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Amanda CiafoneAppointment: Kluge Fellow, 2013

Area of study: Media Studies, Cultural History

Affiliation(s): University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Kluge Center project: A Multinational History of Coca-Cola

Residency: August 2013 – January 2014

December 24, 2014

How has The Coca-Cola Company communicated its brand identity through the media in order to facilitate its expansion into global markets?

Media and cultural historian Amanda Ciafone, Kluge Fellow at The John W. Kluge Center, is researching the history of the globalization of The Coca-Cola Company while at the Kluge Center.

Ciafone has spent the past five-and-a-half months as a scholar-in-residence at The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. She is looking at the ways in which Coke has expanded into new markets throughout its history, and how the company has responded to the unique challenges of different eras. 

“I’m interested in the ways in which the company represents itself in new markets, and how its business, brands, and products are understood in popular culture,” Ciafone says. “I’m also examining the various challenges faced by the company and how the company has adapted.”

Beginning in the 1920s, Ciafone says, Coke expanded in the markets of nations that were strategically allied with the United States. In the post-war era, the company couched its expansion into emerging markets as contributing to local development. Later in the 20th Century, this evolved into a unified world vision of the Coke brand. Most recently, as globalization has come to be viewed as replacing local cultures, the company has again responded by localizing their image.

“The Coca-Cola Company established itself through local, often independent, bottling franchises in parts of the world,” Ciafone says. “This is a different model of global expansion than, for example, producing a good and sending it to various parts of the world or a company owning all of its international locations. This meant that its globalization developed in different ways.”

The Library of Congress is the premier destination for research on the cultural production of The Coca-Cola Company. The company has donated more than 25,000 television commercials to the Library’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, including finished advertisements, never-broadcast outtakes, and experimental footage reflecting the historical development of television advertising for the product. The material is a treasure trove for media and cultural historians interested in the history of corporations and globalization, Ciafone says.

“Coke is such a great case study,” Ciafone adds. “Its production is at once about material products and fizzy drinks that we consume but also about the images and cultural texts that we consume even more frequently than the products themselves.”

Ciafone is in residence at the Kluge Center through January.

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