For anyone unfamiliar with Godwin’s law, it states that any online discourse will eventually devolve into mentions of Hitler or Nazism. Coca-Cola may not have been familiar with Godwin’s law when the brand launched its ambitious and good-spirited #MakeItHappy campaign.
The idea was for users to take negative tweets, reply with the hashtag, and then Coke would turn the negative words into something positive using ASCII art. Coke would tweet out that positive thing with the text, “We turned the hate you found into something happy. RT to make people :).”
It’s a simple idea and very on-brand for Coke, whose very existence is to make people happy. It ties into Coke’s Super Bowl ad, in which Coca-Cola spills on a server and makes the Internet a much nicer place.
That’s probably why the company pulled the plug on the campaign after Gawker (of course it was Gawker) created a tweet bot to get the Coke campaign to send out ASCII images made of text from Adolf Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf.”
From Gawker editor Max Read:
Even when the text is shaped like a dog, it is disconcerting to see Coca-Cola, the soda company, urge its social media followers to safeguard the existence and reproduction of white racists.
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman sent this statement to AdWeek:
The #MakeItHappy message is simple: The Internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t. Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.
I’ve been a part of a few of these types of campaigns in my work with brands. As much of a buzzkill as it is to play devil’s advocate when everyone is jazzed about a fun idea, someone needs to do it. You always have to ask, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
If the Coke team had been more familiar with Godwin’s law, they would have seen this coming and avoided a kampf of its own.