- Coca-Cola is launching a "Make Your Mix" contest, which will offer $10,000 to the person who can develop the most creative flavor combination made with two to three different beverages at a Coke Freestyle machine.
- The company is asking participants to upload a photo of their concoction — or what inspired it — to Twitter or Instagram by June 30, along with the recipe. Five finalists will be announced from July 15 to August 25, and then the mixes will be released. Voting will start around August 26 and end on Nov. 4, with the winner announced on Nov. 11.
- Sarah Greenberg Sachs, director of Coca-Cola Freestyle marketing, told CNBC consumers already mix their own concoctions using the machines and share them on social media. "We just really wanted to reward consumers for doing something that they're already doing, being creative, experimenting and mixing the brands they love," she said.
The new "Make Your Mix" contest stands to benefit both Coca-Cola and consumers. For the company, it may result in a new flavor combination it could potentially develop and market, which might attract new audiences as well as retain existing ones.
The contest approach will likely engage the younger demographic groups — those most likely to use social media channels and who appreciate choice and customization. Plus, it could give them a monetary incentive to experiment with one of the company's 50,000 Freestyle machines at restaurants, cinemas, convenience stores, supermarkets, amusement parks and other locations around the country.
Introduced in 2009, the Freestyle machines contain more than 100 different beverage options that can be mixed, chilled and delivered on demand. Coca-Cola has equipped these touchscreen-operated dispensers with "micro-dosing" technology to provide almost 200 drink options.
The options include low- and no-calorie drinks and more than 100 varieties not available anywhere else, the company said. Besides classics such as Coke and Sprite, the machines offer Minute Maid juice, Dasani water and some beverages that can't be purchased at retail like orange Diet Coke and raspberry-peach Mellow Yellow, CNBC noted. The Freestyle machines have turned out to be a lucrative addition to the company's portfolio.
"When we introduced Freestyle, it was truly a disruptive innovation. Today it's a billion-dollar business," Chris Hellmann, general manager of the Coca-Cola Freestyle Division, said in a 2018 company release.
This isn't the first time Coca-Cola decided to introduce certain beverage flavors based on consumer input. In 2016, the company debuted Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero because they were the most popular combination people chose from the Freestyle fountains.
Other food and beverage companies have used a similar approach to generate buzz and sales. Mars asked consuers to vote for its newest peanut M&M flavors, while PepsiCo has allowed people to decide which Mountain Dew flavor would become a permanent part of the brand lineup. In 2017, Oreo held a social media contest letting fans decide on the newest flavors for its popular cookie, and Frito-Lay has its "Do Us a Flavor" campaign soliciting ideas for Lay's potato chips.
If this "Make Your Mix" contest works out well, Coca-Cola may decide to periodically keep doing it in order to boost R&D, consumer input, sales and land on new beverage innovations. It also helps further connect consumers to the Coca-Cola brand by making them an even bigger part of the product development process. There could be some risks in this approach if the winning flavor combination turns out to be a dud, but the benefits are likely to outweigh that given the popularity of Coca-Cola products, the appeal of social media and the lure of public involvement.