Online Branding and Power: Who has control over the presence?

So in my last post, I set up my ideas of branding, and started to explore how the concept related to cyberculture.  That post was a great foundation leading into the next leg of research: a series of questions about how these brands interact with users, and what the future could also hold.

Cybercultures allows for a great deal of interaction between brand and consumer, but I question who really has the most control?  The internet is a great space for open communication, but does that tip the balance of control in the opposite direction to where it has typically been.  The lecture on Cyberpunks let me consider this idea, in relation to users who have that power and choose to abuse it – trolls who are interacting with brands for the sole purpose of derailing the brand image.  The ‘trollpunk‘ audience hijacks the presence of the brand with the intention to disrupt the hierarchy of power, (Chen 2012) and this is becoming a social norm.  Chris’s comments in the wk4 lecture: “[I]n the absence of the body, means people can have powerful emotional responses” (Moore 2016), could also lead into this idea, of having heightened emotional responses. The lack of physical, real time presence means there is this time to plan, curate, and execute never-ending arguments – either to troll, or to respond.

This idea of trolling leads me to consider online presences, and automatic responses, either from brand or consumer.  Twitter bots are quick and easy to set up, and could be used for a great number of things, but does this mean that we are heading towards an online social media network of artificial intelligence?  If twitter bots are becoming more accessible to create and utilise, and the responses are becoming more realistic, then does the future of online branding lie in a self evolving AI structure with base ideologies that mirror those of the brand, and evolve depending on the audience that interacts with them.  Microsoft’s recent attempt resulted in something they were not proud of, however it mirrored the idea of “destabilisation of established order by the development of artificial intelligence” (Moore 2016) as users interacted with the AI account in order to change it from an ‘innocent’ bot modelled after a teenage girl, into a nazi sex bot (Horton 2016).  The Barbie brand is also planning on peering into the cyberculture world, incorporating their dolls with AI so that children can have real conversations with the toys, adding a new layer to the identity of both the doll and their brand, creating a new brand presence through each doll as they are interacted with.



Chen, A 2012, Trollpunk is the New Cyberpunk, The World of Today, viewed 30 March 2016, <;

Gershgorn, D 2015, Barbie Learns to Chat Using Artificial Intelligence, Australian Popular Science, viewed 30 March 2016, <,409334&gt;

Horton, H 2016, Microsoft deletes ‘teen girl’ AI after it becomes a Hitler-loving sex robot within 24 hours, The Telegraph, viewed 25 March 2016, <;

Moore, C 2016, Week Four – Experiencing Cyberculture, Cybercultures Blog, viewed 30 March 2016, <;

Shani, O 2015, From Science Fiction to Reality: The Evolution of Artificial Intelligence, Wired, viewed 30 March 2016, <;



5 thoughts on “Online Branding and Power: Who has control over the presence?”

  1. An interesting idea, have you thought of exploring the idea of persona brand, the one that we all create on social media, our persona management, and what happens to our social media platforms when we die. I remember watching a talk about software that when the user is confirmed dead (not signing in for more than 75 hours) the AI kicks in and keeps tweeting for you, it analyses your profile and creates content based on its analysis of your posts. Also what about the idea of catfish or sock puppet. The idea of creating a personal persona and identity that is not portraying real life or reality and the effect this has on communication in cyberspace. Lastly have you hear of the case of Essena O’neil? Basically she built this instagram brand with millions of followers, but recently started shedding the truth of the unrealistic nature of the industry and the stress of maintaining her online persona/brand. Lastly you could simply just look into the use of social media for branding by companies and explore who this has fosetered a new level of communication between customer and brand/company.

    Here are some links on the Essena O’neil case:

    Interested to see where you take this and the format that your going to display your finding on.


  2. A great example of brands developing online are services to allow p2p interactions. The notable thing is, in relation to your post, even though we are at risk of fraud, trolling, slander online, brands can help and assist in trust between strangers. This interaction is called a number of things, but I’ve stuck with the term: the Sharing Economy. Brands like AirBnb, Uber, EBay, Gumtree, allow users to sell and buy to users, solely on the basis of the other users reputation. A brand like AirBNB isn’t selling you a house, it’s hosting another person’s. AirBNB’s main goal is to convince you that because you trust me, you should trust this stranger. It’s a new economic exchange, that’s built upon a ‘reputation currency’. I’d like to imagine that your idea about brands utilising Ai could assist in customer service and these p2p exchanges.

    As a final point, think about what makes up a brand in more detail. For one: a company is not a brand, the exchange of trust between user and a company is. Therefore, how can companies assist in forming trust online?


  3. This topic is a thought-provoking comment on the way businesses and consumers interact on a less transactional scale and more in a marketing and PR field. It is interesting how technology has developed this far where human interaction is no longer as sought after and AI is the newest toy in development. Back to branding in business, this gives rise to the issue that branding is derailing from its roots whereby the back bone is the business to customer relations. I think that if businesses were to rely on AI to be the point of contact with customers, to influence brand image, there is a loss of contact between the business and consumers despite greater interaction. Have you seen those viral photos of the comebacks that companies reply with when there is a shit customer posting some stupid on their social media page? That is a strategic PR move and if AI were in charge of that, you may get more cases of the Microsoft Nazi bot and other AI beings gone rogue. I’m not saying AI is bad for business but rather is cannot replace human interaction and should be used in conjunction as an enhancement. Great topic to explore!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s