Earlier this summer, Coca Cola’s Diet Coke launched its [unlabeled]campaign. In efforts to foster conversations about the damaging effects of societal labels, the soda company is removing labels from its cans. [unlabeled] is a multiyear campaign, and the kickoff event was the distribution of unlabeled cans at select events and locations.
“Some labels are earned. Fought for. Demanded. Proudly owned,” the campaign website reads. “But then there are labels that are imposed upon us. Weapons aimed to limit. Box us in. Make us feel lesser than. But imagine a world where we aren’t limited by the way others label us.”
Diet Coke has partnered with several organizations to create this campaign, including GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). Among the individuals was participated in the campaign’s promotion was Keri Gray, the director of stakeholder engagement and strategic communication at AAPD.
At age eight, Gray was diagnosed with osteosarcoma bone cancer and ultimately lost her leg from amputation. Becoming a person with a disability added to her intersectional identity as a young black girl growing up in the South.
“I didn’t want to be that person where people were uncomfortable to figure me out [and] were uncomfortable to ask questions or have conversations. And so as I was navigating that experience of being a black girl and being disabled,” Gray tells her experiences growing up with multidimensional identities. “On one hand, I felt a lot of pride for my identity. I felt like a lot of confidence in the culture in the communities, and I want it to embody that. But on the other hand, when I think about my disability side, I was oftentimes just trying to survive, trying to thrive, trying to fit in to the best of my ability. And it was conflicting.”
According to Lauren Beene, a Diet Coke spokesperson, the vision for the [unlabeled] ad campaign began with the company’s own employees. She explains, “We knew that we wanted to do something that started a bigger conversation that’s not about the product, It was really by learning from [our partner] organizations, learning from the people, that led us to realizer what can we do to foster the conversation.”
Gray hopes this campaign will inspire people to view their identities in a new light and realize diversity is something to be celebrated. She takes her race for an example, “being in the black community, particularly in the South was just like something that you immediately connect with and learn about the culture. There is so much [culture] around music, there’s so much around language or so much around you know, fashion. There are so many different aspects of black culture that we can gravitate towards, and really appreciate and want to be a part of.”
Reflecting upon her own childhood, Gray wants the [unlabeled] campaign to reach all kinds of people, but especially people from underrepresented and marginalized communities. This population has extra barriers of systemic oppression, of stigma and discrimination. The campaign has great potential of allowing these people to be heard and seen.
Diet Coke now joins the troop of brands that promote diversity and inclusion in their marketing efforts, potentially widening the scope its audience and customers. It hopes to have the unlabeled cans available in stores nationwide by next years. Consumers need to wait to see what’s next in this multiyear campaign.