This is so cool, it must be 37 degrees

OK – so that's a reference to the "perfect pour" temperature of Coke – 37 degrees Fahrenheit – that optimizes the drinking experience to the point you have to sit down to drink it or your brain will explode with pleasure.  And frankly, that'd be a mess, what with the bubbles and all.

I know that because (disclaimer) I have the pleasure to work with Coke.

Read about Coke's "interactive fountain" in Fast Company today.  Touch screen + 46-ounce concentrated flavor cartridge = your perfect Coke.  That in and of itself is pretty neat.

Coke machine

But I like it for two reasons – one that was stated in the article, one that wasn't:

(1) According to the article, "Another perk is the business data the dispenser sends back to Coke's headquarters in Atlanta.
The machines upload data about beverage consumption, peak times, and
popular locations. Coke can also talk back to the machine, letting it
know if a particular flavor needs to be discontinued or recalled and
causing it to stop serving the drink immediately."  This is FANTASTIC.  The machines become real-time focus groups and interactive sales terminals.  As long as the info generated isn't left in the hands of the inventory department but rather feeds the broader marketing organization, this has significant implications.

(2) This machine will feed a fundamental behavior intrinsic to Coke's target audience – sharing.  you can't create a witch's brew flavor without the friend next to you asking for "just a sip" to compare to their concoction – and you'll probably see an uptick in sales as people 'experiment' with different flavors.  Expect different flavor combinations (the more esoteric the better) to form fan groups and passion communities online.  Expect #Coke flavored hashtags cropping up on Twitter, etc. etc. etc.

The machines don't just mix flavors, they start conversations.  probably not unlike the ones that mmay have happened at soda fountains.  Even better?  Good-natured arguments.  And THAT is cool.

"My Diet Vanilla Black Cherry Bomb is tastier than Biff's Crap-tastic mix…"

Kudos to Coke for harnessing a technology that speaks to both their heritage (the soda fountain) and their future.  And for turning their product into a participatory experience.