How Coca-Cola is Gamifying Vending Machines in Japan

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Vending Machine Check-in

Mockup of Cocal-Cola's vending machine friend

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) wants its customers in Japan to get to know their favorite vending machines a little better. In the company’s latest move as part of its Happiness campaign, Coca-Cola is using gamification to get people to check-in and interact with its vending machines. It seems wacky in both concept and execution but the result could be meaningful.

Coco-Cola is affixing QR codes to its vending machines across Japan. For those unaware of vending machine ubiquity in Japan, the company will have over 400,000 machines with the a QR codes by the start of the campaign. By the end of March 2012 there will 820,000 machines with codes affixed and what Coca-Cola considers to be a unique identity.

As part of what Coca-Cola calls the “Happiness Quest” users are motivated to scan the QR code on their favorite vending machine and create its virtual identity. This entails naming the machine and choosing its avatar from a library of 20 designs. Users can scan multiple machines and create each machine’s unique identity as a sort of catalogue of check-ins and a rolodex of virtual friends. Each user is asked to designate a single machine to be “my machine” which will communicate with the user on a more personal level. This communication includes campaign news, weather information, and other relevant news.

The real game begins once user starts checking-in to machines on a regular basis. Each check-in awards the user points that can be spent to customize their machine. These virtual items include shoes, character skins, and backgrounds.

Vending Machine and Avatars

Check-in location (left) and customizable avatars (right)

Checking-in under certain conditions will also earn the user badges. For example, a check-in on Christmas gets the user the “Merry Christmas” badge and twenty check-ins during lunch time awards the lunch time badge. There is even a badge for checking-in to vending machines across the country, a common element to these “Stamp Rally” promotions. While traveling across the country is difficult this task will no doubt attract certain hardcore users.

Registration begins for the Happiness Quest on November 14. One user that signs up within the first month of the promotion will win a one million yen prize (approx. 12,900 USD). Coca-Cola hopes users will spread the word about the campaign and is encouraging users to do so by awarding another one million yen cash prize to a user that introduces the promotion to a friend.

The aim to further strengthen Coca-Cola’s brand loyalty is obvious. However, the Happiness Quest’s approach is noteworthy. The check-in game strives to get users interacting with its physical machines multiple times a day. The in-game rewards keep users coming back and form the check-in habit. Eventually spotting a big, red Coca-Cola vending machine on the street could evoke an emotional response, a sort of visual Pavlovian reminder to check-in and further the never ending game’s progress. Many other companies are utilizing the check-in as part of their marketing strategy. However, with its 800,000 plus machines, Coca-Cola may have the physical presence and reach to take it to a different level.

[Images via: Coca-Cola]

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