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Algorithmic Brands? A decade of brand experiments with mobile and social media

Thursday 12 June 2014, 5:30 - 6:30pm
The University of Queensland Art Museum (Building 11), St Lucia Campus [see map]

Click here for the audio recording


In this lecture, Dr Carah will examine the relationship between branding and the development of mobile and social forms of media. Marketing, media and cultural studies scholars over the past two decades have come to conceptualise branding as an open-ended social process rather than just symbols that convey specific meanings. At the same time, mobile and social media technologies have enabled marketers to dramatically expand and capitalise on reflexive culturally-embedded forms of branding. ‘Below the line’ branding like street teams and guerrilla marketing were once largely confined to the urban scenes of the hip adopter elite and relied on a network of media representations and word of mouth. They were understood as attempts to embed brands within authentic cultural experiences and identities. Over the past decade brands have reconfigured culturally-embedded strategies to capitalise on the reflexive, algorithmic and data-driven capacities of mobile and social media. Culturally-embedded branding has become less reliant on claims to authenticity and more focussed on cultivating attention in online networks.

He will examine a range of brand campaigns involving sustained engagements with popular music culture over the past decade: Coca-Cola’s Coke Live (2004-2006), Nokia’s Music Goes Mobile (2004-2005), Virgin’s V Festival (2007-2009), HP’s Go Live (2008-2009), Jagermeister’s Hunting Lodge (2010-2012) and Smirnoff’s Double Black House (2013). Across these campaigns Dr Carah will trace the development of brands’ early experiments with digital cameras and purpose-built multimedia websites to the real-time interface between smartphones and social media. He suggests that by examining this sequence of campaigns we can see the incremental development of connections between brands’ engagements in real-world cultural spaces and the online networks and databases of mobile and social media. Key to developing these connections is organising the activity of consumers and cultural intermediaries who use mobile devices to translate their cultural experiences into media texts, social networks and data. In doing so, brands attune themselves to the increasingly responsive ways in which social media’s algorithms broker attention. 


Nicholas Carah is a Lecturer in Communication in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland. His research examines branding, popular culture and social media. In recent years his research has explored drinking culture and social media in Australia, examining both the branding activities of the alcohol industry and working with the online social change movement Hello Sunday Morning. He is the author of Pop Brands: branding, popular music and young people and has published in journals such as Television and New Media and Consumption, Markets and Culture.

This lecture will be chaired by Associate Professor Mark Andrejevic
Members of the public are invited to attend this free seminar, after which light refreshments will be served.
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