Two years ago I learned about the Coca-Cola Freestyle® fountain machine from a Fast Company article profiling David Butler, Coca-Cola’s Vice President, Global Design. My first thought was this is a great tool to bring mass personalization to the drink market.
Fast forward two years later to a recent trip to Indianapolis. Hearing a radio commercial for Firehouse Subs promoting the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, I made time to visit – and watch. Seeing people interact with the machine, creating their own blends from 120+ flavor combinations, and helping others in the “community” create their own drinks was an eye-opener.
Customers, in this very unscientific sample, told me they were excited about the machine and enjoyed being able to have their “own” drink.
According to a St. Petersburg Times article, Firehouse Subs store “sales leaped 16 percent and traffic 11 percent from a year ago in [Freestyle] outfitted locations.”
Butler says ” We’re leveraging design to drive innovation and to win at the point of sale.” Watching Troy, Firehouse’s 86th Street location GM, in the video, I’d say Coke® is winning the point of sale with the Freestyle drink machine.
Here are five reasons why Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine is a game changer:
1) Mass Personalization allows everyone to customize their own drink. This is driving new traffic and sales to retailers with the machine. Troy told me they get more afternoon off-hours traffic specifically to use the machine.
2) Better Targeted Messaging because data is fed to Coke and the retailer giving valuable information about drink choices. For example, seeing Caffeine-Free Diet Coke® is popular in a market after 4pm allows the company to better hone their advertising.
3) Restaurants can build loyalty by branding their own drink. Firehouse has their own screen promoting their signature Cherry Lime-Aid® drink.
4) Coca-Cola can easily test new drinks by combining Freestyle data and social media input. In May, they announced an additional 19 Freestyle Brands. By seeing how new mixes perform, they can develop brands quicker with better certainty.
5) Secondary brands can gain market share. With the ability to easily customize the base drink offerings, customers will have better access to Coca-Cola smaller brands.
How can Coca-Cola’s experience with Freestyle help you generate ways to personalize offerings to your customers?
– Don Kincaid
> Don Kincaid: Hi, I’m talking to Troy, general manager here at Firehouse Subs here on 86th Street.
And, they’re one of the first locations in Indiana to have Coke Freestyle.
Tell me a little about the experience, and what your customers think?
> Troy: Well, everyone seems to have a very good impression of the machine,
it’s very functional, it’s very neat and cutting-edge, with a touchscreen display
with all of the different flavors we can get out of it.
Everyone really likes, um, everyone has their favorite that they like to go to.
It’s been a really neat positive experience so far.
All four locations in Indiana have it, and all the new locations that will open will also get it.
It’s just a really neat thing to help set Firehouse Subs apart from everyone else,just one more thing to set us apart.
> Don Kincaid: What do your customers like about it?
> Troy: Well, they like to be able to go up there and get their favorite drink
in any sort of flavor, like strawberry Sprite, or peach Sprite,
the ability to just kinda of play with the flavors, and make their own drinks, even.
Just the functionality that it gives, is one of the, I would say,
one of the more positive aspects that we’re seeing from it.
> Don Kincaid: Cool. And it’s made a difference in your business?
> Troy: Oh yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen a tremendous influx of business.
People coming in, wanting to check out the machine.
Just getting drinks, just to check out the machine.
It’s really great, it’s been really positive for us.
> Don Kincaid: Thanks, Troy.
> Troy: Hey, thank you very much.