Campbell’s quizzes its own employees with the ‘Snackbot’

Which pickle relish maker was once part of Campbell’s portfolio: Vlasic or Mt. Olive?

If you work at Campbell’s, you’d better know. The soup company wanted to test its employees on Campbell’s history so they could better talk about its products, only with a twist. Enter: the Snackbot.

Working with Allen & Gerritsen’s A&G Labs, the brand installed an interactive vending machine that can quiz employees at the company’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. Answer the questions right, and you get a snack. The machine doubled up as a sampling exercise to get staffers to try out new products, too. Once three questions are answered correctly, prizes are awarded: These include Milano cookies and GO Soup, and even in some cases gadgets like GoPros and Google Chromecasts.

Questions went beyond company history and also tested employees on what’s current and topical for the company’s consumers — like what they’re playing with, what they’re interested in, and what current trends in food and tech are.

About 441 employees have played Snackbot since it was placed in Campbell’s world headquarters a month-and-a-half ago. Almost 1,500 games have been played, and 155 departments have participated, making the project as much of a company team-building exercise as a snack break. All told, there are 1,200 employees at Campbell’s headquarters.

Vending machines have long been a source of creative inspirations for brands. One of the frontrunners in the area is Coca-Cola, which has used its machines as ways to push forward its brand tagline of “Open Happiness”: Their smart vending machines reward shoppers with a Coke if they hug the machine, others that gave prizes when customers danced or kissed in front of them. The brand also placed two machines — one in India and one in Pakistan — in an award-winning effort that let people from both sides of the border talk to each other, over a Coke.

A&G Labs, the R&D unit of Philadelphia-based Allen & Gerritsen, found that the biggest challenge was creating an intelligent inventory management system and building it on top of a dumb vending machine.

“We knew we had to make the machine easy to maintain for our clients,” said George Ward, svp-innovation at A&G. “Their day jobs are digital marketing for a global food brand. They’re not stock replenishment professionals.”

Unlike most vending machines, you can’t see what’s inside and you can’t select the item you want. (Custom software inside the machine knows when products weren’t available for restocking.) “We knew that the element of mystery, combined with the randomness of what is dispensed, would create curiosity and repeat usage,” said Ward. The company also created a leaderboard that would update with who was doing the best, creating a fun competition within the office.

Oh, and the answer to the pickle question? It’s Vlasic.

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