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Bornstein 1 Adam Bornstein Prof Brock Eayrs Writing 2299 21 June 2013 Using Social Networks to Exploit Users

and Cokes Liquid & Linked Campaign Abstract: For a third year writing course at Western based around creating this exact portfolio we were tasked with writing a new piece of work. As I am aiming my portfolio towards an employer audience within the Public Relations or Advertising field I felt it productive to write about Cokes new Liquid and Linked campaign and how they are taking advantage of new online social mediums to spread their message and have consumers build brand value for them. In 2008, esteemed MIT professor Alison Hearn had her article, Meat, Mask, Burden: Probing the Contours of the Branded Self, published in the Journal of Consumer Culture. She wrote that, [a]s the Internet and other forms of new communication technology become commonplace, the drive for visibility and perpetual connectivity increases, and the generation of symbolic capital, via reputation building and image management, becomes a central concern for individuals and institutions. Here she is diagnosing the promotional age of post-Fordist neoliberalism. As we will see, corporations in Todays society (like Coca-Cola) are no longer interested in the value of their product created through production -as Marx would insist it lies- but rather in the symbolic value that is created by the consumer. Through semiotics, advertisers are able to associate their brand with political myths that lie along public desires in a way that urges the consumption of their products; so one might wear the badge of the respective myth or virtue being referred. Effectively, by accepting, sharing, and interacting with such an ad, consumers partake in autonomous and free labour to help produce a cultural meaning that manifests itself as an ethical surplus (Arvidsson). Such a surplus produces more value in the brands reputation than the quality of its physical production ever

Bornstein 2 could. Under the guise of social connectivity, Social Networking Sites (SNS) like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube monitor and track the personal information granted unto them in order to control, create, and cultivate access to the most efficient and effective demographics of the immaterial labour force. The ability to monitor connections along social relationships via likes allows companies to infiltrate communities of likeminded consumers (Turow, 139). Consequently, Coca-Colas new Liquid and Linked Campaign (LLC) is aimed to penetrate these networks in order to gain access to audiences so they may cultivate further ethical surplus. Furthermore, they are using these sites to challenge consumers to create more than just cultural meanings for their brand, but actual marketing content. After a more thorough explanation of this process, this paper will examine how companies like Coca-Cola are taking advantage of Social Networking Sites (SNS) role as a keeper, provider, and exploiter of their users as the immaterial labour force. Writing in a time of production rather than consumption, Karl Marx believed that it was the modes and relations of production (of the base) that created the commodities that would influence the politics and values (of the superstructure). He saw value as the quality of the physical product instilled in it through the producers sweat and tears (Marx). As economies of scale took over and the producers and consumers were pushed further apart, the advertiser was free to impart any meaning on the product to instill value (Jhally). Through the signs and symbols of semiotics signifiers, a red rose was able to take on a value far more priceless than its cost because it represented all things love and romance. Similarly, a product like Tim Hortons coffee can have a greater value for one consumer whom buys into the symbolic myth that it possesses a quality of Canadian

Bornstein 3 Nationalist pride that makes it worth more than a physically cheap and delicious Country Style beverage (Cormack). Furthermore, in this age of promotionalism and branding mentioned in Hearns quote, companies are managing and guiding their brands along such publically desired myths as nationalism, charitable causes, and feminism, amongst other social relations. This would appear to be contrary to Marx beliefs; however, in his 1987 article entitled The fetishism of commodities: Marxism, anthropology, psychoanalysis, Sut Jhally finds room between the criticisms to rectify this. A symbolic advertisement that uses semiotics to instill a mythical reading cannot guarantee the particular message reaches the mind of the reader. In fact it is up to the reader to create that message for himself. Tim Hortons is not increasing their brand value by including Canadian artifacts in their advertising, but when their audience interprets those visual cues as a reading that Tims coffee is part of Canadian banal nationalism, and then the value of the coffee is raised extraordinarily; by allowing the product to situate itself as a marker of this particular social relationship -the proud citizen and his country (Cormack). Similarly, Coca-Cola as a product has very little to do with family, culture, happiness, and good deeds, however these ideas are all present in signifiers within their ads. They also depend on genuine true stories that help viewers make these connections and produce brand value. Their Lets Go Crazy campaign featured footage of its consumers spreading good deeds while its Open Hapiness campaign videos featured genuine reactions of consumers being given free gifts from Coke. This even included Coke sending migrant workers home to see family, which positions their product as a badge of family values for viewers (The OFW Project). By participating and

Bornstein 4 interacting with brands audiences create cultural meanings and symbolic value as they organize themselves into communities of common desires and understanding. In doing so, audiences are taking part in what is known as immaterial labour as they freely and autonomously create the values of the products that they consume (Lazzarato). This value is known as ethical surplus and it possesses a physical value that can be bought, sold, or traded (Arvidsson). Therefore, if the audiences produce this value, then they are the force of production Marx writes about. In addition, by participating and perpetuating this consumerist lifestyle they are affirming the politics and beliefs of the capitalist system expertly and without even realizing it. Through the same capitalist and market logic approach corporations have been seeking out this immaterial labour force to create ethical surplus for decades. Especially effective in entertainment media when the mind is already suspended in a state of relaxation, advertisements are disseminated through rigorously controlled demographics to ensure they reach the right audience or community whom will generate the most fruitful ethical surplus. As a more global brand, Coke is more interested in reaching the masses as opposed to smaller demographics. They sponsor Fox and run their ads on other national networks as well. Furthermore, in Todays more advanced age of the Internet and SNS even further control and access to the most specific demographics based on social relationships is available. Facebook is growing to incorporate such a complete multiplicity of online services such as mobility, email, gaming, or chat, to encapsulate users into this online prison. This encompassing structure of SNS is addressed by OReilly when he explains, there's an implicit architecture of participation, a built-in ethic of cooperation, in which

Bornstein 5 the service acts primarily as an intelligent broker, connecting the edges to each other and harnessing the power of the users themselves (2). And it is not just Facebook either. [A] mini-industry of companies exist to swoop into social-media sites and gather socialrelationship data at levels of detail that Facebook and its ilk will not divulge, writes Turow in The Long Click (139). This information is used to identify and group users along social relations beyond the groups and connections they make themselves on SNS. These sites then sell this information to help advertisers better access their desired target market. Corporations are not strangers to this process in our overly visual post-Fordist society. Companies such as Coke are well aware of the benefits of immaterial labour and the immense value added to their brand through consumers making cultural meanings. Vice President and Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer of the Coca-Cola Company Joe Tripodi outlines how they are utilizing social mediums to capitalize on immaterial labour in a blog posted to the Harvard Business Review. He explains Cokes new Liquid and Linked campaign and how the new marketing emphasis stresses the importance of expressions over impressions. Impressions are valuable as a way to reach the consumer and maintain visibility in his or her eyes, however the true value lies in expressions. To us, an expression is any level of engagement with our brand content by a consumer or constituent he writes. This does not mean that impressions are no longer needed. Coke still runs its normal advertising campaign using magazines, TV commercials, corporate sponsorship, and product placement among others. However impressions only access the attention of your audience whereas expressions facilitate influence and cultural movement of the audience. The goal of the LLC is to double business by 2020 (Tripodi).

Bornstein 6 They plan to create liquid content that inspires viewers to create their own content (subsequently creating cultural associations, norms, and ethical surplus) that is linked across several platforms to ensure maximum visibility and use of the immaterial labour force. They will do this by generating share worthy stories that will engage and generate expressions. In maintaining their brand image to stay current Coke targets teens and young university adults who are the trendsetters for the larger popular culture. As a large company they are visible everywhere however their product is positioned as a small yet important part of happiness in daily life. In another true story following their Open Happiness super bowl campaign, they placed a Coke machine in a University lunchroom and handed out free drinks and snacks. This footage not only generated content to use in a commercial advertisement but it positioned Coke as a brand that cares about students that are tight on a budget and enjoy the happiness that comes with free stuff. These students were activated by this story to express it across their SNS by post, picture, or tweet. Not to mention all of the publicity it would have generated in local papers. This is one way in which Coke is able to use one story to leverage expressions that influence audiences to produce cultural meanings and symbolic value for Cokes brand. Coke was smart to make students the subject of this story because they are trendsetters and have more influence on larger themes and messages in popular culture.

One great way to access this particular group is through the music industry. By sponsoring the popular network primetime show American Idol they advertise in a multiplicity of ways. First through product placement as seen bellow:

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Viewers are forced to see Coke being enjoyed by the celebrity judges, which effectively helps them generate positive brand association in their subconscious. Furthermore, the other celebrity guests and performers that come on the show are also associated with Coca-Cola. Secondly, the show literally requires audience participation so viewers are repeatedly asked to go online and vote. This allows them to reinforce user responses through constant exposure across various websites and mobile devices (Turow, 139). Once online, the expressions begin to flow. This occurs on Facebook when people simply like their page or when they provide feedback through comments. Furthermore, Coke is even able to inspire consumers to create content that they end up using in their own advertising campaigns. Perhaps the most consequential change is how consumers have become empowered to create their own content about our brands and share it throughout their networks and beyond, Tripodi writes. Coke is conscious to manage and guide the expressions of the immaterial labour force. If they play it right, then not only will audiences help produce ethical surplus for their brand, but they will also dictate what they desire and the best way to get their attention. This is manifested in the Much Music Coca-Cola Covers campaign. Coke offers a prize large enough to encourage young audiences to create content and post it online. Last years contest in Canada generated

Bornstein 8 over 56 hours of consumer content alone (Broadcaster). This is immaterial labour hard at work. Not only are users actually creating content but also they are outright advertising for Coke amongst their networks as they share their respective video in order to gain personal promotion and votes. This generates visibility and communication for the brand as well as gathers important data. They can see the responses which artists are most popular and relate best to audiences. Subsequently they can then seek out these artists, such as LMFAO or Carly Rae Jepsen, and have them appear as celebrity endorsers in Cokes YouTube videos or use their songs in their commercials. Furthermore they can link the contest to other larger televised events like the MMVAs to further the liquid and linked concept (Broadcaster). Another example of managing audience participation to generate useful consumer data and produce cultural meaning is the Perfect Harmony promotion. Again promoted and linked with American Idol, viewers can go online each week to vote on one aspect of how they desire Carly Rae Jepsen to perform in the season Finale. This in turn creates buzz that echoes through users Tweets, posts, shares, comments, and likes across various media platforms and networks. Tiziana Terranova in Producing Culture for the Digital Economy explains free labour is the moment where this knowledge consumption of culture is translated into productive activities that are pleasurably embraced and at the same time shamelessly exploited (37). This example is proof of how Coke is taking advantage of SNS to cultivate users into a free and autonomous source of immaterial labour that allows users to be exploited and produce brand value for them. As we have seen here in our age of neoliberalism and post-Fordism consumption is perpetuated by promotionalism and commodity fetishism. SNS like Facebook use

Bornstein 9 imprisoning structures, algorithms, and graphs of social relationships to order users into efficient groupings to be marketed towards. This access is sold to advertisers and used to encourage consumers to generate their own content. Coke not only buys into accessing this space with impressions, but also strategically campaigns to motivate the immaterial labour force into action. By creating true stories they illicit expressions that influence larger audiences to share in and create cultural meanings associated with the brand. This process is the central practice of Cokes Liquid and Linked campaign that aims to double profits by 2020. They are continuously creating liquid and sharable content that connects various platforms of SNS across different mediums in a way that not only increases their visibility amongst audiences but also inspires them to create content of their own. In this way, users of social networks perpetuate capitalism and are wrongfully exploited because they are forced to produce immaterial labour under the false guise of social connectivity. This practice is vital to the success of Cokes advertising and campaign strategy and it utilized effectively.

Bornstein 10 Works Cited Arvidsson, Adam. 2005. Brands: A Critical Perspective. Journal of Consumer Culture Vol. 5 (2). 235-258. (2011) Product Placement Watch: Yale Study on Opportunistic Ads an Opportunistic Ad for Yale?. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11 Apr 2013]. (2013) MuchMusic and Coca-Cola Launch Covers Competition. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11 Apr 2013]. Cormack, Patricia. 2008. True Stories of Canada: Tim Hortons and the Branding of National Identity. Cultural Sociology, Vol. 2(3): 369-384. Hearn, Alison. 2010. Through the Looking Glass: The Promotional University 2.0. In Aronczyk, Melissa and Devon Powers, Eds. 2010. Blowing up the Brand: Critical Perspectives on Promotional Culture. New York: Peter Lang. 195-217. Jhally, Sut. 1987. The fetishism of commodities: Marxism, anthropology, psychoanalysis. In The Codes of Advertising: Fetishism and the Political Economy of Meaning in the Consumer Society. London: Pinter. 24-63 Lazzaratto, Maurizio. Immaterial Labour Lets Go Crazy Ad:

Bornstein 11 Karl Marx. The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof. From Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume 1. (1867/1887). Open Happiness Ad: OReilly, Tim. What is Web 2.0. OReilly Media Inc. 2005. (2013) You Can Impact The Perfect Harmony Finale Performance.. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11 Apr 2013]. Terranova, Tiziana. Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy. Social Text Vol.18, No. 2. 33-58. 2000. thePinoy (2011) The OFW Project. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 11 Apr 2013]. Tripodi, Joe. Coca-Cola Marketing Shifts from Impressions to Expressions (2011) Coca-Cola Marketing Shifts from Impressions to Expressions. [online] Available at: cs/2011/04/coca-colas_marketing_shift_fro.html/ [Accessed: 10 Apr 2013]. Turow, Joseph. 2011. The Long Click. In The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. 138-170.