Tweets for Sweets

Tweets win gumballs in a Rube Goldberg-inspired marketing campaign


South Africa seems keen on treat-based tweeting these days. On the heels of Bos’ “Tweet for Tea” social media-driven vending machine at Design Indaba, Cape Town welcomes another guerilla marketing installation integrating the mechanical with the digital to make you smile. Conceptualized by design duo Thingking (who created the Bos machine as well) and advertising agency DraftFCB, the Wonka-like pop-up machine occupies an unused storefront window and is based on bringing to life the Toyota Etios “Here to make you smile” campaign.

Visitors tweet the #etiossmiles hashtag and a unique pin to activate the Rube Goldberg-style installation, which releases a gumball that is put through about a minute’s worth of trials and tribulations before being dispensed to the tweeter. Using the drama of the extravagantly intricate machine to delay gratification just slightly, tweeters have become completely absorbed in the experience and, as video records show, leave with an ear-to-ear grin.


The contraption was literally born from a bunch of junk, melding a hodgepodge of a velskoen, car central-locking motor, treadmill, plastic palm trees, xylophones, magnifying glasses, a mirror ball, a midi keyboard played by a rotating armed stick, a plastic shark tank, a polaroid camera, a bird house, a zoetrope of dancing bears and wobbly-legged wooden toys among other things.


Sourcing the majority of the parts from Cape Town’s infamous weekly car boot sale, the Milnerton Market, the aesthetic is charmingly retro, upcycled and handmade. All of the switches and triggers are visible on the system that took Thingking’s Marc Nicolson and Lyall Sprong three weeks to make, and some tweeters have reportedly spent ages figuring out exactly how it works. Rather than the typical black-box approach of contemporary technology, this openness of the mechanics has certainly enhanced the magic of the situation.


The machine is also prone to fail on occasion, mostly because not all gumballs are perfectly shaped and in an effort the keep the machine as open as possible, there are very few guides. However this element of chance only serves to make the receiver more grateful for their good luck. “Tweets for Sweets” is now up and running at Muti, 3 Vredehoek Avenue in Cape Town.

Images by Sydelle Willow Smith