When pixel drinking becomes possible

As we witness the advent of metaverses and NFTs, the boundaries between the digital world and the material world are becoming increasingly blurred with the launch in early May of a limited edition Coca-Cola with a “pixel flavor”: the Coca-Cola Byte. According to the brand, the product “invites you to explore what pixels might taste like with a Coke experience that is refreshingly new while still being delightfully familiar.” Thus, for the sum of $ 14.77, it is possible to afford two cans of the drink and a “commemorative” sticker (term used by the brand on its website).

What does a pixel taste like?

According to the brand’s website, the soda offers a taste experience by offering “a bright aperitif reminiscent of starting a video game followed by a refreshing taste that makes it a perfect playmate”. The tone is decisive: the drink is aimed at video game enthusiasts and adopts the codes and vocabulary of “gaming”.

The purchase of the box gives access to an augmented reality minigame developed for the occasion and the launch is accompanied by a space in the colors of the product created in the Fortnite game. More empirically, the Coca-Cola Byte offers a taste close to its more classic cousin, the Coke Zero, while being more sparkling.

This product launch, as intriguing as it is, is primarily a marketing approach. Coca-Cola appropriates the language and codes of digital to address a target (probably that of the players) and ingratiate them. Obviously it is not really a question of suddenly knowing the taste of pixels, but of discovering the interpretation that the brand makes of it in the context of a marketing operation. However, the mere fact that a brand conceives “the taste of pixels” as an attractive and understandable proposition can only make us question the boundaries between the digital world and the material world.

Hybridization between the digital world and the material world

By giving the possibility to “taste the pixels”, the Coca-Cola Byte illustrates a hybridization in the codes of digital and materiality. Indeed, we observe an increasing number of forays from one world to another, and the boundary between the two seems more porous than ever.

With the development of the presence of the Internet in our daily life, there has been an increasing digitization of elements that until now were material. This is specifically what is called digital virtual consumption, which has led us to gradually replace our family photo albums with folders on our computers, our DVD collections with movies, then subscriptions to streaming platforms and even our excerpts. account by email.

Until recently, these digital objects were believed to have fundamentally less value than physical objects. The rapid and massive development of the non-fungible token phenomenon (non-fungible tokens, or NFT) profoundly challenges this hypothesis of an ever-lowering value of digital objects. By guaranteeing the uniqueness of the digital object and giving it the status of a work of art, NFTs give digital objects a much higher (symbolic and monetary) value than certain highly material works of art.

But digitization does not only imply the transformation of material objects into digital objects. We also observe the intervention of digital technology within the material world itself, particularly through augmented reality, which transforms perception. We recall, for example, the phenomenon of Pokémon Go which took on an unexpected dimension during the summer of 2016 (and which, despite a marked slowdown, still benefits today from a large community of followers) bringing millions of people around the world. world. , to observe the appearance of virtual creatures in very real places, through the revealing lens of your smartphone. Thus, with augmented reality, virtual elements appear before our eyes, in the material world. In a similar spirit, it is now possible to go to a physical store to make virtual purchases.

The Meta company opened a Meta Store in early May in California to allow users of the Horizon World metaverse launched by Facebook’s parent company to purchase virtual accessories for their avatars.

Taste the intangible

The Coca-Cola Byte goes against these two types of hybridization of the digital world and the material world. Until now it was a question of digitizing the material world or importing the digital into it. With this product launch, the brand proposes a completely different approach: that of making digital sensitive, giving it a sensorial dimension.

By offering consumers a taste of the immaterial, Coca-Cola offers an experience of sensory remixing and digital materialization. Of course, it is above all a commercial approach, but it is also possible to perceive in it the elements of a deeper questioning. Digital, virtual, immaterial, digital versus physical, real, material, analog … Is it still relevant to think of these two worlds as opposites? Perhaps it is appropriate today to rethink these concepts to better understand their porosity and the many hybridizations.

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