lifestyle

"I can't find my name on a Coke bottle"

If you’re not familiar with it yet, Coca Cola has a new advertising campaign called “Share a Coke” which features bottles and cans of Coke personalised with 150 different names. Interestingly almost all of the names are Anglo.

According to bottles at my local Coles, here is a list of all the people you should share a Coke with: Alex, Dave, Emily, Fiona, Jess, Kylie, Laura, Nick, and Sam.

You can check out the full list of 150 names online. It includes both Rachael and Rachel and Sean and Shaun, because, you know, you wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.

But there are certain types of individuals who are not invited to the Coke party like Maria, Sebastian, Fatima, Ying, Angelo, Ali, Con and Abdul. And despite being the most common name in the world, Mohammed has been left out too. In fact there are almost no Indian, Asian, African or Arabic names.

According to its website the company boasts that, “Coke has always been a part of people coming together. And now, for the first time ever, we’re giving Australians the chance to find, create and share a Coke with the people who matter to them.”

People, that is, who happen to have Anglo names. (In all I counted a grand total of three names which might be considered ethnically diverse of the 150).

When I contacted Coke I received this statement:

“Names have been selected to represent a cross section of the Australian population. We used publicly available data to review the most popular names in Australia as well as ethnic representation to ensure the diversity of Australia was reflected appropriately.”

Of course common names and popular names are not the same thing. Mohammed, for example, is a relatively common name in Australia. However, in certain spheres it is highly unpopular. Likewise, given Australia’s cultural diversity, it seems pretty spurious for Coke to claim that their list is a representative “cross section”. A cross section implies a sampling process, not merely a skimming of names you might see on a “top baby names” list.

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So why does this matter? Perhaps Coke is simply responding to a Gen Y preference for all their consumer products to be uniquely tailored to them. Then again, if Coke claims to be bringing people together, it’s worth asking why almost all of their ads perpetuate a preference for Anglicized culture. In the past Coca Cola has used sun kissed white models at Aussie beach parties to achieve the same sort of racial marginalization.

In cultural studies we call this “invisibilisation”. That is, the process by which a group – through lack of representation- is rendered culturally invisible.

Of course Coca Cola is not alone here. Most television advertisements still only use white models despite the fact that Australia is an incredibly racially diverse country.

We forget that racial minorities do not need to be overtly discriminated against in order to be made to feel excluded and invisible. The lack of representation of these groups in mainstream culture- from television shows to Coke campaigns- is just one of the many ways in which minority groups are maintained as minorities.

But having a different or unusual name isn’t the only way some of us were made to feel different growing up. I asked my group of friends what made them feel different and here’s what they came back with …
– being the only Asian kid in class
– being the only kid whose family does not celebrate Christmas
– being the only kid with two mums
– being the only kid with divorced parents (for those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s & 80s …)
– being the only kid who couldn’t afford to pay on mufti/plain clothes day
– being the only kid who had lost a parent

Seems like everyone has something.

Nina Funnell is a freelance opinion writer and social commentator.

What made you feel different growing up?

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