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Making Our Part of the Universe a "Happiverse"–Coca-Cola Reverse Vending Machines

One of Interbrand’s “Best Global Green Brands” of 2013 is Coca-Cola. As Interbrand says, “Few brands are as recognizable globally as Coca-Cola, so it’s no surprise that consumers have strong favorable perceptions of the brand’s sustainability.” Coca-Cola’s guerrilla marketing "happiness" campaigns are wildly effective and unabashedly creative. Here's a brainstorm for a Coca-Cola "happiness+recycling" campaign that combines reverse vending, gaming, and incentives to prompt recycling.

Photo of Leigh Cullen
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Explain your idea in one sentence

Idea for a Coca-Cola "happiness+recycling" guerrilla marketing campaign
Global companies are setting ambitious goals to make sustainability a priority. Each year Interbrand benchmarks 50 companies as " The Best Global Green Brands.” Coca-Cola ranks high on the 2013 list. How does Coca-Cola connect with consumers? And, just how important is sustainability to consumers?

P&G measured consumers' desire for sustainable products here. They discovered that 70% of consumers are the “sustainable mainstream”– meaning that these consumers "are interested in sustainability, but are not willing to accept tradeoffs" in terms of value, performance, and price. Targeting that 70% is a must to establish a sustainable brand. As Interbrand says, “Few brands are as recognizable globally as Coca-Cola, so it’s no surprise that consumers have strong favorable perceptions of the brand’s sustainability.”

Coca-Cola’s guerilla marketing campaigns are wildly effective and unabashedly creative. The campaigns have the remarkable ability to propel all age ranges, genders & cultures to participate, by tapping into a core emotion all people enjoy: happiness. The ingredients of happiness–fun, humor, sharing, goodwill, friendship, love, removing barriers–are found in Coca-Cola’s campaign recipes. Check out a few examples:

Personalized Coke Cans
The Sharing Can
The Remix Bottle
Coca-Cola brings India & Pakistan closer together with "Small World Machines"
The Sing For Me Vending Machine
The Dancing Vending Machine
The Hug (Vending) Machine

Taking the ingredients of happiness, what is a Coca-Cola guerrilla marketing campaign around recycling?

Campaign Title: "Making Our Part of the Universe a Happiverse"
The title reflects each person's capability/responsibility as an individual, and as part of a community, to recycle and to make our universe a happy, flourishing universe.

The Plan:
Integrate "recyling vending machines" (reverse vending machines) into (or next to) Coca-Cola vending machines. This is a nudge to remind people to recycle. The reverse vending machines would accept a variety of recyclables–cans, glass, plastic, etc. The machines could accept more than just Coke products. (See Envirobank–an example of a company that builds reverse vending machines.) Coca-Cola has a solid track record of building incredibly innovative vending machines that trade hugs for cans of Coke, are large Wii-like structures, that are robotic and walk. The reverse vending machine would have to be attractive and engaging.

Recycling at reverse vending machines would be gamified and incentivized. Anyone could compete against one another: high schools, colleges, sports teams, companies, cities, states, countries...

Rob Han's idea of developing a social network geared toward recycling
is a fun one. If the resources are available, the recycling social network could be implemented via both web and mobile. And/or, the social network could be stored directly in the Coca-Cola reverse vending machine.–The vending machine would then become essentially a giant free-standing app, kind of like a massive Game Boy.

First time recyclers could set up their personal recycling ID's by downloading the app, accessing it online, or by punching in their name/zip code (or college) into the reverse vending machine. The personal identifier could then be keyed in directly on the vending machine prior to recycling. Or, one's mobile phone could be scanned at the machine prior to recycling. This is so that the reverse vending machine allots recycling points ("happiness points" or "happy planet points") to the correct individual.

Incentive Ideas:
  • Earn "happy planet/recycling points" that add up to free Coke products
  • Earn recycling points and receive coupons/discounts at companies who choose to participate (ie, IKEA could offer a 15% discount for those who earn 2K recycling points–a similar model to
  • Beat a rival college and get free tickets to a local concert, theme park, or a local bike rental for a group excursion into town (a green option). Any company could pitch in and offer incentives to increase their own "happy planet points."
  • Beat a rival company and each staff member gets a free Coke...
  • Incentive ideas are endless...

Riffing a happiness+recycling glossary:
  • Happiverse (play on the word "universe")
  • Happiverse (could also mean "create a green/poetic verse or rap" to win a free coke product)
  • Happy Planet (get Happy Planet points for recycling)
  • Happy Map (check out the Happy Map to see if your college is beating another college, or if your city/state is beating your neighboring city/state)
  • Happisphere (which hemisphere is recycling the most...)
  • Happygram (send a happygram to a friend to encourage him/her to recycle)
Recycling "How To":
Eliminate obscure recycling symbols and terminology on product packaging. Instead, simply state in one or two sentences where/how the consumer should/can recycle. Tone of voice can be in the company's/brand's tone of voice. See Sweetgreen example here: Simplified Recycling Iconography/Language–Customizable To Any Brand

Describe how your idea would help form new habits and improve recycling at home

People could check the recycling social network (the Happiverse) to see how their personal, their university's, their city's, their state's (etc) recycling points measure up to those around them. The network could provide recycling tips and could map local reverse vending recycling location points.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Francisco Romero

Hi Leigh!!!
Have you implemented this already?
We are in the process of developing this model, and foud this post.. so would you join us in the project?

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