We’ve seen YouTube videos of Coca-Cola offering you a free coke by doing different things like hugging and dancing with the vending machine in the past. Most recently we’ve even seen a video where thirsty consumers are told to accept a James Bond-like mission to get a free bottle of pop. Now they have asked you to sing for a free Coca-Cola. See the video below where students in Sweden sing karaoke to a Coca-Cola vending machine during the holidays.
The question is, why is Coca-Cola offering so many drinks for free? What do they get out of giving away so many bottles of Coca-Cola? Aside from the free media and overall feel-good behavior that these activities generate, it falls right in line with their tagline “Open Happiness”. Notice that all these events take place in a collectivistic setting where many people gather together (school, train station, mall), so it can bring enjoyment to everyone. The fact that these activities are recorded allows for online sharing indicate that it can bring even more joy for those that cannot immediately participate. These vending machine videos entrenches the message that every time you are consuming a Coca-Cola beverage, you are feeling gratification. It is also accepted by society since everyone else is smiling and feeling the same way you are.
What is also curious to note is that all these initiatives originated in Europe and Asia. Will these media-generating activities happen in Canada and the United States? From a business standpoint, maybe in the United States more than in Canada. Vending machines typically don’t offer a strong investment return unless it is in a high traffic area and Canada does not have too many high traffic locations. Consider this similar to the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, where they are more easily found in the U.S. than here. These units must be placed in high traffic and high visibility locations in order to generate enough sales and/or media buzz. And culture-wise, North American culture celebrates individualism more than collectivism. That also play a role in determining whether these types of activities are imported. While hugging, dancing, or singing are not culture-specific, the setting in which these activities take place are. Singing and dancing in public are much less common here than in Europe. People may also be less likely to do these things in public for fear of embarrassment.
This means that though the message of “Open Happiness” stays the same in North America as in Europe or Asia, the communication to deliver this message is different everywhere. In the meantime, we can always look forward to these types of social engagement activities on the web.