Coca-Cola 2.0

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by: C. Sven Johnson

I just got off the phone with Coca-Cola’s David Vanderpoel. You might recall his earlier comment regarding the Coca-Cola VirtualThirst campaign in Second Life that came as a result of my critique of the competition rules.

If you’ve not read my earlier post (reLink), here’s the back story:

One of the VirtualThirst contestants had placed some items intended as part of the competition up for distribution on the Second Life Exchange website. Someone reportedly contacted SLExchange informing them of the trademark infringement of not just Coca-Cola’s brand but others as well (actually, multiple hits rings alarm bells in my mind).

The contestant contacted C.C. Chapman of marketing firm crayon, the group responsible for the competition, and Chapman immediately contacted the people at Coca-Cola… who then contacted SLExchange and requested they not police their trademark and that they reinstate the items which had been removed.

Vanderpoel informed me that Coca-Cola did not contact SLExchange, which makes sense given that other brands were apparently included in that notification.

After I’d read the secondhand report that Coca-Cola had “released” their trademark, I immediately got to thinking that a) there was no official guidance, and b) even I wouldn’t unconditionally release a trademark.

So I contacted C.C. Chapman who put me through to Vanderpoel. And I’ve got one thing to say: I’m impressed.

First off, my understanding from our conversation is that no one should expect any official guidance from Coca-Cola. Additionally, I was informed that Coca-Cola simply doesn’t want an intermediary policing their brand for them. Nor do they want to interfere with the in-world economy when people are using their brand in ways that doesn’t adversely impact them.

Okay. So that part makes good, reasonable sense to me. But there’s more.

For those people who feel the need to use the Coca-Cola trade dress in ways that are detrimental to the brand’s reputation, Coca-Cola is more interested in establishing a dialog to help them understand why people want to attack them in the first place than they are in trying to stop them.

This is by far the smartest position I’ve seen a company take lately.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t think the competition could have been set up a little better, but the fact that they engaged the community, they adjusted (to some degree) after competition launch, and are now taking this extraordinary stance is, honestly, a welcome surprise to me. My hope now is that word will get out and other companies will follow their lead.

So much for the theory that old brands can’t learn new tricks.

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