ATLANTA: Coca-Cola is looking to in-world residents of Second Life and the general population to create the next generation of Coke vending machines.
The world's largest soft-drink provider recently launched the Virtual Thirst competition in Second Life in the hopes of creating a vending machine that, instead of soda, would dispense entertainment and adventure for in-world residents.
Petro Kacur, Coke senior marketing communications manager, said launching a program in Second Life was the next step for Coke in its growing use of social media.
"With the advent of social media, we've been doing quite a bit more in trying different ways to engage [consumers]," he explained. "We are figuring out new ways to take advantage of this technology and that has been really exciting. It leads you to things beyond blogs and into things like virtual environments."
Participants are asked to create what they think a Coke vending machine will do in the future. The winner, who will be chosen by a panel of Second Life residents this summer, will go to San Francisco and work with 3-D expert builders Millions of Us to build their creation and deploy it in Second Life.
The company also put information about the program at VirtualThirst.com.
Coke worked with Crayon, a new marketing agency that was formed and launched in Second Life last year, on the program. Coke wanted every aspect of the program to take place in Second Life.
Before launching the program Coke formed an advisory panel/focus group of people from within Second Life and held meetings in an in-world conference room.
"We talked about what we wanted to do and listened to feedback from them," Kacur said. "What they told us really shaped the program before we launched it."
"They didn't take a top-down approach," said Joseph Jaffe, president and "chief interruptor" of Crayon. "They didn't go in with guns blazing and handle it like a traditional marketing effort. They listened instead of talking."
Coke also held a press conference in Second Life. It created an avatar for one of its marketing executives who outlined the program for 30 to 40 "influential" bloggers and mainstream media attendees. They could also click on the press release Coke made available and pick it up in their avatar's inventory, along with a Coke T-shirt, afterward.