Coca-Cola vending machine puts its money where its mouth is by rewarding those who can replicate Swedish dialects

Coca-Cola Sweden rolled out an ambitious vending machine that tested the capability of citizens to replicate the many diverse dialects the language is famed for – if they could, they found themselves in receipt of a Coca-Cola bottle of their choice.

The Dialekt-o-maten took pride of place on the high-street of Stockholm and used voice recognition technology to detect whether the Swedes knew the regional nuances of their language. Acting on Coca-Cola’s packaging activation promoting over 90 different holiday destinations, Coca-Cola Sweden went hyper-local with a campaign playing on the nation’s numerous dialects.

Cecilia Högkvist, copywriter at Isobar Sweden, told The Drum that the “clear phonetic and grammatical characteristics can be irreconcilable, even for Swedes. And so, the world’s first vending machine where you pay with dialect was born.”

Högkvist added: “Sweden is a very long country and because of that has great variations in nature – and dialects. So to celebrate the Swedish summer (which is almost sacred to the Swedes) and to encourage the Swedes to discover hidden holiday treasures within the borders.”

To deliver the activation, Isobar employees worked for around 150 hours over a period of four months. Carl-Anders Svedberg, developer on the project from Isobar Sweden, talked about the difficulties in creating the software – and having it on the right hardware: “Testing the voices and fine-tuning the right level of difficulty for the users was quite tricky. And we really should have had more voice samples. Filtering out noise from the surroundings like cars and music was also a small hurdle.”

The project was birthed on a laptop, the software was meticulously optimised before then being adapted to the entirely different conditions housed within a Raspberry Pi.

“The main part of the initial code that worked on the Mac needed to be rewritten and adjusted for the Raspberry Pi during development. At the end we almost didn’t use the deja vu-library at all but used a custom written algorithm that also adapted as more voice recordings were made.

At the end of this long process, the machine took pride of place in the city centre of Stockholm within a remodelled showroom called the Pavilion and turned the whole thing into a giant vending machine.

The agency reports that 3.2 million people saw the installation across two days, during which 10m social media views were also accumulated. The most popular dialect was Smögen, the least Abisko, the easiest Smögen and the hardest Vadstena.

Vending machines will not be testing our oratory skills any time soon for Coca-Cola but with all the innovations around voice interfaces, it’s only a matter of time before such technology is doling out our fast-moving consumer goods.

Coca-Cola has a history of play in the vending machine innovation space, be it an AI-equipped machine or this installation that personalised and posted gift bottles at the behest of the public.

John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

Fuelled by tea.

All by John