Experiential / PR

Coke’s secret weapon: 81-years’ old and still going strong.

Coca-Cola has been ranked the world’s third-most-valuable brand, behind Apple and Microsoft. Maybe that’s why most of us take it for granted. It’s everywhere. And it seems like it always has been.

But we forget how much time, effort and brainpower goes into keeping a brand at the top. Year after year, decade after decade. By comparison Microsoft and Apple are upstarts, the spotty-faced new kids on the block.

Coke has seemingly always been such a constant in the visual communications landscape that our brains can fail to register it. A bit like the white lines on the road.
In the last couple of years Coke has done some outstandingly clever and inventive creative work. But what I think is particularly smart, is that the creative all utilise cokes oldest, and arguably greatest secret weapon, and make it the star of the show: The humble vending machine.
That large tin box that spends its life standing in a corner – unnoticed and unloved. It warrants our close attention only when it fails to deliver up the goods inside; and even then we only engage with it via kicks, shoves and a few pointless curses.

Coke first saw the value of the coin-operated vending machine way back in 1932.

First Coca-Cola vending machine

First Coca-Cola vending machine

It then went on to use them as a way to deliver their promise of a free Coke to every WW2 GI.

Army cadets fill a vending machine

Army cadets fill a vending machine

Since then we’ve grown used to seeing them in shopping centres, airports, car-rental outlets, schools, gyms, railway stations, motels… In fact, just about everywhere that people gather.
So for Coke to take this by now ubiquitous product and put it at the heart of a very 21st Century social marketing drive is nothing short of inspired.

Let’s kick off with the Friendship Machine. An oversize vending machine that requires at least two people to make it work, but rewards you with two Cokes.
Wonderfully simple.

Then there’s the world’s-thinnest vending machine – the Slender Vender.
What a stylish and clever way to breathe life back into Diet Coke. Not to mention a smart approach to getting vending machines into new locations.

 Next came the Coke Dance vending machine.Maybe a bit technology heavy for some, but still a great way to gather a crowd and get the tweets going.

A more tactical approach was taken with the Valentine’s Day Happiness Machine. Aimed at couples, you had to give your other half a hug or a kiss for a couple of free Cokes. It almost brought a tear to my eye.

 And finally my favourite. A truly inspired piece of marketing that generated God knows how many free column inches around the world. The Small World Machine. Who would have thought that a vending machine could help ease tensions between two nuclear powers? A truly inspired piece of experiential PR.

What next for Coke? The world’s first vending machine in space? I know I’d want one on my ship if I were on a mission to Mars. Hang on; couldn’t that possibly be the best ever April Fool’s wheeze?
Watch this space.

4 thoughts on “Coke’s secret weapon: 81-years’ old and still going strong.

  1. The open happiness platform is truly inspiring. Would Coca-Cola consider applying it to homophobia – Uganda?

  2. There is a great article in Aug 13 Wired UK on Dean Kamen, Slingshot and how a Coca Cola vending machine brief was turned by a dream and R & D into an amazing water purification machine

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