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10/19/2011
03:29 PM
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Coca-Cola Drinks In New Social Data

How does a drink dispenser become a "connection machine"? Web 2.0 Summit attendees heard about Coca-Cola's social and big data plans.

Coca-Cola is using its new Freestyle drink dispensers not only to deliver a customized drink to its consumers, but also to better understand consumer behavior, especially toward Coca-Cola. The company is also attempting to create an engagement mechanism to stoke viral marketing among those customers, according to Alison Lewis, Coca-Cola's Senior Vice President of Marketing, who spoke at Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Freestyle dispensers contain more than 100 Coca-Cola brands, all available on a machine that lets users make a touch-based selection, but also mix those brands into a customized drink.

Lewis said this wasn't just a dispenser, but a "connection machine," and an "engagement platform." Because Coca-Cola's products flow through distribution channels (like Safeway and Burger King) that don't allow real-time information tracking, these new machines will let Coca-Cola be more responsive to customer needs, she said.

[Want to boost your social networking and professional appeal to recruiters and potential employers? See 10 LinkedIn Tips for IT Pros.]

But make no mistake, the company is also hoping to engage customers directly. Consumers can share Freestyle choices via Twitter and Facebook, encouraging friends to try a favorite drink, and have conversations about it. Or in Lewis' words, "turn the passive asset into an active experience."

Lewis talked more about what was possible, rather than the actual results of these efforts. The company will be using big data tools to analyze all of the structured data from the Freestyle dispensers, and the unstructured data from whatever social experiences materialize, she said.

Grab a beverage and watch the video below.

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