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Coca-Cola shares its vision of advertising in a connected world

Coca-Cola has admittedly “beaconed the hell out of” its products but is now redoubling efforts to connect and manage all those touchpoints to try and make it easier for consumers to purchase its brands over the competition.

It puts the focus on the company’s fledgling internet of things strategy, starting with its vending machines. More than 100 Coca-Cola-owned drinks are purchased from one of these installations every second, according to the company, offering up a wealth of data that it’s not yet fully able to use to drive repeat purchases.

“We beaconed the heck out of a lot of our assets in the world but we didn’t have an eye on how we connect everything,” said Derek Myers,  group director of channel strategy and Commercialization at Coca-Cola. Speaking at SXSW, the marketer warned of the dangers of technology investments missing the “point of connection” that’s needed in order to make the internet of things a profitable product for businesses.

Coke is hoping a new loyalty scheme this spring will do just that; running on iOS and Android, the service allows people to buy a Coke through select connected vending machines, accumulating points that will let them get a free drink. The drinks maker gets to know where and when people are buying its products, something that could also be fuelled by its exploration of Blockchains, a transaction database that allows it to see what’s happening at every stage of the value chain.

“The best part about this is that we’re going to overcome the barrier of installing an app because Android Pay and Apple Pay are native on the new installs,” explained Myers.

“Using the internet of things and knowing when a customer is approaching a machine means we can deliver very personal messages. For example, we could can have a Powerade message [on a vending machine] because we know someone is going to the gym or show them one for a protein drink after their workout. Strong occasional driven content can help us be that much more powerful.”

A thousand touchpoints of marketing?

Coke also wants its suppliers to benefit from the exchange. A supplier that makes a component from one of its vending machines could feasibly be given access to data that helps them understand how they’re performing as well as when it needs to be serviced.

“If you think about the depth of detail we could learn from the [vending] machines themselves then it could really help us inform our operations in a way that directly connects with our fleet on the road,” said Myers. He used the example of a vending machine informing the nearest Coca-Cola driver that its running out of Coke Zero to depict one of way using all its ‘beaconed’ touchpoints to deliver value to people.

Beyond vending machines, Coke believes all screens are up for grabs. There are a lot more people holding a phone than there are holding a Coke and so the aim of its internet of things plan is to mine the ubiquity of the medium to win at the point of sale.

 “There are smartphones in everyone’s hand and so we’re trying to find more immersive ways to access them where consumers allow us,” said Myers. “Privacy is a big concern for us and we take it extremely seriously. We don’t want to have a database that someone can just hack. This has to be something that people opt into and the more information we get [on consumers] then the more convenience and utility we can provide.”

Focusing on timely and contextual ads raises the likelihood of notifications becoming one of the main ways it talks to people in the future. And while it’s undoubtedly a focus for the company’s marketers, caution is encouraged so not to overload people with branded ads.

Myers added: “We definiitely don’t want to spam consumers’ phones. We take that very seriously as beacons become more pervasive in smart home technology. Whenever we have notifications we want it to be something that’s useful instead of just saying there’s a Coca-Cola nearby.”

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