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Vending as a Marketing Tool

In recent years, we’ve seen many examples of forward-thinking brands from a range of sectors who have used vending as a marketing tool.

When you think about it, most vending machines are already marketing tools. Decorated with bright and beautifully shot images of ice cold cans and tastefully lit coffee beans, they often serve as small advertising billboards that have the added benefit of being able to dispense the delicious product they’re advertising.

But beyond this, brands have started to make more of a creative use of vending machines, using them to create thought-provoking or otherwise unforgettable experiences for members of the public.

A few years ago, Unilever introduced Share Happy, a vending machine that dispensed ice cream in exchange for a smile. Coca-Cola tried something similar with their Hug Machine, which dispensed ice cold cans of coke in exchange for hugs, and their Dance Digital machine, which instead demanded a dance.

The marketing potential of these machines should be obvious. Not only do they implicitly link the brands with the concept of happiness itself, they also create an organic buzz, and a wealth of free publicity – such as the blog you’re reading right now.

Late last year, IHeartRadio toured the US with a T-shirt vending machine that accepted Instagram photos as payment. All brands yearn for social media success, and with this vending machine, IHeartRadio achieved just that. The only way to get a t-shirt was through using a specifically chosen hashtag, which received some 5.7 million impressions.

Charities, too, have demonstrated that vending machines can be used to raise awareness of worthy causes. As we discussed recently, Fashion Revolution used a specially designed vending machine to make consumers aware of horrifying sweatshop conditions.

Our favourite example of vending as a marketing tool, though, was used to promote the videogame Borderlands 2. You press a button, and out pops a terrifying character from the game.

The results are priceless, and while it’s unlikely that any of those tickled/terrified passers-by will go on to buy the game, this is exactly the sort of cruel and hilarious video that people love to share on YouTube.

What are your favourite examples of vending as a marketing tool – or do you think that these publicity stunts are already tired and outmoded?