Coke and No Smile: Could “Share a Coke” Social Experiment Backfire?

A couple weeks ago, Coca-Cola created a new social campaign – sharing a coke with a friend. On the side of the bottle, they put different names for you to share a Coke with. But does this social thought work, or backfire for sales of Coca-Cola?

Coke is a major soda manufacturer. For years they have been the #1 Worldwide brand. In 2011 that started to change as tech companies Microsoft and Google wedged their way to the top. According to Interbrand, Coke dropped to #3 in 2013. Its looking like Coke will be dropping again this year, too.

One major path Coca-Cola has taken was to get into Social Media early. They have run a lot of social experiments, including the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine, Share a Coke, the Ahh effect, and more.

I remember back in 2004 I was collecting caps for their “Club Coke” project. I had a studio filled with Coke machines, booths, and other items for friends to come in to chat and more. The virtual world got updated throughout the years until it’s demise in 2010.

So Coke is very familiar with social experiments. That is why I am not surprised in their newest “Share a Coke” marketing plan – by putting people’s names on the coke.



The Problem with Share A Coke

While it’s kinda fun to find a bottle with a friend or loved one’s name, it also can be a pain. I went into the convenience store thinking, “I want a Coke”.  I walked past the other drinks and sodas. When I got to the Coke, I was in a new quandry.

Which name should I get?

The first thing I did was try to find my name. I put my hands on all bottles of Coke just to be disappointed in the end. I saw James, Emma, Frank, Bill, and more. No two bottles with the same name, yet no “Jeff”.

The Contemplation of Another Drink

I stood up for a second and thought – Is this Coke really what I want? I could just grab a Pepsi or even go the healthy route and get a water.

I am reminded of the “Rule of 3” – give someone more than 3 choices, they might not choose anything. The book – The Art of Choosing by Sheena Ivengar – shows multiple studies of where people get more flustered when they are faced with a multiple choice decision.

Selfish or Selfless? Who is the Coke Really For?

This is not a Christmas or birthday gift. This is something you are most likely going to tear the cap off and consume within seconds of purchase. Will you want to really drink “James” Coke?

You could pull that ice cold Coke out for your friend James to consume. You then jump in your car with the soda on the passenger seat – rolling around as you turn, accelerate, and stop.  You get out of the car and head into work, where James is, but you forgot to grab his Coke.

At breaktime, you run out to the car and get it, only to find the 80 degree temperature in the car has warmed up this bottle. Further, if you give it to James, it might be a Coke shower for him, as the bottle was shaken on the way back.

Cost of the Social Experiment

Not exactly sure how much this experiment costs – especially since you have so many different names on the bottles. Alas, Cher wont be finding a bottle with her name on it. Ice-T also will be without a coke. Shaq is also denied the smile.

Let’s get to some more common names – Miley, Jaden, Sunshine, Summer, any month name besides April, are a few of the names missing from the Coke Social experiment according to Cokezone – where you can find your name. These might be very frequent drinkers whom feel jilted because their name was not on the list.

While I applaud the experiment, it might just backfire for them. Sure, we’ll see some Facebook and Twitter posts when people find their name on the bottle. If it comes from a machine, you might just have to take what you are given.

I chose to get the Coke with “James” name on it simply because of this 5 minute review. I really did stand up and contemplate whether I should just get a Pepsi instead…



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