Tweet For A Coke, Get A Shirt

Ben Franklin was famous for advocating everything in moderation, but it wouldn’t seem like omnichannel retailers got that message. Advertisers list their products every place their customers might be, which is increasingly becoming everywhere. However, more digital opportunities create more white noise that separate the consumers from the brands scrambling to find them.

How does Coca-Cola plan to break through this electronic smokescreen? With 140 characters and some free shirts.

Event magazine reported that Coca-Cola has been operating a select number of customized vending machines in high-traffic London train stations specifically in order to emphasize engagement over sales or impressions. Instead of accepting customers’ change, credit cards or mobile payments, Coca-Cola rigged these vending machines up to the Internet courtesy of U.K.-based ad agency Playmaker – and when customers tweet their favorite type of Coke product at the company’s profile with the appropriate hashtag, the machine not only pops out an ice-cold drink, but also a T-shirt that matches the color of the bottle.

Any added value that brands can bring to their products is sure to make them stand out in the wild, and several recent moves by Coke within the U.K. prove that the company is serious about making sure their customers are being served at and away from the nearest cooler display. In a blog post, Coke explained how a few social commerce-style changes to its “Share a Coke” campaign – a customizable product blitz that includes random names, occupations and relations on bottles intended to be shared – created a miniature storm on social media.

Jennifer Brevick, director of eCommerce for Coca-Cola North America, explained how when the campaign relaunched in May, customers could take their chances on getting the bottles they wanted in stores, or they could specially order personalized glass bottles from Coke’s site. At $5 each and shipping in just a few days, Brevick said that Coke has sold 500,000 of these personalized products since the relaunch.

“We thought most of our orders would be from people who couldn’t find their names in stores, but it quickly became something way more personal,” Brevick explained. “We’ve gotten a ton of nicknames, celebratory statements and terms of affection. … For now, our goal is to get these iconic, customized bottles in as many hands as possible so consumers can connect with the brand they love in a very special and personal way.”

Another noteworthy accomplishment is the packaging in which Coke shipped its personalized bottles to customers. Noel Stewart, global lead of secondary and tertiary packaging at Coca-Cola, explained that the needs of a food and beverage product while being delivered are different than nonperishable online orders. While a book or a tablet only needs to be protected from bumps and scrapes while in transit, Stewart said that the personalized Coke bottles were enclosed in packaging designed to keep the soda as pleasing as it would be straight from the fountain.

“We designed the packaging not only to be beautiful, but also to protect the bottles so they arrive in perfect condition,” Stewart explained. “We sent packages to Cleveland and South Dakota, and none of the bottles arrived frozen, despite the fact that a few packages sat on porches for more than a day.”

This attention to detail from brands may be the combined effort that puts social into the stratosphere of essential omnichannel methods like mobile and desktop-based commerce. After all, customers are no longer satisfied with a subpar experience when interacting with brands at any moment – if a Coke tastes good coming out of a restaurant well, it should give the same experience tumbling out of a vending machine, packaged with a shirt or shipped across the country.


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