The Coca-Cola brand has built its global reputation on selling fizzy drinks and saccharine notions of global humanity. And yet the corporation’s latest advert has managed to alienate a vocal minority of Americans.
During this week’s Super Bowl, the company aired a commercial showing a diverse group of Americans playing and laughing, overlaid with a soundtrack of America the Beautiful sung in several different languages. What, after all, could better show the diversity of the United States – a country of immigrants, after all – than one of its most patriotic songs sung in the many tongues of its people?
Outrage ensued. “One simply does NOT sing America the Beautiful in ANY language but English! Get on board, or get OUT!” was one typical comment on social media. Others used the xenophobic Twitter hashtag #SpeakAmerican. More still called for a boycott of Coke.
There are two conclusions to draw from this silliness. One is that some Americans clearly feel that US companies should only sell to English-speaking Americans. The other is that Coke, which after all popularised the song “I’d like to teach the world to sing”, has just discovered that harmony can’t be forced.