Dispensing Happiness: How Coke Spreads Happiness by Effectively leveraging the social media

5 Min Read. |


2000px-Coca-Cola_logo.svgAbout Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola Company is the world’s largest beverage company, refreshing consumers with more than 500 sparkling and still brands. Led  by Coca-Cola(referred to as “Coke”), one of the world’s most valuable and recognizable brands, the Company’s portfolio features 20 billion-dollar brands including Diet Coke, Fanta, Sprite,Coca-Cola Zero, vitaminwater, Powerade, Minute Maid, Simply, Georgia and Del Valle. Globally, Coca-Cola  is  the No. 1 provider of sparkling beverages, ready-to-drink coffees, and juices and juice drinks. Through the world’s largest beverage distribution system, consumers in more than 200 countries enjoy the company’s beverages at a rate of 1.9 billion servings a day. With an enduring commitment to building sustainable communities, the Company is focused on initiatives that reduce its environmental footprint, support active, healthy living, create a safe, inclusive work environment for all its employees, and enhance the economic development of the communities where the company operates. Together with its bottling partners, Coca-Cola is ranked amongst the world’s top 10 private employers with more than 700,000 employees.


Coca-Cola (“Coke”) is one of the best-known brands in the world and the world’s sixth-largest advertiser based on dollars spent. While Coke had ample experience getting its brands in front of billions of people, it needed a cost-effective way to build deeper connections with consumers, especially teens, and its flagship Coke product. The company hypothesized that leveraging digital social media would enable it to better connect with young consumers around the globe. Although teens were voracious consumers of social media—73 percent of online American teens belong to a social network—they were a difficult market segment to reach because they do not share these types of media in traditional ways. Even if teens loved a piece of digital content, they hesitated to post a link to it on their Facebook or MySpace page out of fear that their friends would not approve their choices. Coke found that, rather than risk their reputations if their peers did not think a video/blog/website was “cool,” teens avoided sharing content they loved with their friends and would even subvert their own opinions. In fact, teens only wanted to share content that was already validated by their peers, for instance an Old Spice ad aired during the Superbowl. Commercials during the Superbowl were, by nature, socially validated. Coke also found that teens do not search for content; they find it through their friends. If a teen found content that s/he really liked, rather than posting it to their Twitter or Facebook account, they posted it on their more popular friend’s stream. They used the social currency of a more popular friend to validate and share their ideas.

Strategy Adopted by Coca-Cola

After spending several months researching and brainstorming, Coke determined that the way to reach teens and young consumers was to build a viral digital marketing campaign around happiness. Coke launched seven different

activations that employed various kinds of digital media including two applications for the iPhone and Android-based mobile phones, two applications for Facebook/MySpace/Orkut, one “goodies” package including wallpaper/screensaver/emoticons, one Windows 7 template, and a video. Each piece of content was designed to spread small doses of happiness and appeal to global audiences. While Coke was pleased with all of the projects—users downloaded the “Spin the Coke” iPhone application over 1 million times and downloaded the Windows 7 theme over 2 million times—the video was the company’s most successful activation. The video included footage of a unique Coca-Cola vending machine that the company installed in a cafeteria at a University in New York. The machine was installed in the middle of the university’s final exam period. While the vending machine appeared to be an ordinary soda machine, Coke fashioned it into a “Happiness Machine.” The night before the machine was operable, Coca-Cola set up hidden cameras to record students’ reactions. Students approached the machine thinking their money would buy a bottle of coke. However, the machine dispensed unexpected surprises is made the students very happy. For example, when a student pushed the “Coke” selection they received something unexpected―20 cokes, a bouquet of flowers, a pizza etc. While Coke had designed the machine to dispense little moments of happiness, even the company was surprised by the students’ reactions; they not only loved the surprises, but they shared them.

Results Achieved by Coca-Cola

The company left the machine in the cafeteria for two days, continually recording the footage. On January 12, 2010 they uploaded the video to YouTube and announced it with a single Facebook status update. Approximately 10 days after announcing the video on Facebook, the video had been seen 1 million times. Within two months, the video had been viewed over 2 million times and, by April 2010, the video had been viewed over 2.2 million times. Almost immediately, the video achieved Coke’s goal of going global. Approximately 50 percent of viewers were from outside the U.S. and over 70 percent of blog posts about the video were in languages other than English. The video had the highest penetration in Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Russia.


There are important conclusions that can be drawn from this case study and the conclusions can help felicitate further learning in the digital marketing space. First and foremost, with the rise of digital and with every organization trying to put a foot in the digital space the medium is cluttered with too many messages. In such a scenario for consumers to see the brand’s message and to generate brand recall for the message it is very important for brands to “engage “and to “connect” with the consumers. Cokes “Happiness Machine” video achieved the above two (Connection and engagement) brilliantly.  Individuals who viewed the video felt connected to it. The connection appeared to be driven by the happiness brought by the unexpected surprise and the authentic emotion it provoked. Teens, specifically, felt they could relate to the experiences of the students at the University in New York whose video was shown and this strengthened their beliefs that Coke is a brand that creates connection between individuals and inspires happiness.

Secondly, the video’s success also stemmed from its wide reach, few barriers to entry/use, and ease of sharing this video.

Lastly, given the viral nature of the happiness video—the large number of views in a short amount of time (2.3 million in May 2010 on YouTube alone) and the great results measured through testing—Coca –Cola adapted the video into a 30-second television commercial. This is an important learning for a marketer as this represented a different approach in terms of content creation. Usually, the marketers produce the content for traditional media and use internet/digital to leverage the same but in case of Coke instead of putting television commercials and other traditional content online as a compliment to an offline program, Coke produced content for the internet and then leveraged it to for a traditional media platform, specifically, television.

Image Credits: Coca-Cola

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