AUSTIN, TX: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks manufacturer, is generating invaluable consumer insights from its Freestyle fountain machines, which allow customers to mix beverages of their choosing from across the company’s portfolio.

A case in point involves the launch of a cherry-flavoured variant of Sprite last year, as this new product was prompted in large part by data gathered from its fountain machines – with approximately 40,000 such gadgets operating in the US.

“We discovered that there were a lot of people that really had a preference for Cherry Sprite,” Thomas Stubbs, VP/Engineering and Innovation, Freestyle, at Coca-Cola, told delegates at SXSW 2018. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine becomes an insights, content engine.)

“We learned this through the data on the Freestyle machine. So, that wound up being bottled, and it probably wouldn’t have without that happening in Freestyle.”

Similar benefits are observable when it comes to innovation, as this channel has become a powerful outlet for “the introduction of new brands or flavors,” Stubbs said.

“For Coca-Cola, Freestyle is sort of the ultimate sampling program,” he continued. “We can introduce new brands and flavours – and, in fact, whole categories – to the system through the Freestyle machine and learn what consumers like.

“And we’ve found that people discover new flavors and brands on the Freestyle machine, and they go off and buy those that at their local grocery store.”

Coupled with rolling out beverage options, the Atlanta-based enterprise can “can experiment with messaging on the screen” that is featured on its Freestyle machines.

An example: in promoting its sponsorship of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Coca-Cola used Freestyle devices to distribute limited-edition flavours inspired by athletes like bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor.

“That’s very, very nascent right now. We do that with custom beverages for some of our customers and some of our partners, like the Olympics,” said Stubbs.

“We’ll see a lot more of that, because it works really well ... We’ll continue doing that with much shorter cycle times, and allow brands internally to use Freestyle [for content].”

Sourced from WARC