The Coca-Cola Company has long communicated to consumers in Spanish across the United States – as early as 1940 to be exact. While the English to Spanish translation hasn’t been inaccurate, it hasn’t always hit the mark. That’s because not all words and phrases translate smoothly into other languages. And, to complicate matters further, the same language can differ depending on local dialects.

“A phrase can be literally translated from English to Spanish, and vice versa, but doing so may lose the point because there are nuances that don’t translate literally,” explained Humberto García-Sjögrim, Group Director, Business Integration, Global Public Affairs, Sustainability and Communications, The Coca-Cola Company. “As a native Spanish speaker and Coca-Cola associate, I used to get frustrated, along with other colleagues, seeing a smart tagline lose its power and potential because the message or nuance was literally lost in translation.”

This frustration – and the belief that technology could be leveraged to tap into the wisdom of the company’s many bilingual associates – led to a concept that turned into a business benefit: A Point of Sale (POS) Spanish Adaptation Tool. The concept evolved out of the Coca-Cola Hispanic Leadership Business Resource Group (BRG), which helps ensure the company is a great place to work for Latinos by providing development, employee engagement and community involvement opportunities. These efforts enhance the company’s diversity efforts, inspire associates, strengthen the Latino communities served and drive our business results. The Hispanic BRG wanted to adapt English marketing taglines so they don’t lose their luster when translated into Spanish.

But, how would it work, and where to start?

García-Sjögrim reached out to innovation and digital marketing colleagues to identify existing tools and learned that the Coca-Cola brand team had piloted a crowdsourcing tool for the rollout of the “Share a Coke” campaign in the United States. Wondering if that tool could be repurposed, he contacted the agency behind it, and they quickly partnered on a pilot.

At that point, he recruited fellow Hispanic Leadership BRG members Oliver Merino and Carmen Costa. They worked with the agency to develop a simplified version of the current tool, a “minimum viable product” in software terms, and engaged Coca-Cola North America’s commercialization shopper marketing teams – responsible for proper placement of Coca-Cola ads on shelves and refrigerators in grocery and convenience stores – to pilot the program.

García-Sjögrim shared, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. Oliver and Carmen took the idea to market.”

The Hispanic Leadership BRG’s POS Spanish Adaptation Tool launched in 2017 in the United States. Since launch, it has been used to translate 15 POS taglines from English to Spanish and associates have provided 116 adaptations for use in the United States. Due to its success, Coca-Cola’s marketing team has purchased the software license for further use.

The process is easy and simple. Associates receive an email with a link and request to log into the tool. Once logged in, they click on a POS image, read the tagline in English and then post a recommended Spanish adaptation tagline.

The opportunity to submit taglines in Spanish is open for two days and each request typically receives around 20-30 suggestions. After two days, BRG members receive a second email, encouraging them to vote for their favorite adaptations. Two days later, a ranked list is sent to Coca-Cola’s Multicultural Marketing team, which makes the final selection for implementation.

“It has been a collaborative journey. The idea perfectly married our bilingual associates’ skills with our marketing community’s desire to better communicate and connect with our Hispanic consumers,” said Oliver Merino, Director, Shopper Marketing, Coca-Cola North America and Coca-Cola’s Hispanic Leadership BRG President. “Collaboration happened naturally, with strong support from our shopper marketing team, which enthusiastically supports our efforts. At the same time, BRG engagement and participation has risen as members become part of something bigger than themselves. That is real, tangible and encouraging value for our company and associates.”

A recent example of a tagline created with this platform is the winning adaptation of “Fresh Made, Meet Ice Cold” to “Recién hecho... recién helada.” The nuances in this tagline can evoke traditional Latin American foods that are often customized or specifically made to order on the spot, and drinks at the appropriate temperature. “Recién hecho” is an expression that conveys the idea of recently made, fresh ingredients, and “Recién helada” connotes perfect cold temperature but is frequently applied to beverages put on ice until they reach what is considered the right (ice-cold) temperature by people from the warm climates of Latin America.

“We view this software as more than an adaptation tool. It’s also an employee engagement tool. We’re receiving input from technicians, managers and others, who aren’t involved with marketing at all, and from different parts of the country, where Spanish varies. It’s helpful and critical to have this diverse insight,” said Carmen Costa, Partnership Sales Associate, Coca-Cola North America. “We have access to our own focus group that is energized and interested to share.”

Learn more about The Coca-Cola Company’s commitment to Inclusion, Diversity and Equality.