Coke’s new big thing is ‘gestural’ marketing – Singapore students hug their way to happiness

So is gestural marketing a good thing; a way to promote word of mouth via social media and the like or just another cunning big corporation way to make people behave like prats in search of (in this case) a free Coke?

And does such behaviour constitute ‘happiness’ as Coca-Cola and agency Ogilvy & Mather hope?

The vending machine is at the National University of Singapore and big enough to make squeezing it quite a challenge unless you’re a very tall Singaporean student.

“Happiness is contagious. The Coca-Cola Hug Machine is a simple idea to spread some happiness,” says Leonardo O’Grady, ASEAN IMC Director, Coca-Cola. “Our strategy is to deliver doses of happiness in an unexpected, innovative way to engage not only the people present, but the audience at large.

“Whether you were hugging the machine or experiencing the event online, our goal was the same – to put a smile on your face and share that emotional connection. Reactions were amazing.. people really had fun with it and at one point we had four to five people hugging the machine at the same time as well as each other! In fact, there was a long line of people looking to give hugs – it was really heartwarming,” adds O’Grady.

So it’s not just gestural marketing but also crowd-sourced YouTube material (maybe flash mob too if everybody decides they need a Coke at once). All very clever but is it a manipulative step too far for big, powerful brands?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.