Coca-Cola 2.0

Posted on Friday 29 June 2007

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 most recent post (reLink), here’s the back story:

One of the VirtualThirst contestants participants had placed an item intended as part of the competition activities 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 during our conversation that Coca-Cola did not, at any time, contact SLExchange to remove items, 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 do not 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.

{Minor Update: to make minor correction and improve clarity}

    6/29/2007 | 4:35 pm

    You mean 2.0

    6/30/2007 | 12:32 pm

    […] I’ve seen a bunch of blogs buzzing about Coca-Cola supposedly “releasing” their trademark for Second Life use.  For those interested in this topic, Csven has a good, clarifying blog post after his conversation with Coke’s David Vanderpoel. […]

    6/30/2007 | 1:13 pm

    @hakoon – I was hoping your comment would spur more variations.

    6/30/2007 | 11:06 pm

    […] I’ve written before about the emerging issues involving the use of trademarks in so-called virtual reality. There’s been a lot of buzz on the Internet lately about whether, and if so, how, one of the world’s most valuable trademarks has been authorized for use on virtual reality leader Second Life. A blog calls reBang gets on the phone with Coca-Cola and claims to have gotten to the bottom of the fizzy bottle: […]

    7/1/2007 | 1:19 pm

    […] Coke frees up its trademark in Second Life? According to Reuters’ Second Life correspondent, the most recognized corporate brand in the world is letting SL users “hack” their logo into virtual products, as long as the Coke-infused items don’t contain anything overtly sexual or violent. SL blogger Csven Concord has a very interesting interview with a Coke executive involved in this project. (Disclosure: the Coke presence was co-developed by an advertiser on my SL blog.) […]

    7/1/2007 | 8:11 pm

    Minor detail: I did not participate in the virtual thirst contest. I just made that outfit to go to one of the parties that said ‘dress appropriate’. *grins*

    7/1/2007 | 8:22 pm

    Post updated appropriately. Thanks.

    7/2/2007 | 12:49 pm

    […] Das Rebang Blog, welches mit Coca-Cola’s David Vanderpoel sprach, fügt noch hinzu: 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. […]

    7/3/2007 | 11:56 am

    […] In an interview with Rebang, David Vanderpoel talks about the company’s decision to allow its trademark it be (mostly) freely used in Second Life. […]

    7/8/2007 | 9:50 am

    Hi nice blog but why do you don’t take donations via paypal? Place a button on your site for people that want to give you donations. For your blog thats extra money for you. So that you keep your blog for a long time. I think many people will give you something. So than the internet have very good blogs. It’s better than always have google ads on your blog or something like that. Greetings kaale

    7/8/2007 | 10:19 am

    I’m not especially interested in either taking donations or accepting ads on this blog. The minute I do that at least two things change:

    1) I’ll feel as if I somehow owe readers something if I accept donations.
    2) Readers will rightly question my integrity if I claim to like a product which is advertised here.

    I write this blog mostly because it’s an enjoyable pastime. Additionally because it puts me in touch with other people who share my interests. And also because it sometimes attracts potential clients. That’s enough.

    7/8/2007 | 10:08 pm

    […] A handful of reports are floating around that Coca Cola is “releasing” its trademark in Second Life. Trust me on this one: it really isn’t. It might be choosing not to enforce the mark in certain contexts, but it’s not “releasing” (the legal term would be “abandoning”) the trademark in Second Life or anywhere else. It can’t “release” it without abandoning it actually, because trademark law is considered a matter of consumer protection in the U.S. One of the ramifications of that is that transferring a trademark requires transfer of the underlying product — which Coca Cola is pretty clearly not doing. In reality, what Coca Cola appears to be trying to do here is issue a free license to the trademark to allow it to be used in Second Life in a limited context. That it can do, but it has to monitor the quality of the goods being produced or it risks an abandonment argument. As a result, a trademark license usually includes provisions dealing with quality control, inspection, and monitoring. The best clarification I’ve seen so far is here (at the reBang weblog) which basically says that Coca Cola is going to exert some control over who makes what with the Coke logo on it in Second Life. While there’s undoubtedly been a breakdown in communication somewhere, it is good to see a big brand talk about working with potential infringers — arguably the smartest approach. Bookmark this post on: […]

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