Vending machines of the 21st century allow brands to engage with fans in completely new ways
When most think of vending machines, the traditional candy, chips, and soda found in the rickety machine—typically requiring a kick to unhinge your sweet Milky Way from the grasps of the metallic coil—come to mind. From their creation in 1883, vending machines have functioned as a means for people to get through daily slumps by recharging with a little sugary satisfaction.
Nowadays, however, vending machines are not all sugar and salt. Vending machines are being created not only to provide a convenience, but also to start conversations, promote happiness, and bring awareness to a particular brand, cause, or product.
Coca-Cola, a leader in the experiential advertising realm, recently created seemingly-traditional vending machines that give out a free can of Coke in exchange for giving the machine a hug. In their same “happiness” ad campaign, they took it a step further and decided to use vending machines as a means to create a moment of happiness by breaking down barriers between two countries at odds with each other: Pakistan and India. This effect was achieved by installing two vending machines, one in each country, requiring two individuals to interact with one another via a screen on the vending machine in order to receive their sweet libations. This helped promote diplomacy and allowed the people of these two nations to set aside their differences and simply act as two humans living in gentle symbiosis. In transforming a traditional vending machine, Coca-Cola has been able to not only promote their product, but promote ideals that are bigger than Coca-Cola: kindness, happiness, and harmony.
And Coca-Cola isn't the only company to utilize this unifying quality of vending machines. Another route companies have taken is trading social media endorsements for the machine’s goods. A machine in Belgium gave away free Pepsi products in exchange for “likes” on their Facebook page. A similar option came to life through for the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Penguins. They filled machines with custom-tailored prizes and placed it in front of their arena on game day, asking only for a tweet or an Instagram post mentioning the team’s handle in exchange for the prize. This caused a line wrapping around the corner and innumerable mentions on Twitter about that day’s game.
These executions create a win-win situation for both the consumers and the producers. Consumers gleefully admire their free prize from the vending machine and have a fond lasting memory from that day. The brand receives free publicity from consumers with each Instagram post, tweet, and Facebook update. The Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, get their message extended through an endless web of social networks, attracting new fans and spectator. In addition to these social media posts, the sponsoring company often will install a camera in the machine to record consumer experience, then upload a montage video to YouTube and to their own website. These videos create even more media buzz through their own extensive social network. This type of experiential advertising not only initiates excitement on scene, but also allows the interactive installment to be experienced online forever.
Vending machines, like most technology in our lives, do not exist simply to provide a service. New implementations of vending machines in brand campaigns create an experience around receiving a product. These in turn create a lasting memory in the hearts of consumers and the greater public. Vending machines can help transform a good ad campaign into an extraordinary one. These little treat-filled boxes create novel excitement in our everyday lives. Getting your brand buzzing is as simple as pressing a button on a machine.