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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