The quiet success of Coca Cola’s Happiness Phone Booth


Coca Cola’s latest marketing stunt in Dubai may not have filtered throughout the international social media landscape, but where it matters, the Middle East, it has made a big impact.

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By placing special phone booths in foreign workers labour camps, workers could use the caps from Coca Cola bottles to make a phone call home – allowing them to phone home for far less than usual.

A phone call from UAE to the worker’s home countries (the Asian sub-continent) usually costs $0.91 per min. A coke in Dubai costs $0.54 and for one cap they get a three minute call. Instead of costing the workers $2.73, they could talk to their families for $0.54. Considering the average take-home pay is $6 a day, the reception to the phone booth was overwhelmingly positive.

Despite some detractors of Coca Cola’s tactics, the marketing concept has proved hugely successful. Coca Cola monitored social media and found the response was 94% positive. A huge success in any company’s book.

By providing the technology the company engaged the customers on an emotional level. Emotional engagement is a proven way of successfully marketing a product. By placing their product next to the enjoyment of speaking to their loved ones, Coca Cola has cleverly given their brand a boost, not only in the minds of the people using the bottle tops, but also in the minds of the people reading about the event.

Emotional engagement in the social media age is the touchstone of marketing departments the world over. Behavioural psychologists state that 70% of human decisions are based on emotional factors. So in a purchasing scenario only 30% of the brain is using rational decision making, while the rest is formed by previous experience of a product and loyalty to the brand – they make an emotional decision.

Coca Cola understand this and their marketing is based on building brand loyalty and a better experience of their products. In creating a relationship between the word ‘happy’ and buying their drink, they are building a better customer experience.

With social media, they have seen the ‘happiness’ effect spread further than just the initial customers. The workers were filmed using the phone booths and the advert educated about viewers about the workers wages and the cost of phone calls. Seeing the smiles on the workers faces has spread their happiness around the globe through Twitter, Facebook and good old fashioned sharing by email.

For those who already have a positive feeling towards Coca Cola, seeing the happy workers gives the viewer a warm feeling from the worker’s experience. This is called the ‘Joy Response’ and coupled with re-enforcement from an individual’s social media community can ultimately drives up sales of a product.

Whether you are in agreement with Coco Cola’s marketing methods, it appears that the ‘Happiness Phone Booth’ was a success in the Middle East. The company has said that it’s using the Middle East as a testing ground for future campaigns across the globe. So look out for a ‘Happiness Phone Booth’ coming to your city soon.



For the last three years marketing departments all over the world have been shouting about harnessing the power of social media. But is it right that business invades social interactions online? Does the Facebook account of a young businessman in Dubai need the intrusion of a local bakery touting their latest offer?

Well, according to a recent study by the Dubai School of Government, that’s exactly what entrepreneurs in the region want to happen. From a poll of 5,000 young people from throughout the Middle East, 86% believed social media would empower entrepreneurs with branding and marketing. Another 86% believed it would help them tap into wider markets.

So social media has been fully embraced as a strong marketing tool. But is this view mirrored by the users of social media? According to a report by Bayt (a recruitment company), over 47% of people polled in the Middle East say they actively follow business social media vehicles (other than the social media from the company they currently work for).

And the top brands being followed? Well unsurprisingly N2V, the internet company, tops the Facebook chart with over 260,000 fans, followed by The Dubai Mall’s Facebook page. But liking a page isn’t the same as actively engaging with a company’s social media. Air Arabia can only be applauded for with their efforts in building a engagement rate of 0.31%.

These results show that people in the Middle East are as happy as the rest of the world to get involved with their favourite brands through social media.

Social media is growing rapidly in the Middle East. 88% of the Middle East’s online population uses social media sites on a daily basis. Which is over a third of the population of the whole of the Middle East.

Although numbers cannot be exact (as they are growing every day), a survey early in 2013 put Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn firmly at the top of the social media tree. Facebook users were 58 million, Twitter 6.5 million, and LinkedIn 5.8 million.

However, in the UAE LinkedIn outstrips Twitter, where 12% of people use LinkedIn, Twitter gets a paltry 3%. This could be down to the more professional focus seen in professionals in the region. Something that is backed up by another survey by Bayt. In the whole of Mena, 9 out of 10 professionals said they’d gone online to search for people they had either met, or were going to meet, while 8 in 10 said they’d googled themselves: proving the UAE professional is obviously very internet savvy.

With nearly a third of professionals admitting to spending more than five hours a day online, the internet has penetrated both business and private lives of people living in the Middle East. For marketeers this shows there is a real appetite for online content. As people rely more and more on social media to find great content, it is not a case of whether businesses should be engaging people through social media, It’s more a case of businesses becoming more creative in finding the best strategies to engage people.


bank audi

Did this campaign bring out the artist in you?

An example of this was Bank Audi’s ‘Card Artist’ social media campaign. The bank encouraged people to completely personalise their credit cards, then post a picture of it on the bank’s Facebook page to possibly win a cash prize. It took just a few days for Bank Audi’s Facebook page to gain 2,000 fans. As a consequence of their hard work on their social media, Bank Audi won the 2012 Middle East Internet award for Best Social Media Campaign in the Financial Services category.

Whether your customers are in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Muscat, further afield, or closer to home, using social media cleverly is not only welcomed by social media users in the Middle East, they can become active participants in building your brand online.


Done right, social media is a brilliant marketing tool for your business. But so many businesses get it wrong. They either dive right in and join Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, start a blog and think that will be enough, or are so scared and confused by social media they don’t get involved at all.

The trouble with the first approach is that by the end of the first quarter you will have wasted a huge amount of human resource and have little to show for it. Not getting involved at all is means your company will miss out on the most important evolution in marketing since television advertising was born.

Find the right vehicle(s)

As with everything else in business, research is the key to getting the most out of your marketing budget. Find out where your customers hang out online. Are you a B2B, B2C, or both? Find out which blend of social media will work for you to reach your customers.

clare ebbs

Clare from Dubai wedding planning company "The Perfect Moment" uses facebook,twitter and Pinterest

The top social media vehicles are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. But if your business is selling wedding planning services, you’ll want to be on Pinterest and Instagram to post pictures of your latest wedding plan at the Madinat complex. If your company is international, sending salesmen and executives all over the world, you may find FourSquare a brilliant way to connect with people when you land in New York or London.

Get the vehicles right and you are well on the way to building a successful online presence.

Engage your customers

Social media is a two way street. Back in the pre-internet days, companies relied on TV and print advertising, in-store promotions, conferences and business networking events to engage with customers. Now you can create a continuous dialogue with people through sharing both yours and their videos and pictures of products and events.

For example, if you run a competition the internet generation winner will often post a picture of their prize. So you share that picture. If you are running a promotion in store, finding out who people are and sharing pictures of them is almost expected. People like to share their experiences in life, and the commercial world is part of that experience.

Structure your customer service

A complaint can move quickly on the internet, which is why it’s important to get your customer service response outlined before you go online. This way, when a customer tweets they hated the way one of your shop assistants treated them, or how disappointed they are in a shoddy product, you can react quickly. Complaints aren’t a disaster. If you treat the customer fairly, find out what has gone wrong, and fix the problem quickly (and even offer a voucher as compensation), you’ll not just make them happy, they’ll be more likely to stick with you in the future. Conversely, if a customer has said something nice, do share it!

Don’t stress about going viral

Don’t worry about going viral. Your business will survive without ten million people hits on your YouTube channel. Viral videos happen two ways. One is the spontaneous one, where someone makes a video that is so funny it becomes an instant hit. The other is achieved through spending a lot of money and time working with a marketing agency.

The point of making a video or taking a photo is to spread it to your fan base. Share it around on whichever social media vehicles you use. It may not go viral, but it should be interesting to customers. Done right, you’ll get some people sharing it through their preferred social media, and that’s the goal. So don’t sweat the viral challenge, just get the basics right for your particular audience.

Find out more about how to use Social Media more effectively for your Dubai business here: /courses/digital-marketing/index.php

Viral marketing is a difficult concept for your Dubai marketing team to turn into reality. What will tickle the imagination of the general public? How do people then feel compelled to share it with their friends? But most importantly, how can you market your products and services this way?

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Firstly, don’t confuse a really popular video on YouTube with viral marketing. A funny cat video may well get viewed over a million times in 24 hours, but it’s not selling anything other than funny cats and, of course, YouTube. The viral nature of videos sells YouTube far better than an ad campaign could have done. Kia’s grooving hamsters were a late entry into the viral charts in August with their latest dance ( see video above.)

This shows the flipside of viral marketing. Very often people mistake the message as the marketing. Yet, as Marshal McCluhan said in his seminal work ‘Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man’, it is the medium that is the message.

By using a new type of medium (TV, YouTube, Facebook), your message can travel in new and distinct ways through the population. Find a new medium that people like using, or receiving information through, and you can start creating your sales message.

Creative quarters in every major city in the world are constantly on the look out for new ways of spreading their message. QR Codes and Augmented Reality are the latest trends in this ever-expanding search for the new. However, there are still ways of making the grade virally, without the major spend in new territory.


Free is always going to generate interest. And it’s not just the current climate that makes free so easy to disseminate. Free has always held people’s attention. A staple of beauty magazines was the free sample. A little sachet of cream that promised clearer, tighter, dazzling, skin.

In the age of the internet it is information that holds value. Giving away a free guide, and pdf, free Kindle book, is a great way to spread an idea. Very often that idea is that your company knows what it’s talking about. It’s an excellent way to increase brand awareness and goes some way to give a base to growing brand loyalty. Just make sure your freebie is worth the time of the person reading it. This is a one shot deal. Mess it up and you end with a poor reputation, or no reputation at all.


We’ve all done it, haven’t we? Clicked the share button on Facebook because we thought it was funny? It is known that an item shared on Facebook is four times more likely to lead to a sale. Get it right and your video, image or daily deal will attract the right attention.

On YouTube careers have been launched and millions made. It is still a great way to give your product or service some exposure. But, again think before your post because if you are putting out lame, boring, thinly populated material, you’ll be doing more harm than good.


Let’s suppose that you run a wool shop. You’ve created a free document that shows novices how to knit a jumper. And the video that accompanies it is proving very popular. So what now? Are more people coming to your online wool shop and buying from you? Not as many as you’d have liked? Have you provided them with a space to talk to you?

There have been low level, techie-driven grumblings about QR Codes for several months now. Predominantly based around the fact they will soon be replaced by another type of scanning technology: Mobile Visual Search. So is it time for your Dubai advertising team to ditch your QR Code campaign?

Not quite. It’s taken over two years for QR Codes to gain the broad public awareness to become the viable marketing tool it is today. But it will help your marketing team enormously to get a heads up on Mobile Visual Search.

MVS is a slow burning technology that allows mobile phone users to scan their environment and get information pushed to their phone. For example, point your camera at the Burj al Arab and an app on your phone will send you the information on this iconic building.

However the apps for this technology haven’t reached the saturation of QR Code apps, and there are only a handful of MVS developers in the world, who use an even smaller number of companies for the image recognition technology behind the apps.

It is a very niche idea at the moment. Google has invested in their own MVS app, Google Goggles, and the potential is very alluring – point your mobile’s camera at anything, instantly finding out about it. No messing with intermediary codes.


QR code

Would you like a present from ISM ?

But, for advertisers the QR Code still has traction. You can put one anywhere, on anything. When Calvin Klein wanted to seduce trendy young people in New York with a risqué ad, it was done through using a QR Code. There was no need to put a picture up on the billboard, similar to the ones that have got the company in hot water in the past. The QR Code is like a present, you are not sure what you are going to get before you open it.

With Mobile Visual Search, this element of surprise is gone. You point your camera at a product, building, painting or some foreign words and the information is delivered to your phone. It just isn’t as exciting as receiving a present, it’s more like opening a guide book.

Advertising and marketing companies are going to have to get very creative with this new technology if they want it to work on the scale that QR Codes currently do. One of the objections to QR Codes is they are ugly and interfere with advertising real estate. But they don’t have to be ugly and can direct customers towards specific pages of content, videos, or purchase points.

And this is where MVS falls down currently. You can make sure anyone accessing your logo through MVS technology goes to your corporate website, but how do create a journey for them? How do you take them to the latest video, how do you give them a present?

One article on the web has stirred up a lot of the current controversy surrounding the possible death of the QR Code, and has spawned other blog posts on the subject. On Mashable, the owner of a company that develops MVS said he didn’t think 14 million people accessing a QR Code was impressive. However, these codes can only be accessed by smartphones and there are 1.5bn worldwide mobile web users (i.e. smartphone users). Suddenly 14 million in one country is starting look at lot more impressive.

Mobile Visual Search is advancing, but just like video didn’t kill radio; QR Codes will develop and adapt to counter the new tech on the block. So don’t stop your QR Code advertising campaign in Dubai just yet. Dubai is one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to QR Code usage. It’s not wise to let such a savvy audience down, but enhancing your offering with new technology is always a good move.






Mobile Marketer

International Telecommunication Union