Coke’s Fantastic Social “Un-commercial” Rewards Honesty



Coca-Cola Portugal’s team came up with a brilliant social experiment that it conducted last month in Lisbon, and it’s a brilliant example of how “social” isn’t defined by Facebook and Twitter, it’s defined by people.

A soccer match was coming up between the two biggest teams in Lisbon, arch-rivals Sport Lisboa and Sporting clube del Portugal.  Obviously tickets were at an absolute premium and almost impossible to get.

The Coke team planted a wallet in a busy shopping center with a hidden camera.  In the wallet was $200 and sticking out of the wallet was a ticket to the soccer match.

How many people took the ticket?  Or the money?  Or both?

The answer is that 95% of the people who found the wallet checked inside for identification, saw the money and the ticket—and turned the wallet in with both the money and the ticket.

Though all these good people probably expected nothing in return, Coke gave them a splendid reward: they each received a ticket to the soccer game of their own, courtesy of Coke.

They sat in their own section during the game.  At halftime the video of what happened in the store (in Portuguese) ran on the stadium’s video screen and the good Samaritans were given a standing ovation by the crowd.

How’s that for “feel good” social marketing?

There’s a lot to like in this idea, and frankly almost any company could have gotten great props for running it.  But what I love is that it re-enforces the major values of the Coke brand.

Coke is all about fun and enjoying life.  What better way to express this than to tap into how good we feel about the community we’re part of?  And into our passion for fun?  The same experiment without the soccer ticket doesn’t work nearly as well.  By making it about the soccer ticket Coke had people laughing along from the first second of this video.

It wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect half of the people to return the wallet with the money, but keep the soccer ticket.  Playing off the mischevous fun of spying on our fellow soccer fans, seeing their reactions when they realize what the ticket is for—and then to see them turn this precious ticket in.  Well, that makes the story-telling itself so fun.

Without the soccer ticket we would have been cringing and uncomfortable from the begining.  The soccer ticket made it fun.  And Coke joyously finished the story off by sharing the store video with the crowd at the game.  In this video we get to see the experiment, the fun of surprising the people who returned the wallet, and the joy of them being recognized by the soccer game audience.

I think examples of “brand alligned” out of the box marketing like this remind us that there’s more to social media than social networks.  More broadly it’s about how we share information socially, and that includes face to face.

Oh, and this story did pretty well on social networks too,  especially in Portugal.  The last time I checked more than 200,000 people had visited the Portuguese language version on the Coca-Cola Portugal channel on You Tube.



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About Rohn Jay Miller

I'm a strategic designer who works with clients who are transforming their business models because of change brought on by the Internet. Solving disruption is often a problem and an opportunity at the same time. Previously I was a founding partner of Ikonic/USWeb in San Francisco, and Senior Vice President--Product & Technology for Knight Ridder in San Jose.

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