PR Win: Hot Wheels Hits Jackpot with Tweet-Powered Vending Machine

We know that social media can power all sorts of things from brand recognition to customer interaction, and that making it worthwhile for customers to use your hashtags by offering prizes or incentives can sometimes prove a useful strategy — but what about using tweets as actual (not just digital) currency to literally power a customer vending machine?

That’s exactly what Hot Wheels and Chevrolet Canada teamed up with Canadian agency TrojanOne to create: a vending machine that accepts tweets rather than coins and dispenses limited-edition diecast toy car collectables rather than chips and soda. The companies built the customized vending machine (which was just a regular coil vending machine updated with special web-enabled computer components) in honor of the Toronto Auto Show. All toy car enthusiasts had to do was stand near the machine, enable location features on their smartphones and tweet at @HotWheelsCanada using the hashtag #ChevyCIAS. Ta da! A free toy car.

The machine dispensed about 2,000 of them over the 10 days of the auto show. Impressive, no?

“I think the best part was seeing the physical and digital worlds come together with a social action causing a physical world action to take place – when the car dropped after people sent the Tweet, the smile on their face was priceless,” said Mark Stewart, director of digital services at TrojanOne. We’d bet, though, that a close second to Stewart’s “best part” was the fact that @hotwheelscanada tripled its Twitter following as a result of the vending machine project. Tripled!

We love seeing creativity pay off, and we think Stewart hit the nail on the head by focusing on the interaction between the digital and physical worlds; not only was it a fun way to reward customers for their loyalty, but it hammered home the idea that actions in the social media sphere cause real-world reactions. The companies demonstrated their understanding that their followers are real people, and reminded them that when they interact with them in the digital world, the companies are listening and responding in the tangible one.

So what’s next? Panty-dispensing machines for Victoria’s Secret‘s followers? Cat food samples for Twitter-savvy cat ladies? The possibilities seem endless. In the meantime, readers, we want to know if you’ve used or seen equally creative use of social media for branding purposes. What do you think of Tweets as currency?