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Pepsi’s ‘Social’ Vending Machines #notaJoke

Anything Pepsi does would be so much better if only it was a better drink to begin with… We all know that Chuck Norris doesn’t like Pepsi, Coca-Cola it is!!! 🙂

Pepsi’s obsession with anything “Social” is fast turning from tragedy to farce and almost hit the rock bottom with their latest experiment of ‘Social’ Vending Machines.

It would have been something if at all it were “social”, I mean like if it really gave consumers a chance or a platform to connect or interact with others which is not the case here. So Pepsi’s ‘social’ vending machines are “social” only in some other sense of the word.

What it does is, allows users to buy a soda and then send a text or a video message from the vending machine, apparently enabling consumers to gift drinks to their friends and strangers.

Now how ‘Social’ is that???

I mean how it really enhances my overall experience of buying a soda from a vending machine that allows me to record and send a video, is there nothing better I possibly could have asked for? Have I been dreaming of it, always?

Next time I am thirsty and approach a Pepsi’s ‘social’ vending machine I might actually punch a 15 year old trying to record a video in front of me for delaying the whole process of me getting a Pepsi (if at all I ever want). At that point I am less brand and more product needy which gets messed up and is quite socially repelling. I mean I don’t want to be punching kids in Pepsi’s effort of going ‘Social’.

Pepsi is pulling out every cliche in I believe ‘Dummies Guide to Social Media‘ playbook to explain the nonsense. The purpose of the new vending machines is…

“…to empower consumers and create new ways for them to engage with our brands”

Yeah right! I have always felt so powerless when it came to engaging with their brands which I always wanted to do.

Now with this super capability of recording videos and sending SMS or gifting drinks to friends & strangers (because I want them dead – encourage them to slowly kill themselves via unhealthy lifestyle and diet choices), I am the new super-hero all geared up to… well, I don’t know, do that!… what you do when you’re empowered 😐

Well there is a lot of buzz around this essentially because for most of the people across world vending machine is nothing but a pay refrigerator. Now with this enhanced capability its almost like some form of mystical deity that must be wowed at… As far I can see once these machines are installed and begin to screw-up like everything else of their’s, there will be blood in the hallways 🙂

Do we learn, ever?

The Social Media as understood by Pepsi was best displayed to create the “Pepsi Refresh Project“. Pepsi Refresh was an online social media initiative in which Pepsi gave out 20 million dollars. They also spent many millions more in support of this initiative.

That was indeed the largest Social Media initiative ever undertaken for you, the consumer, to engage with Pepsi by voting for the “Refresh” projects you deemed most worthy. There were also other opportunities to engage through an enormous online effort — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, website, blogs.

Millions of dollars were also spent in what might be called “traditional advertising in support of social media.”

The result – It was a disaster

  • The Wall Street Journal reported that Pepsi-Cola and Diet Pepsi had each lost about 5% of their market share in the past year.
  • For the Pepsi-Cola brand alone this represents a loss of over $350 million. For both brands put together the loss is probably something close to 400 million to half-a-billion dollars.
  • For the first time ever Pepsi-Cola has dropped from its traditional position as the number two soft drink in America to number three (behind Diet Coke.)
  • In 2010, Pepsi’s market share erosion accelerated by 8 times compared to the previous year.

This was in spite of the accomplishments which were over 85 million votes registered on the program; over 3.6 million “likes” on the Pepsi Facebook page and almost 70,000 Twitter followers.

It achieved all the false goals and failed to achieve the only legitimate one; Sell more Pepsi products! and yet ‘Social’ Vending Machines.

The Issue Here…

is with the understanding of Social Media. Its indeed a great tool to engage with your audience and establish communication channel to receive feedbacks, insights, suggestions and learning to be implemented as they go along. Both the above programs lack that.

What did Pepsi find out about their customer with ‘Pepsi Refresh‘?

They found out about charities they cared about. What did Pepsi do with this information? They gave money to the organizations that got the most votes, thereby alienating customers, whose charities didn’t make the cut.  It had an outbound marketing approach and could more aptly be labeled, “Let’s piss off many of our consumers and see if we can increase our market-share“.

What will Pepsi find out about their customers with ‘Social’ Vending Machines?


While the bigger issue indeed is that its almost pushing sales that doesn’t really work with most consumers.

Pepsi will have to follow strong privacy guidelines in the program which prevents them from storing any information submitted on ‘Social’ Vending Machines completely destroying the possibility of extracting anything valuable off the data otherwise would have been accumulated.

Its time that Pepsi learns to explore the low cost methods on social media platforms to engage with users online enabling themselves to learn about consumers and gradually build trust and loyalty. Their folly is seeing social media as a replacement rather than an add-on.

Anubhav Sharma