BOSTON and NEW YORK CITY -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association's Gratitude Tour made its first stops last week in Boston and New York City. Both outdoor exhibits attracted media attention and thousands of passersby.
Today, Sept. 22, the mobile exhibit is taking place in Atlanta, hometown of Coca-Cola Co., whose Interactive Vender is a Gratitude Tour highlight. The next stops are Austin, TX (Sept. 27), Phoenix (Oct. 5) and Minneapolis (Oct. 11). The roadshow winds down at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) on Oct. 13.
PHOTO: WCBS Radio's Marla Diamond interviews NAMA's Dan Mathews amid lively Gratitude Tour exhibit on Pier 17 at New York City's historic South Street Seaport.
The vending venue on Sept. 16 at Manhattan's South Street Seaport, close to the Financial District and One World Trade Center, enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, after being postponed from Sept. 15 due to a rainy weather forecast. Visitors to the mobile exhibit took advantage of the opportunity to interact with the latest vending technology and enjoy free samples. The same day, USA Today ran a story on vending: "Vending world tries new tech to court Gen Y."
NAMA said the Big Apple installment attracted some 10,000 people -- even after its original six-hour run was cut short by two hours.
An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people showed up at the seven-city tour's first stop on Sept. 12 at the Prudential Center in Boston. It also made headlines in a Boston Globe feature.
The media are following the event and focusing their coverage of Gen Y, which is an important vending customer demographic identified by NAMA research. Gen Y says it prefers vending to c-stores. "The media are getting this message," said John Healy, a principal of Healy & Schulte (Chicago), the public relations and marketing communications firm retained by NAMA to conduct the Industry Growth Campaign, of which the Gratitude Tour is a part.
"More important than the coverage itself is the type of reporting that's happening," Healy told VT. "They understand that NAMA's campaign has been two years in the making and what the industry is trying accomplish -- we're not pulling a media stunt to grab some press. And they get that the touchscreen machines and some other vending innovations on the tour are not ubiquitous.”
Healy also observed that coverage has taken on a snowball effect that involves TV, radio and newspaper outlets, and more importantly top news websites and lifestyle blogs. Representatives from Thrillist, Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Gothamist, Grub Street and New York Observer, among other news sites and Web forums, were at the South Street Seaport talking to industry members.