- Coca-Cola is kicking off its holiday-themed promotions with its first large-scale augmented reality (AR) experience. By scanning specially marked cans and bottles with the Coca-Cola mobile app, smartphone users can see an immersive computer-generated view of the Coke polar bears' "arctic home," per an announcement.
- The packaging unlocks several polar bear experiences, including a sledding scene inspired by Coke's 2013 holiday ad, snowball fights and a holiday light show. Smartphone users who scan two cans together will see the polar bear family tapping out "Jingle Bells" on glass soda bottles. Coke's Sundblom Santa Claus is featured in an AR experience activated by six-pack glass bottle carriers.
- In-house agency KO:OP, Coca-Cola Digital Platforms and creative agency Tactic worked together on the AR experience. The soda brand's mobile app is free to download from Apple's App Store for iPhones and Google Play for Android devices. Coke also introduced a cinnamon-flavored version of its classic soda for a limited time during the holidays.
Coke's holiday-themed campaign marks the first time the beverage giant has developed an AR activation for a mass audience in the U.S. The campaign may be dismissed as more AR gimmickry that doesn't add significant value to its messaging, but also has a chance to entertain fans of the brand with an immersive mobile experience as content consumption on mobile devices grows. By giving consumers a reason to download its app, this also gives Coca-Cola a way to continue to drive engagement with these fans once the holiday promotion is over. Coke's iconic polar bears have appeared in its advertising for generations, appearing first in France in 1922, while the animated versions were first featured in TV commercials starting in 1993.
The beverage behemoth has previously experimented with AR-activated packaging in other countries. In September, Coke introduced specially marked cans in Mexico that activated a series of animations when scanned with a smartphone camera. Each cartoon in the series focused on a minor conflict among animated characters who exchange lighthearted banter before resolving their differences by sharing a Coke. A video case study highlighted how the 3D animations were created.
Other Coca-Cola brands have employed AR experiences as a central part of their recent campaigns aimed at younger people who are most likely to consume media on a smartphone. Last summer, its Fanta brand of fruit-flavored sodas paired traditional out-of-home advertising with Snap's AR technology to create an immersive experience. The "It's a Thing" campaign let Snapchat users point smartphone cameras at Fanta billboards and posters to unlock digital content such as shareable AR filters and sticker packs. Worldwide spending on AR and virtual reality (VR) is forecast to rise 69% to nearly $20.4 billion this year, per researcher International Data Corp.