branding. active verb. 21st century process in which corporations designate ownership over people, public space, art, culture, & knowledge
— karlosgaunaschmieder (@anotherpundit) February 4, 2014
Coca Cola’s new commercial, “America the Beautiful,” which features said song sung in eight languages by natives and newcomers, has clearly met one of its goals. It’s being talked about.
The soda giant is one of the world’s largest, most influential brands. Their creative and cultural voice spans the globe, through familiar and intimate mediums and languages. Forbes reported Coke’s 2010 advertising budget as $2.9 billion and $35 billion in revenue, along with some other wild facts about the company.
When this brand recognizes a cultural shift and says ‘this is what America looks like,’ it is pretty much what America looks like. Their ads often reflect and shape how America not only sees itself, but how coke brands the American story globally.
(They also have a storyline about polar bears, but that’s a different blog about a related but different subject.)
The reactionary right is upset because, well, this is what America looks like.
The New Yorker contrasted it with a Chrysler Ad that featured Bob Dylan, who the author also noted also released a record the same year the soda giant released “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” an ad with a similar message during another tension filled moment.
Jill Filipovic over at the Guardian wrote about why ‘liberals should be upset.’ Among her critiques: Coke wants to “sell soda to rapidly expanding but vulnerable populations.”
Jeff Chang over at Colorlines rightly places the commercial as a provocative rebranding effort in an ongoing culture war.
But here’s what really angers me. Coca Cola – a company that gives to anti-immigrant policy initiatives and politicians – used *the feeling* of finally seeing ourselves in the American story to not only sell soft drinks but to shove the idea that profits are more important than people down our throats.
As media literacy critics, we can understand what is happening.
As change-makers we need to understand the moment and connect those feelings to a vision for change that challenges the very corporate values that the ad evangelizes.