I recently watched a special about Coca Cola and their new "Freestyle" machine. If you like soda, this might be the finest invention ever made. In a single machine, over 100 drink options are possible, and once you combine flavors, the possibilities get into the millions. Why am I telling you about this magical soda monolith? Not only is the machine a staple in my local burrito hangout, but it is a marketing data warehouse.
For every one of these "Freestyle" machines placed in a restaurant, there is a connection to the headquarters in Atlanta, where valuable consumer preference data is stored. If the most popular combination pressed on these machines in Charleston, SC is diet vanilla coke, and they are proportionately serving less Fanta Grape, say, Coca Cola can adjust their marketing efforts and their distribution to these areas to account for this preference. The more of these machines that pop up, the more Coca-Cola can Geo-target their distribution and perhaps even start bottling certain flavor combinations that may not have been commercially available.
Not only does Coca-Cola have these machines in brick-and-mortar locations, but they have a Facebook application where one can "like" the brand and create a digital soda with the freestyle machine (a brilliant, two-pronged approach). This application can gather even more data about theoretical cola combinations and location preferences and what brands are the most frequently chosen. One can share soda mixes on Twitter and there is an iPhone app to make even more mixes and collect EVEN MORE data!
So next time you walk up to the soda machine with the lovely touch-screen interface, ask yourself if all you are getting is a cup of soda. And then ask yourself if you are using the data at YOUR fingertips for the most successful marketing efforts.