Yesterday, I was at the Pei Wei diner in Chicago. It was an interesting outing, mostly because I finally got to use Coke's new Freestyle vending machines. If you do not know what Coke's new Freestyle vending machines are, head over to Coke Freestyle to learn more. I, for one, was super excited!
While I was at my table (craftily chosen next to the vending machines), I did a little informal user observation study. Of course, people were amazed by the features of the new machine. Most people would spend a few minutes exploring their options. One couple talked about the options with each other before choosing their drink. But here is the kicker - not one person (in about 10-12 people who used it during my short observation period) explored mixing different drinks. The whole point of this new machine is that you can mix and mashup drinks. All the people I saw went through the choices and then picked one drink, and then walked away.
Granted this was not a rigorous study by any means, but it led to me asking why...I think by providing people with so many choices, I think Coke is confusing people more than helping them. So what do they do? They default to known preferences, something they are used to.
Here is a thought - what if Coke curated some drink choices? Maybe even get some of their brand ambassadors to endorse drink mashups. This way one option would be to choose your own mashup, another would be select something a celebrity has endorsed. Then have a story page connected to each mashup, so that people can brag about them:
"Oh what are you having?"
"I am having an Oprah Winfrey mix, the one she drank at the Oscars"
Better yet connect the Freestyle to social media, so that users can like or dislike mashups, tweet their drink mix, or bring up favourite mixes of their friends. Pepsi is trying to do this somewhat with their Social Vending Machines, but does not go all the way.
In a world of free information, curation and the ability to curate for others will be the key to long term engagement. The Coke Freestye is a great idea but it stops one step short.
Coke, are you listening?
[posted first on www.anijomathew.posterous.com]