Does Coke’s gesture to foreign workers deserve getting slammed?

Earlier this week, Coca-Cola ran a campaign with the Singapore Kindness Movement, dropping boxes of Coke to foreign workers.

The campaign has drawn a strong reaction, with some slamming Coke for exploiting the plight of the workers for its own image, while others found the move genuinely heartwarming. (Just a quick look at the comments on the earlier article will give you an idea.)

This comes at a time where much spotlight has been cast on the foreign worker situation in Singapore, and where it is reaching a heated point.

Marketing spoke to several senior PR executives on their take. Even these were divided.

PR value versus genuine value

Scott Pettet, VP APAC at Lewis PR said that while this is a great stunt, “it falls squarely into the category of stunt because it places more emphasis on form over function.”

For example, he says, Coke could have delivered thousands more cans by truck, but would that have had the same PR impact? “Of course not,” said Pettet.

However, Jamie Morse, managing director of Hill + Knowlton was more positive about the move. “The mere fact that so many people are talking about the worker conditions today than before is an indicator of the campaign’s success.”

Hopefully, he added, those in power will now be talking more about issues affecting migrant workers. In Coke’s defense, it is after all the job of governments and regulatory bodies to address worker conditions not that of corporates, added Morse.

“It would be unfair to be cynical about brands which look to particular social issues as a means to further their image. As people we want to get involved in social causes to feel good about ourselves just as much as to help others,” said Morse adding that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with brands doing the same.

Mylinh Cheung, managing director of Epic PR also added that while this was a stunt, it was still a well thought through activation that was value based. Because the public is more or less familiar with the narrative on the sad plight of foreign workers, Coke played right into the public consciousness, she said.

“The issues plaguing foreign workers are far too deep and complicated to try and resolve overnight. But rather than remain paralysed and do nothing at all about it, we can provide a small touch of kindness to brighten the migrant workers day”, she added.

Tarun Deo added that the success can be attributed to the campaign’s simplicity that fits with Coke’s Happiness Campaign while falling in line with Singapore Kindness Movement’s agenda.

Coke could not be reached at the time of publishing for further comment.