Buying Sociable Pepsis: Vending Machines on the Network

by Patricia McGinnis 0

I never cease to beamazed by the opportunities for innovation in social media, limitedonly by one’s imagination and willingness to bear the costs ofexperimenting. Last week, Pepsi announced a new generation of touchscreen-controlled vending machines. These not only let you buy asoda, but also one for a friend located somewhere else, andcommunicate the gift via the recipient’s mobile phone number with acustom video message. Suddenly (subject to the rollout of the newgeneration of vending machines later this year), soda is becomingsociable! PepsiCo’s press release and accompanying YouTube videoexplain the concept.

According to PepsiCo, the innovation is not purely consumer-driven;the firm’s “innovative use of telemetry with the Social VendingSystem also delivers tremendous operational benefits, allowingcustomers to closely manage inventory levels and deliveryscheduling remotely, and easily update digital content online,enabling them to change messaging and media content asneeded.”

PepsiCo is recognized as an early adopter of social media tools andchannels, and clearly their experimentation has led to somethingunexpected. They have taken the one-to-one gifting capabilityanother step further, allowing consumers to practice what PepsiCocalls “Random Acts of Refreshment.” A consumer can send the “freebeverage” token not to a specific person, but to a specific vendingmachine, and the next person to approach that machine will findthat their drink is free! PepsiCo’s suggested uses for a randomgift include, for example, as “a symbol of encouragement [to]someone in a city that has experienced challenging weather, or acongratulatory beverage to a student at a university that just wona championship.”

I positively applaud the experiment. I like the concept of “RandomActs of Refreshment” as a surprise in the domain of charitablegiving. The commentaries in the two related news articles linkedbelow reveal that some might find the idea a bit strange, or even”just a tad creepy.” I’m not certain how many tokens PepsiCo willactually “send” when the project launches, whether to friends or torandom strangers, but I’m sure they will gain some interestinginsights about their customers. In the process, they also make themachines easier for vending site providers to manage, and that hasto be a win-win regardless of the outcome of the sociable Pepsiexperiment.

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View the YouTube video here:

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