As part of its ongoing effort to engage customers in the brand experience, Coca-Cola has launched a novel idea called the Hug Machine. Launched at the National University of Singapore in March, the machine is part of the company's "Open Happiness" campaign that began in the US in 2009.
The giant red machine boasts the words "Hug Me" on the front and it contains no coin slot. When people hug the front of the machine it delivers a free can of Coke. Needless to say, the machine boasts an endless array of photo ops and YouTube clips which result in even more PR and brand coverage for the company.
Talk about establishing an emotional connection with the audience! Coca-Cola has always been a leader in the concept and technique of brand storytelling. As Schulich School of Business Marketing Professor Markus Giesler says "A brand that's high up on a billboard wants to dominate me, but a brand that can be hugged wants to be my friend."
Many of the world's most successful brands are able to create and maintain emotional relationships with customers. The more "human" marketers can make these brands, the better the chance of success. Not only is Coke's technique entertaining, it also fosters relationships and creates a sense of community. The next time participants walk down the supermarket aisle - which soft drink brand do you think they'll choose?
In the end, isn't it nice to know that you can still be successful by putting a smile on everyone's face?