In a move that ups Coca-Cola's decades-old "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" campaign, PepsiCo introduced a new vending machine prototype that allows consumers to buy their friends around the world a soda.
According to Pepsi's press release, "Using digital technology, PepsiCo's Social Vending System enables any user to gift a friend by selecting a beverage and entering the recipient's name, mobile number and a personalized text message*. There's also the option to further personalize the gift with a short video recorded right at the machine. The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions to redeem it at any PepsiCo Social Vending system. When the recipient redeems his or her gift, they're given the option of either thanking the original sender with a gift of their own or paying it forward and gifting a beverage to someone else."
So basically you use a special network-connected vending machine and enter your friend's name and mobile number. You pay for the soda, and give Pepsi your friend's personal information, unbeknownst to your friend. Awesome, right?
Then, the recipient also has to have one of these special, Internet-connected machines nearby so they can retrieve their "free" gift. This machine is a proof-of-concept introduced at the National Automatic Merchandising Association's One Show in Chicago.
I wonder how many vending machine operators are going to bite when they figure out they'll also have to pay for a broadband internet connection to run this special vending machine because dial-up isn't going to cut it when uploading the personalized video message. That means the vending machine operator will have to charge more for that soda to recover the cost of the persistent web connection, which means you're more likely to buy the same sugar water from some other nearby retailer.
So, to sum up: You sell out your friend, and pay a premium for a soda that your friend probably can't retrieve because nobody in their right mind is going to install one of these machines in the first place.
The best part of this press release?
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Social Vending also enables "Random Acts of Refreshment"--the ability to buy a drink for a complete stranger through any other Social Vending system. For example, a consumer could send a symbol of encouragement someone in a city that has experienced challenging weather.
"Wow, really sorry about the 10,000 neighbors that died during the tsunami!" Or, "Cheer up, Alabama, have a Pepsi!"
File under: #PoorlyTimedPR and #ExecutivesThatDontGetSocialNetworking.