Share Happy – The Ice Cream Machine that’s a Delicious Brand Gesture

An Ice Cream Van for the Brand Experience Age
Unilever have created an ice cream vending machine for the new age of brand experiences.

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Called “Share Happy,” the machine senses when people are near-by, and uses facial recognition technology to determine the age, gender, and emotional state of the person. The machine’s ‘smile-o-meter’ rates the quality of the smiles; rewarding those with huge, high-beam grins smile with free ice cream – talk about expressing a brand personality. Interestingly, those who engage can share pictures on Facebook via built-in 3G. In this age of social networking, brands that are providing new experiences get far greater leverage if they also facilitate brand storytelling.

Dave Ansett, Brandamentalist
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Designer of Tasty Brand Experiences


  1. Thanks for your thoughts Dennis – and your post makes some good points. In the end the machine Vs human interaction is an interesting tension for brands wishing to create unique customer experiences. The machines will never be able to create the level of rich brand interaction a person does when done well. On the other hand – a machine will always deliver the same level of experience 24/7 – rarely having a bad day. What I find interesting from a brand communication perspective is the approach by brands looking for new ways to deliver experiences – like this one. I suspect some innovations will be successful, some less-so, but I admire each of them who invests in trying to create new ways to design brand connections.

  2. Interesting idea, but there’s something about that just doesn’t ring through, I dunno, it’s all so staged.
    It feels like one of those european ads for dairy products with local english voice overs.

    Maybe it’s the voice over, telling us how great a brand experience it is, while showing us very little,
    maybe the staged nature of the group of models stumbling on the unit and the sudden brand joy that ensues.
    I don’t think I every seen a product so well presented by a vending machine delivery system in my life.

    There’s something, and I can’t put my finger on it, that’s ringing alarm bells in my brand conscience.

  3. Thanks Derek, there seems to be an emerging thread from the brand experts that this experience is slightly missing the mark. I’d love the opportunity to watch the machine interacting with the public and see if there’s much magic. As you point-out, perhaps it is about the machine delivered brand experience over-all, rather than Share Happy specifically. Then again, the augmented reality point of sale from Lego seemed to create that rare level of audience reaction brands aim for with their experience design:

  4. I think it would be fun for people to stumble upon it this by accident. The machine rewards human inquisitiveness. This in my mind is the important aspect of the machine. Rewarding people for looking at and exploring their own surroundings – how many times have you walked past the same shops/vending machines and not had a look at them?

  5. I think the unsettling feeling may come from the fact that the machine can determine if we are happy or sad, and as result we are rewarded by the machine if we measure up to the machines standards. The difference between legos augmented reality is that legos brand solution adds to the brand experience, were this machine is the brand experience. A subtle but different emotional response.

    Having said that, I still think it is a pretty cool idea. It will definitely create good brand awareness for the product. I like it when brands are adventurous, for better or worse. And I think they need to be.

  6. Great Point Tim, The machine does reward human inquisitiveness – and free ice creams are a wonderful draw card. I wonder whether we are so programmed to ignore machines that the opportunity to engage may be overlooked. If anyone has seen Share happy in action I’d love to hear about it.

  7. Interesting point about machines recognizing and rewarding us for our emotional state – that does feel a bit Blade Runner. And I strongly agree that in these times of mass brand communication when so often brand could be interchanged with bland – anyone trying something new should be applauded.

  8. A really neat idea although the technology overpowers the brand message to me, and it all feels a little sterile.

    If you were measuring impact on the brand it would be interesting to gauge this approach against a traditional ice cream cart with a real person delivering a brand experience through some street theatre.

  9. Certainly a big player strategy, as the investment to develop the vending machine would have required big bucks. But what an amazing injection of personality into what is typically a ‘functional’ exchange between a machine and a customer!

  10. Malcolm, seems to be a common thread about the technology getting in the way of the brand experience. It would have been just as interesting from a brand communication perspective to see what an innovation of this brand experience would have looked like with human interaction.

  11. Reg, I agree the cost to develop this kind of technology would have put it out of reach of most players. But it’s also nice to see the big players investing in innovating the brand communication experience rather than leaving it to those without enough budget to avoid risk taking.

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