Depressed? Lonely? Don’t worry: help is at hand. Coca-Cola is appointing three ‘happiness ambassadors’ to travel the world and spread their happiness and enthusiasm wherever they go.The happiness ambassadors will, according to Coke, meet ‘everyday people’ on their 150,000 mile journey and will share their experiences on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as they go.
Their mission is to ‘share their happiness and enthusiasm with the rest of the world’ as part of Coke’s Open Happiness Campaign.Their duty is to engage with local denizens and uncover what makes them happy, openly document and share their experiences online, and complete tasks in each country as determined by online voters.It’s a pretty impressive undertaking, and one of the most unique, expensive and involved social media marketing and travel campaigns ever undertaken
The concept is intriguing and experimental in its scale, but the pace is breakneck. Doing the math, it’s about a day and a half per country, which begs the question: how much can you really expect to learn about a place if you’re hardly there long enough to set your watch? You could be forgiven for thinking that this initiative will be long on advertising and short on insight. Coke affirms that this is more about a brand-inspired narrative than moments of cross-cultural epiphany:
“Coca-Cola, enjoyed by people in more than 200 countries, has always tried to express a positive view of the world,” said Shay Drohan, senior vice president of sparkling beverages, The Coca-Cola Company. “Expedition 206 gives us an opportunity to celebrate that optimism and happiness on a global scale in a very personal way. Sharing stories about what makes people happy is a unique way we are bringing our “Open Happiness” campaign to life.”
“This mash-up of social media – online photo galleries, video clips, blogs, microblogs, social networking, combined with an amazing journey, enthusiastic travellers and a theme of happiness is a great way for us to connect with people around the world,” said Adam Brown, director at the office of digital communications and social media at Coke.” Not surprisingly, the campaign has a focus on ecology, conservation and recycling.
The context is extremely contrived and the narrative will be superficial at best, capitalizing on the participants naievete and youthful energy. Part of a creative non traditional approach whereby corporations will appropriate social media and move their heavy artillery into these platforms. ” We can’t wait to read the bloggers’ dispatches from place like Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where we’ve heard happiness is more of a warm bullet proof vest than a frosty beverage” ( Simon Houpt, Globe and Mail ). Add Zimbabwe , Congo, and Iran to the itinerary.
The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s largest beverage company, marketing almost 500 sparkling, carbonated and still brands. Along with Coca-Cola,perhaps the world’s most recognized brand, the Company’s portfolio includes 12 other billion dollar brands, including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, and Minute Maid. Globally, the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, juices and juice drinks and ready-to-drink teas and coffees. Through the world’s largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries consume at at a rate of nearly 1.6 billion servings a day. But its not enough.
These militaristic forays into foreign markets, their cultures and traditions, probably foments resentment , unrest and radicalism rather than opening the door to human understanding sence it attacks their most vulnerable point, culture. At least according to the doctrine of the late Sam Huntingdon
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order was a hard-headed look at what political scientists had traditionally dismissed as a soft subject: culture. Originating as a 1993 article in the policy journal Foreign Affairs, and published three years later as a book, it argued that the key sources of post-Cold War conflicts would not be national or ideological, but cultural. Clash was Huntington’s riposte to those who thought the fall of communism meant the universal triumph of Western values. The West’s arrogance about the universality of its own culture would blind it to the ascent of “challenger civilisations”, particularly Islam and China. Shot through with cautions about Western decline, the book counsels Europe and America to unite: “The prudent course of the West is not to attempt to stop the shift in power, but to learn to navigate the shallows, to endure the miseries, moderate its ventures, and safeguard its culture.” Exporting American pop culture and trainers was easy, exporting values of freedom and democracy far harder.
“Somewhere in the Middle East,” Huntington wrote, “a half-dozen young men could well be dressed in jeans, drinking Coke, listening to rap, and between their bows to Mecca, putting together a bomb to blow up an American airliner.”
”This was heresy to the globalized cosmopolitan elites, who had convinced themselves that capitalism and democracy had trumped older loyalties of race, religion and soil. Huntington struck a particular nerve by drawing attention to what he called “Islam’s bloody borders” – the plain fact that Muslims were involved in far more intergroup armed conflicts than members of any other of the contemporary world’s nine great civilizations.
Far from the smug racist many critics accused him of being, Huntington was attempting to shake arrogant Americans out of their delusion that the rest of the world’s people are like them – or want to be. Believe that nonsense, he said, and you’ll blunder into all kinds of trouble. Within a decade, the 9/11 attacks and the Bush administration’s catastrophic moral crusade to turn Muslims into good Western liberals would do much to prove Huntington’s point.For describing the world as it is, not as elites would like it to be, and for defending liberalism against the mindless orthodoxies of liberals, Huntington was savaged as a bigot. But he had been there before. History suggests that sooner or later, even his critics will catch up to Sam Huntington.” ( Ron Dreher, Dallas Morning News )