Beyond Digital: Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ Experiential Marketing Campaign

3 minute read

Beyond Digital: Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness’ Experiential Marketing Campaign

The best way to understand the power of an experiential marketing campaign is to take a look at some companies that have executed it effectively. As part of our experiential marketing series, we will look at Coca-Cola’s integrated experiential strategy surrounding its new messaging campaign “Open Happiness.”

Instead of focusing on one particular campaign, we are studying several campaigns and how they collectively live out Coke’s mission for happiness.


Marketing professors always like to quote: If you stripped away all of Coca-Cola’s physical assets, the company could still get back on their feet so long as they didn’t lose the right to the Coca-Cola brand.

Ranking fourth on Forbes’ The World’s Most Valuable Brands list with a brand value of $56.1 billion, Coca-Cola is indeed the epitome of branding success.

The Campaign: “Open Happiness”

In 2009, Coke replaced its four-year global “Coke Side of Life” campaign with “Open Happiness.” The experiential marketing campaign debuted with the usual TV commercials, print ads, and outdoor advertising. However, the viral element to this campaign was Coke’s brilliant use of vending machine hacks. Through these hacks, Coke “dispensed happiness” to millions of people who were having an otherwise ordinary day.

The Experience: “Dispensing Happiness”

The first vending machine hack — “Happiness Strike” — was launched in 2010 on a college campus in New York. At the school cafeteria, an unsuspicious-looking vending machine sitting by the wall delivered students endless free coke, fresh flowers, pizza, balloons, a 40-inch long sandwich, and of course, an indescribable amount of happiness to everyone on the scene.

The video went viral online, which inspired Coke to take this vending machine happiness hack to the world stage.

In South Korea, Coke installed a dance machine featuring a popular local band 2PM’s classic dance steps. Using MicroSoft’s Kinect motion sensor technology, people could mimic 2PM’s dance moves. The more accurate they were, the more free coke this dance machine dispensed.

In Belgium, Coke partnered up with the new James Bond movie SkyFall. Commuters were challenged in a local train station to jump across platforms in 70 seconds with obstacles in the way. As a result, the winners received exclusive tickets to the movie premiere and a bottle of Coke Zero.

Additionally, Coke used a high-tech vending machine installed in malls in Lahore, Pakistan, and New Delhi, India. The machines aimed to help people separated by political reasons to resolve their differences, connect, and share a happy moment.

If you want to see more vending machine stunts from Coke, click here to get a full read.

Why Coke’s Experiential Marketing Campaign Worked

Consistency, relevance, wild creativity are the three most defining characters of Coke’s “Open Happiness” experiential marketing campaign.

Consistency: Since the campaign’s inception, hundreds of videos have been produced for “Open Happiness.” Both commercials and real-world events deliver a seamlessly integrated message: Coke is for your happy moment. Whether you are in the video or watching the video, you invariantly experience the joy from the scene.

Relevance: Coke’s change of brand message began as a response to a culture shift in our society. In a world of uncertainties, people are yearning for a place of comfort and optimism. With a unified “happiness” message and customized local campaign executions, Coke made itself relevant to customers emotionally and geographically.

Creativity: “Open Happiness” deserves applause because it took digital beyond the internet and made technology interesting in real life. When combined with creativity, even a vending machine can become a source of entertainment. After all, happiness often find us when we least expect it!


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