Not The Real Thing: How Coca-Cola Used The Internet To Try To Steal My Soul

Message in a bottle
Message in a bottle
Jonas Pulver

GENEVA – The other day, someone posted a photo of a Coca-Cola bottle named Jonas on my Facebook wall. I was honored, though I couldn't quite say why: was it because of the object itself, even though until then, I had been mostly annoyed by the new global marketing campaign where Coca-Cola replaced its logo by the most common names carried by the 15-29 year-olds? Or was it just the fact that it came from a very dear friend of mine who had immortalized it from its perch on a supermarket shelf?

But whatever it was, my initial rush of positivity almost made me forget to customize my Facebook privacy settings to make this calorific and sticky bomb-shaped homonym invisible to all.

The online campaign, which enables users to win personalized bottles — which they can then give to their friends or family — perfectly executes the three-stage rule of e-marketing: entering people’s lives through emotions, triggering dialogue via social networks, and guaranteeing emotional response on the next solicitation to buy the product. As a result, the caramel-colored soda has become one of the most "liked" products on Facebook and its sales figures have increased accordingly.

Coca-Cola is not the only one to proceed this way. Are you looking to organize a little party? An Italian vermouth brand offers to perk up the audience for free if you take a photo of all your guests, said vermouth-cocktail in hand, upload the picture onto the social network and tag every single person there. My 18-year-old nephew went to such a party and I had no difficulty having access to the names (and the little drunken faces) of all the guests via his Facebook wall, even though I knew none of them. Santééééééé!

After recalling this experience, that personalized Coke bottle suddenly became less attractive, as if this image of a product bearing my name displayed an unpleasant mirror before my eyes: Am I called Jonas or is it the merchandise?

From bowls to sneakers and cellphones, product personalization as a marketing strategy is nothing new. The difference does not come from the merchandise, but from the consumer: Since the advent of the social web, individuals have never designed their identities as brands — and themselves as products — as much as they do today. More followers, more recognition, more taste, more swag.

So, seeing as we already do all the marketing work on ourselves, brands, the real ones, instead of trying to over-establish themselves on top of this promotional mayhem, let our identities do their work for them, infiltrating our social experiences, our friendships, our egos — slipping deeper into our profiles and exert their power of influence. Whether I bought the Coca-Cola bottle called Jonas or not is not important. What is important is that I thought, for a moment, about letting this picture into the very select collection (and I weigh my words) of my personal digital auto-museography.

My name, a billboard? My self, a marketing tool? What a depressing idea that suddenly made me crave a drink. Hmm, how about a Martini & Coke?

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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