Musings on books, technology, entrepreneurship, nonprofits and umm.. everything else …


Small World Machines

It is not often that one comes across brilliantly executed advertising campaigns. Ads that tug at your heartstrings. Make a political statement without any pontification or grandstanding. That steal the emotions behind the issue being portrayed and get it ascribed to the brand in the minds of the consumer.

And one often finds the most enduring brands being able to do this repeatedly. Coca Cola has been at the forefront of this for decades. And they get it right again with their Small World Machines campaign. Two vending machines placed strategically amidst the people of two countries purportedly at odds with each other. But with a special catch that makes all the difference.

What made this special in my mind? I found it interesting for the following reasons:

1. This leads directly to one of their missions “To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…”. Coke has been slowly shifting its brand identity towards happiness to capture a larger global mindshare, and this ad is definitely a right step in that direction.

2. ​This also represents a conflict that already exists where people might feel differently from the reality. Through this mechanism, Coke is able to bring associations from the feeling of happiness and camaraderie between the two parties to associate with its brand. Building those associations are hard, and who better than Coke to try to do that. As people try to question the status quo and wonder why that is so, they can remember that Coke was the brand that made them feel happy and feel connected.

3. The campaign itself ties very well with your normal behavior when you try to access the product – through a vending machine. So it is building brand reinforcement into the act of purchasing/acquiring the product itself – again something cool! It does not separate the brand building from the act of engaging with the brand itself – without making it very obvious.

4. Coke sidesteps any political ill-will it might have gained by not suggesting any long-term solutions, but just exploiting the situation to extract out only the feel-good factor that common people feel – the bond that ties the two nations together. This keeps them from losing their largest markets in South Asia through an otherwise risky marketing exercise. While one cannot expect large brands to make political statements through their marketing campaigns, this does raise the issue of cross-border friendship in one of the most sensitive regions of conflict around the world.

A relatively close idea that was executed equally well, but one that does not seem to have strong brand identity building and messaging around it is the Trident window ad.

With high definition video collaboration pretty much the status quo in communications, the time is ripe for campaigns that leverage the human desire to interact with people around the world. with our ability to get pleasantly surprised through unexpected positive interactions and the element of discovery of something new. Maybe time to dust off those pay-it-forward literature and see if there are any messages in there that can be reintroduced into the advertising world.

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