Bizarre rumors surrounding Coca-Cola’s religious and political affiliations have circulated for years. Some of the most popular suggest that the company is Jewish-run and bankrolls Israel. Others propose that, read backwards in Arabic, its logo says “No Muhammad, No Mecca.”
Although these accusations remain entirely unsubstantiated and unlikely, the company chooses to step up and clarify. Wise move? Maybe not, according to recent opinions voiced by experts in the Economist.
Responding to the Jewish Zionist question, Coke’s website reads:
“We believe the origins of this rumor date back to 1967, when the Arab League pronounced a boycott against companies for conducting business in Israel, following the tensions in the Middle East. The Coca-Cola Company and its bottling partners were present in many Arab and Muslim countries before Coca-Cola was introduced in Israel, and came back to the Arab countries as soon as the boycott was lifted.”
It continues: “Spreading such allegations is an attempt to exploit a delicate situation in the Middle East, and to falsely suggest that the Coca-Cola business takes sides.”
From a sales perspective, Coke could just be covering its bases with Arab nations, in which sales consistently fall below that of rival Pepsi, but, in denying the accusations, it may simply be propagating them further.
Derek Rucker and David Dubois, of the Kellogg School of Management claim, based on extensive research, that with each repetition of a rumor, no matter what the message or context, skepticism fades.
“The company’s web page is a magnet for search engines”, Rucker tells the magazine, “and people who read rebuttals tend to forget the denial and remember only the rumor.”