Andy Morton

Singapore puts Coke on sale for love, not money

By: Andy Morton - 12 April 2012 14:00

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How much is a hug worth? In Singapore, at least, it's worth exactly one can of Coke.

That's not bad, especially at today's exchange rates. But then, this is merely Coca-Cola's latest marketing campaign, a vending machine that delivers cans of Coke in return for a correctly positioned squeeze, not the beginning of a new world bartering system (be it one that would enliven the weekly supermarket trip).

So far there's just one machine, at Singapore University, but it has already received much attention from the world's media, just as previous innovative Coke dispensers around the world have.

There was the Friendship machine in South America that gave out two Cokes for the price of one, but only if you roped in a friend to help you reach the extra high coin slot.

A machine at a US university racked up more than 4.5m YouTube hits when it dispensed multiple cans as well as flowers and balloons

These “Happiness” machines were all one-offs, promotional stunts that worked wonders for Coca-Cola's social media profile. The 'Hug Me' version is the same, although vending machines in Singapore do have previous in the area of product development.

A Singaporean source told me that Coca-Cola uses the city-state to test run some of its more advanced technology. Back in 2000, Singapore piloted the SMS vending machines that customers texted to buy a drink. Those machines were later rolled out globally.

My source said Singapore is a good testing ground for vending machines because locals use them for all sorts of things, including buying fresh bread. Also, he says, there is a high population density, many early adopters, low vandalism and an excellent public transport system that offers highly visible locations.

It all adds up to vending machine utopia.

So, if the 'Hug Me' machine performs well in the Lion City, there's every chance the rest of the world will be able to get their hands on one in the near future.

And judging from the official Coca-Cola press release, Singaporeans have welcomed it with, ahem, open arms.

Unfortunately, there's no word yet on whether the company will limit the 'Hug Me' system to machines that just vend individual cans.

The big question is, if a can is worth a hug, what would you have to do for a multipack?

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