Back to top

Vending Machine

Kids, tweens and especially teens today increasingly expect brands to come to them. It’s not just that they prefer being courted to being pressured to discover a new brand or retail experience, but quite literally, they expect food trucks to bring their favorite eats to their neighborhoods, online retailers to curate offerings based on their tastes, and pop-up versions of their top shops to sprout in unexpected spots. The latest marketing trend brings products to the places where they already play.

Old Navy recently made the most of a summer sale by bringing flip-flop vending machines to well-trafficked locales in Los Angeles and New York. Of course, these big-city spots were selected to maximize PR more than product sales, but they also play into the desire and fantasy of teens to get what they want, when they want it. But even though Old Navy’s objective was to raise awareness for a $1 flip flop blow-out, they actually gave away the simple summer shoes for an even cheaper price: a tweet.

Getting stuff for social currency might be something that’s more accessible to the stars than to the average teen, but the idea of giving away goods in exchange for a great story was the strategy of another vending machine adventure. In 2012, Coke turned a simple partnership with the latest 007 flick into a chance for consumer participation. These kiosks, and the theater that ensued (see the video), didn’t just make a mission their message, they made it an interactive experience.

What can brands learn from these vending ventures?

  • When it comes to youth go to them, don’t make them come to you.
  • Show up in surprising places. Don’t worry about fitting in spaces – look for ways to stand out within them.
  • Consider the cost of communication. Remember, that the buzz your branding effort generates after the fact might be more valuable than first-hand exposures.
  • Promote participation. Teens are still playful, but they don’t always get to show it. Make your promotions more fun than cool and gain their loyalty and love.