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Thirst in the global brandscape: Water, milk and Coke at the Shanghai World Expo

Journal of Consumer Culture

Published online on


This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. It examines the socio-material life of three brands of refreshments featured at the 2010 World Expo: the local Chinese water purification company Litree, the Inner-Mongolian dairy manufacturer Yili and the soft-drink multinational Coca-Cola. Whereas international events nowadays play a key role in the intensification of the circulation of information, this article pays attention rather to the carnal dimension of the Expo and to the importance of the sensuous experience of the event in the promotion of these brands. It shows that close attention to the materiality of branding practices and the varieties of a brand’s existence can unveil a universe of constant tensions, uncertainties and immanent adjustments, even in the pacified and sanitized ecology of the World Expo.