In connection with the Islamic month of fasting, Ramadan, Coca-Cola Norway has launched a nationwide campaign featuring its recognisable logo adorned with a crescent moon, an important symbol in Islam.
While celebrating Ramadan has been a long tradition for Coca-Cola in Muslim countries, this is the first time it has donned Islamic imagery in the Scandinavian nation, where it previously only used to have Christmas campaigns.
"We want to show our clear stance on diversity and how important it is to society. Diversity and inclusion have always been important to Coca-Cola. For example, many do not know that in the 1950s we were actively engaged in the civil rights movement. Cola was the first to front women in advertising campaigns", Johanna Kosanovic, marketing manager at Coca-Cola Norway, told the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, stressing the company's commitment to diversity and gender equality.
Nina Marianne Iversen, a professor of marketing and branding at the Norwegian Business School (BI) argued that it was clear that Coca-Cola wanted to establish closer ties with Muslims.
"Another motive for Coca-Cola is that they want to show themselves as a responsible social actor by linking the brand to diversity and inclusion", Iversen pointed out. "They challenge the establishment and those sceptical of Islam", she said, praising the company for being "tough" enough to risk provoking negative stereotypes.
Fatima Almanea of the left-wing Labour Party, herself a Muslim, argued that the campaign was "very positive" and is an important step toward inclusivity and equal treatment. She stressed that it was "only natural" for Coca-Cola to follow up on Ramadan, given their Christmas campaigns. According to her, the campaign should "trigger curiosity and raise awareness", admitting that it could also spark controversy.
On social media, though, the reactions were more mixed, as Andersen predicted.
"Islam is not welcome or wanted in beautiful Norway. Go to an Islamic country with this c**p. Try marketing Christian holidays there", a user raged over Coca-Cola's "Happy Ramadan" wish on Instagram.
"I'm not against Islam, but this is not how the Coca-Cola company should behave in a Christian country", another one chimed in.
"Coca-Cola Norway to celebrate Ramadan on an equal footing with Christmas", the news outlet FødevareWatch reacted.
On Facebook, many threatened a boycott.
"No more Cola. Yuck!" another user reacted on Facebook.
"Then it'll be Pepsi from here onwards. To talk about taking a knee. I hope Coca-Cola sales plunge", another one joined in.
Norway's Islamic community has been growing exponentially since the 1960s. At present, Muslims are estimated to constitute 5.7 percent of Norway's population of 5.2 million.
The crescent moon, or the Hilal, is often used as a decorative element in mosques and interiors. The moon has religious significance as moon phases determine the Islamic calendar and, consequently, the time of religious holidays.