Coca-Cola has always been a company mindful of innovation. With heart-warming campaigns, easily recognized icons and hard-to-forget commercials, its marketing department is one step ahead at churning out memorable ideas. From animated polar bears to red trucks lit up in tune with the Christmas spirit, from catchy party songs to children choirs, they've tried everything to push the limits of what ads can do. As of late, they've started changing what their vending machines can do, too. Take for instance the 007: Skyfall promotional campaign, where people could get tickets if they managed to finish the mission in 70 seconds while the movie theme was played live, and then sing the same theme to the machine.
By far, the most impactful Coca-Cola videos are the inspirational ones.
We have security camera love…
… and the numbers that really matter.
The latest chapter of this saga is the Indian-Pakistani interactive vending machine, the so-called Small World machine. These machines work in pairs, one being in India and the other on in Pakistan, eliciting buyers to perform actions together so they can get their drink.
If you haven't watched it, you should. It's a good video.
A beautiful video.
The state of affairs between India and Pakistan is touchy. There’s suspicion and anger from both sides, deeply rooted in the History of those nations, particularly since the partition of British India. Not only military conflicts but also religious divergences and territorial disputes have contributed to turn their relations into a very sensitive game of chess.
I’m not going to claim I understand all the implications surrounding the subject, but at the very least I can understand how this ad works for an outsider. To us individuals, whose lives are not directly impacted by the walls created by the conflict, watching two human beings who are different enough to have been at war bond over a machine makes us happy. It makes us think ‘Oh, it’s not that hard after all. We can build that bridge’. It gives us hope. And we feed on hope to keep believing.
Of course, Coca-Cola is not trying to solve a difficult problem between countries. Such thing would be impossible and utopic. In reality, they do it, for the most part, because they know this ad makes them look good. Ads that appeal to our emotional side tend to be more successful strategies than ads directed at our intellect. Some people might even claim the company only does what it does because they have an interest.
And why wouldn’t they? They’re a successful brand, whose name and drink is recognized in the farthest corners of Earth. Keeping that Earth together matters to the business, and so does people’s opinions. So it’s only reasonable that they want people to think of Coca-Cola ads with tenderness, believing the world can be a better place. Still, there’s a whole world of things a company could do to get people’s attention without having to deal with very hard political matters. The fact that they choose to, at least for me, means something.
I don’t think a campaign needs to be selfless to have a deeper meaning, and the fact stands that Coca-Cola chose to spend their money in this manner.
We cannot forget that the people in that video are real people. The campaign is real, more so to those people than to us bystanders. It can’t create an open door, but it is an open window. The most important thing Coca-Cola is showing is that there’s humanity everywhere. The Indian are human. The Pakistani are human. Regardless of years of prejudice, deep down in every human existence is the wish to connect. Not only they can recognize each other as humans but they can interact, test that humanity, test that similarity to their brothers in origin. They can do all that behind a glass, behind anonymity and at a safe distance. Safety gives birth to courage. Curiosity takes the place of discomfort. And from that curious observation, hopefully, will come some manner of compassion.
They say change starts small, and while such small scale change is arguably no change at all, it’s proof that there’s a will. Coca-Cola is letting us in the secret that there are things that are worth thinking about, even if only from time to time. That while we go about our sped-up lives, while disasters happen and people struggle, somewhere in a different place there's people trying to be better.
The fact that there’s someone out there showing us there’s beauty in this cruel world is, at the very least enough to change me.