Coke Ad Shows True Beauty of the United States

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This column originally appears in St. Cloud Times, Monday, February 10, 2014. 

If you watched the Super Bowl commercials, you should be aware of the controversy Coca-Cola stirred up with its new ad titled “It’s Beautiful.” The 60-second ad featured “America, the Beautiful,” sung in seven languages during scenes of Americans of different ethnicities spending time together.

Soon after the ad aired, outrage swiftly broke out on Twitter and Facebook, as evidenced by a newly created hashtag: #SpeakAmerican. Apparently, many Americans do not think Coca-Cola, as a U.S. corporation, should advertise in languages other than English.

As an international student pursuing my studies in the United States, it is ignorant for some Americans to feel the only language that should be used in their everyday lives is English.

While many who protested against Coca-Cola for showcasing non-English languages in the context of a patriotic song think that such action was anti-American, these critics might not have realized that multilingualism is the reality in America.

According to the latest American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, many people living in the U.S. speak languages other than English, despite the predominance of English as the quasi-official language in America. In the survey, the Census Bureau created a list of 381 languages spoken by Americans and reported that 22 percent of Americans do not consider themselves good English speakers.

Given these conditions, many U.S. citizens are still blind to the fact that the American society is constantly diversifying into a multicultural community.

Reproaching the ad, some tweeters expressed they felt un-American for drinking Coke. Many said they were disgusted by how a patriotic song is sung in different languages. Some even said they would boycott Coke for allowing an American anthem to be reproduced in “a terrorist language.” (It should be pointed out, for anyone confused on the matter, that America’s actual national anthem is “The Star-Spangled Banner.”)

Without endorsing any Coke products, I stand by the brand’s intention to send out a good message during an event watched by at least one-third of Americans. After airing the commercial, Coke tweeted: “The only thing more beautiful than this country are the people who live here.”

Coke has probably realized how that is not quite true.

To say beauty is in the eyes of the beholder is fairly accurate. As one of the most controversial Super Bowl ads this year, Coke did not rely on usual tactics — humor, terror, catchy tunes or clever wordplay — but captured our attention by simply reflecting the reality of life in America.

That is the real beauty.

Thanks, creators of the Coke ad, for reminding America that multiculturalism and diversity should be valued and emphasized in our society. It’s a shame not everyone thinks this way.

Accept it or not, multiculturalism is what America is founded upon. Coke’s ad did not push that concept down anyone’s throat. Truly, “America, the Beautiful” by any other language is still “America, the Beautiful.”

I am a member of the Times Writers Group. My article appears every second Monday of the month in St. Cloud Times opinion page.

Image: Adweek.com

An Introduction to Social Media Marketing

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Drastic changes to mass communication approaches over the past 50 years have opened new doors to advertisers to market products and businesses. In the face of rapid technological advancement, the next target is in sight – to empower technology consumers who are now in control of the media messages they are exposed to, and to take advantage of the trend in online social networking in tailoring targeted marketing. Though, the idea of social marketing is not a relatively new concept. According to Alan Andreasen (1994) of Georgetown University, marketing scholars wrote about topics that would be considered social marketing in the late 1960s and literature about social marketing were well established in the early 1990s. However, new communication technologies available today have given Internet users greater autonomy in creating and sharing content, such as online social networking sites.

With the explosion in popularity of online social networking sites among online users in early 2000s, businesses and corporations are forced to pay more attention to reaching their customers on this popular medium. “Web portals, as content aggregators, provide efficient access to information [that are useful to marketers] and services online: they are electronic gateways or entrances that provide numerous links to other sites and information that is needed” to target potential customers on a personalized level (O’Murchu et al, 2004). Nonetheless, the problems remain in the lack of expertise and proficiency among SME owners in developing and executing effective social media marketing campaigns for their businesses.

Last month, I received a project in my Organizational Communication class with Dr. Matthew Vorell to create an informative video that discusses the basics of social media marketing for SMEs in St. Cloud, Minnesota. After a phone conversation with an executive in the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce, I got an idea about what local businesses may be looking for in terms of resources to help them get started with social media.

Here is a short interview I did with Luke and Jason from DAYTA Marketing last Tuesday. Helpful comments are welcomed!

‘Don’t give them 4. Give them 2+2’

Effective storytelling is among the few units I teach in my first-year composition course. Every semester, I show Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk, “The Clues to a Great Story,” to the students and ask them to reflect on the traditional methods in storytelling and how they can tweak the ways to make their personal narratives interesting.

Following the steer to tell compelling stories, Entrepreneur publishes the following infographic to explain why “readers” today don’t have time to read anymore and how strategic communicators could cut through the digital noise to market to their audience. Essentially, the secrets are to:

  1. Show, not tell. The same-old advice from the ad folks – transform exposition into experience.
  2. Give bite-sized information. Follow Stanton’s strategy – no one has the time to digest huge chunk of text anymore.
  3. Write attention-grabbing headlines, copy. You have 3 seconds. Capture my attention!
  4. Use personal narratives. Audience wants real stories. The more dramatic the better.
  5. Give information in bulk. Avoid tediousness, save my time by giving me the package (information).

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Heineken Campaign Challenges Routine Lifestyle, Invent Possibilities

Hats off to the brains behind the recent Heineken campaign, where travelers are challenged to drop everything – their planned trips, responsibilities – to take on an unknown route to a mysterious location.

The campaign is designed to confront our regular lifestyle – an always-busy, planned, often-stressful, and indifferent lifestyle. The impact of venture comes in multiple fold. First and foremost, it reminds us of how aloof we are toward this short journey called life. It wakes us from the numbness of our supercilious acts, day in and day out.

Second, it brings back the excitement in life by pushing us to make unreasonable decisions. This is a piece of puzzle in life we’re all seeking every day. Being able to break free from our reasonable lifestyle is freeing our sanity from structure, boredom, and indifference. While being reasonable means constraining oneself from inventing possibilities, being unreasonable means doing something out of the blue – something that you’re compelled to do, with a rational mindset – to be responsible and have fun doing it.

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“Legends are not born, they are dropped,” spelled the campaign tagline. This is not the first outrageous campaign that Heineken has pulled together but definitely a notch up from their previous stunts. This new campaign is also inline with Heineken’s brand personality, which shines bright through their company tagline: “Open New World.”

Indeed, “Legends” are not apathetic people but those who are willing to create their own life, inventing new possibilities of which the reasonable consciousness seems to avoid.

So what have I learnt from Heineken? Be a wild magnolia. Challenge indifference. Invent life.

More from Heineken (previous challenges):

  1. Would you pass the Heineken interview?
  2. Heineken tests true friendship
  3. Heineken brings out the ultimate man in oneself

Considering Audience, Message, and Action in Social Advertising

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Audience theory has been in existence since the emergence of mass communication/media studies. In fact, the best way to measure the success of any message is to gather audience feedback. However, in traditional advertising, the audience is simply the group of individuals that advertisers are interested in speaking to. They can be grouped or segmented by demographic and psychographic properties. However, in the social media world, audiences share connectedness and a sense of community among online users (Gangadharbatia, 2012). Audiences on social media usually organize themselves into clicks and groups, which can be an advantage for advertisers in segmenting and identifying potential target market.

Another distinction in social media audience, from their traditional counterparts, is the erasure of boundaries – both time and space. When considering communication strategies for the social media platforms, advertisers and marketers should pay attention to the limitation and opportunities for conversations in the open webspace.

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Similar to audience theory, several message theories exist that explain how information propagates in a traditional media context. The two-step flow model of communication and opinion leadership are examples of these. However, these concepts could be adapted to study online advertising. For social media “there are fewer or no gatekeepers, and the barriers to entry are relatively low” (Gangadharbatia, 2012). Hence, brands and organizations are forced to become more open and transparent. Even so, communication strategists should continue to explore ways to engage audience in their marketing plans. As technology makes it easier to create and share content, many creative strategies involve user-generated content and audience participation.

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Erik Qualman (2009), author of Socialnomics, said that individuals no longer look for information; rather, information finds individual on social media (Gangadharbatia, 2012). This changes our traditional perception of how the message propagates through the channel – social media users have more control than traditional media users, and information presents itself in individuals based on different social contexts. [Note to self:] While collecting user perception of online/social advertising, it is important to remember its differences from traditional media message propagation and the actions it may incur.

Image (top-bottom): Appitive, theconversationprism, buzzshift