On Friday I had a post up on Brandchannel about a new initiative by Coca-Cola as part of their Open Happiness campaign. Coke is sending a trio of bloggers around the world for a year to “uncover insights about what makes people happy.” This latest installment in the soft-drink joywashing trend is notable for its intensity and scope — it’s not just an ad campaign, but a constant, year-long push spread over a range of social media platforms.
I think it’s an interesting idea, but it does grate on me to see Coke portray a brand-ambassadorship as a joy-finding mission. These kids are going to be spending barely a day in each country (206 countries in 365 days), barely enough time to exhale, much less derive meaningful understanding (or “insight”) into what makes people happy. But of course this isn’t an ethnographic exploration, it’s an exercise in generating brand stories — warm fuzzy narratives where Coca-Cola is a star character, if not the hero.
More interesting than the supposed happiness insights Coke’s floggers will uncover are the spontaneous interactions outside of Coke’s intentions that will undoubtedly occur along the way — the things that cannot be planned for or factored out when traveling in such unpredictable parts of the world. I don’t think this experience will deliver earth-shaking new insights into emotion, but I think it will illuminate moments of generosity, hope, selflessness, good humor, and compassion that will surprise us. For that reason (and perhaps a little vicarious living), I’ll be watching.
Brandchannel: Coke sends bloggers on an “Open Happiness” world tour