At the National Automatic Merchandising Association’s One Show in Chicago this past April, Pepsi unveiled a prototype for its new “social vending” campaign.
Two things surprised me about this:
- The vending machine industry has a trade show where they discuss more than the draconian guidelines for the crispness of a dollar bill.
- I didn’t think technology had come to the point where you could sign onto Facebook from your Pepsi bottle.
It turns out that social vending is Pepsi’s brilliant way of getting customers to pay for promotional products on Pepsi’s behalf! Marketing budgets are indirectly funded by company profits; in this case, the social interaction creates a cycle of events that bring customers back again and again without any additional investment on Pepsi’s behalf.
The promotional product in this case, of course, is a bottle of Pepsi itself*!
Check out this video demonstrating the process getting involved in “social vending” by ordering your friend an ice-cold Pepsi:
I am still getting over the vending machines that let you add flavors to Coke products. Is this way of wooing me away from the Coke vending machines, the ones that have given me a taste of what it’s like to be a Jetson?
The Pepsi Social Vending campaign is brilliant in that it increases vending machine traffic. Before this campaign, there was one reason why you would go to a vending machine.
- You want a soda.
(You might also need to stop an acid leak like MacGyver, but the sample size was statistically insignificant.)
So that’s it. You don’t want a soda? No vending machine. More importantly, no giant brand logo staring you in the face, searing its bold colors onto your impressionable mind.
The soda companies were sad, but Pepsi’s Social Vending campaign has added two more reasons to head down to the ol’ vending machine.
- You want a soda.
- You want to send a fun video message to a friend on her birthday and toss in a soda for a little something special. (Jameson Irish Whiskey has not returned my phone calls on a similar campaign idea for its brand).
- You want to redeem a free soda code you received as a gift.
By creating a way for people to interact through a vending machine – each purchase allows you to record a brief video message to the recipient that will play when the code is redeemed – Pepsi will likely be seeing a dramatic increase in vending machine use.
The novelty will certainly help get this new business model off the ground, but the question here is really with sustainability. With smartphones and tablets allowing live face-to-face interaction at any time from virtually anywhere, what will social vending offer that’s different? Are Pepsi vending machines with this capability going to be more accessible than handheld technology? Would you order a friend** a soda through the Pepsi Social Vending program? Sound off in the comments below!
Until next time, keep expanding your brand!
* We can get into a whole philosophical debate about where a promotional product ends and the company’s “real” goods and services begin, but let’s save that for another day.
** I like Wild Cherry Pepsi.