Sam Adams: Using Social Media to Create a Beer

The Challenge: Companies are learning how to tap into the potential of social media not only to strengthen their brands, but to create new products.
Crowd SourcingInnovative marketers are not only using social media to promote a brand; they’re using it to create products. Using Facebook, Twitter, and other major social media platforms, Wal-Mart, Gilt Groupe and others are conducting wide-ranging research, predicting inventory needs, and developing new products.
Social media is allowing these brands to gain powerful Voice of Customer (VoC) insights. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the results offer dramatic proof of the value of listening to customers:
arrow Samuel Adams used crowd-sourced data to create “B’Austin Ale”. As Steve Greenlee wrote at “99 bottles”, “man is it good.”
arrow Frito-Lay used their “Do Us a Flavor” app on Facebook to discover that “beer-battered onion-ring flavor is popular in California and Ohio, while a churros flavor is a hit in New York.”
arrow Gilt Groupe uses Facebook to select sale items and “refine products”.
arrow @WalMartLabs used Twitter data to determine which DVDs to stock, and which game releases don’t merit major orders.
Amazing as these results are, social media data should be supplemented by in-depth customer insights. In the Times article cited above, Lara Lee of Continuum, a design group that helped to develop the Swiffer, expressed the risk of relying on social media research alone, “Data can’t tell you where the world is headed.” For that, you need in-depth, personal conversations with customers and prospects.
» Supplement Social Media Data with In-depth VoC Insights
Social media data can tell you what is happening. But, you must validate and enrich this data with in-depth, person to person conversations which detail why this is, and how customers want you to address their needs.
» Use a Diverse Mix of Research Tools
Develop an integrated research strategy which deploys multiple research methodologies and tools. Use each methodology for the value it can provide, i.e., quick surveys, social media, in-depth interviews, etc.
» Offer Value in Exchange for Customer Feedback
Today’s customers know how valuable their insights are, and they expect something in return. What did Frito-Lay offer? A million-dollar prize to the creator of their newest flavor.