Here’s a smart digital innovation from Pepsi (TBWA Belgium) that’s upped the ante in the ongoing Vending Machine Wars between Pepsi and Coke. Although Coke is currently ahead with 10M+ views on YouTube for the Coke Zero/James Bond vending machine, the new “Like Machine” from Pepsi is a brilliant but imperfect glimpse of the future on product sampling.

Simply ‘Like’ Pepsi on the Facebook-connected machine, and get your free can. Free sample for a Like.  Only problem is that you have to either download a Pepsi app to your smartphone first (to interact with the machine), or plug in your FB details on a huge keyboard on the machine that screams ‘copy my FB credentials’. So it’s not exactly frictionless or secure…

But imagine if your digital wallet contained a remote login app (NFC/Bluetooth) that interacted with a range of vending machines. Depending on your profile, vending machines the world over could offer free samples.  Brands would get the consumer data via the login/like, and could enjoy a word of mouth effect, both online and offline.   No unemployed stroppy fashion models recruited to hand out samples would be harmed – or used – in the process.

Ever since P&G started its teen online sampling panel Tremor over a decade ago, we’ve been bullish about how the unsexy, but very effective marketing backwater known as product sampling could be revolutionised through digital innovation.  The Pepsi Like machine is a step in the right direction. We Like.