If you conduct a search on Google for “middle east rumors”, don’t be surprised to see Coca Cola’s website on top position.
One rumor says that the Coca-Cola trademark can be translated to “No Mohammed, No Mecca” in Arabic when it is reversed and read from left to right. Anti-Muslim message?
Of course, it’s just rumor. The Coca-Cola trademark was created in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia, at a time and place where there was little knowledge of Arabic. Coca Cola explains in details on its website.
Through search engine optimization, Coca-Cola created an excellent opportunity to rebut the rumors; excellent tactic but WRONG strategy. What Coca-Cola is also doing by “rebutting rumours” on its website is propagating them.
If the above rumos sounds interesting to you, you will probably share it with your friends; but, are you going to explain in detail and help Coca Cola rebut the rumor? Even if you do, as your friend continues to share it, it turns from rumor to story and some people tell the story as if it were 100% true.
There are many rumors; with today’s mobility and connectivity, they get spread very fast. I remember last year I came across a rumor about KFC six-wing chicken in Sina Weibo:
It was said that KFC used chicken with four to six legs and wings, being fed with hormone.
What should companies, especially big brands, do about rumors? Refuting a false claim does not work. If KFC claim they didn’t use six-wing six-leg chicken, consumer’ memory will store the concept of the disgusting chicken with KFC’s meal and make a link between the two.
A study by Stephen M. Ross School of Business professors Carolyn Yoon and Norbert Schwarz showed how warnings about false claims can backfire with consumers. In two experiments, older adults were especially susceptible to this “illusion of truth” effect. Repeatedly identifying a claim as false helped older adults remember it as false in the short term but paradoxically made them more likely to remember it as true after a 3 day delay.
The best way to fight rumors is to use the positive and present common sense facts.