio, out of the way because we don’t have space indoors for it. At Thanksgiving, we were all fishing through all the ice and cans, up to our elbows trying to find what we wanted. In the past we could just reach in a get what we wanted based on the color of the cans.

  13. John, your post is completely wrong (to be nice about it). Here’s the data to prove it: http://pbsg.npolar.no/en/status/status-table.html#bottom.

    This website provides data on polar bear populations in their various geographical areas. There are 19 identified sub-populations. Of those, 5 populations are currently smaller than historical averages, 4 are not reduced, and the rest have insufficient data to report their status. And of the 19 groups, 8 are believed to be declining in population, 3 are believed to be stable in population, and only 1 is believed to be increasing in population (the rest likewise have insufficient data to determine population trends). There is also a category for “estimated risk of future decline” that has similarly grim outlooks for the 19 sub-populations.

    “Polar bears have tripled in population in the last ten years”? You are totally out to lunch with that absurdity.

    And “The ones that are perishing is because of too much pack ice not too little”? – also wrong. Check out this quote: “As a case in point, in Western Hudson Bay researchers have collected demographic information on polar bears since 1981. Over this time frame and location the sea ice breakup has been occurring earlier. The earlier breakup has been related to the poorer condition of polar bears and there is a correlation between the earlier breakup and a decadal scale pattern of warming air temperatures during the spring between 1950 and 1990. It appears that earlier breakup caused by warmer temperatures has resulted in declines in physical and reproductive parameters of polar bears in this area”. This last quote is from http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/essay_schliebe.html.

  14. I have to agree with lain. Coke is appearing to the public as caring for the environment and the polar bears by contributing $2 million dollars and matching another million. Good ploy for the caring environmentalist to think oh wow Coke really cares, lets patronize this product further. Mean while in parts of India were precious fresh water is restricted and scarce, Coke has government arrangement to use as plenty as they need to create their product while the population is restricted to drink, wash, and usage of water. WOW!!!
    By the way, as I am a teacher, I see how so many in society do not focus on the essential or the most basic of details. Those people that bought the polar bear white cokes mistaking them for diet cokes are morons and don’t take the time to PAY ATTENTION and blame ‘others’, in this case the company. Again, they are idiots!!

  15. Really? youre all bitching about the wrong thing… how can you recall those things and say coke doesn’t care? the whole problem is you fat fucks can’t be bothered to READ what you pour down your throat! I’d rather have polar bears than you illiterate losers!

  16. The white cans w/silver bears is beautiful. It’s a great way to highlight support for a very good cause.

    If people can’t ss/read that the cans don’t say Diet – then boo hoo for them. Coke should not need have to stop the cans. And to the folks who think such a large cost to recall them – well they can’t read either. Coke is NOT recalling what has already shipped.

    Whiners everywhere.

  17. Alright, one problem. Does the white polar bear can SAY diet? no. Does the diet can have polar bears on it? no. it has snow flakes. Is it white? no. It’s grey. You have to be completely BLIND to mix the two up. It just doesn’t make any sense.

  18. I don’t usually drink coke. I thought it was diet but didn’t care. then i noticed it was not and looked up this site to find out that people like to complain about everything. Even about other people complaining. I’m keeping the can and selling it to a sucker on ebay.

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