Smart 21st-century organizations are using the enormous amount of information available and the priceless communities they have painstakingly curated as the “new and improved” focus group.
Despite global financial and political uncertainty, food safety concerns and constantly and rapidly evolving consumer tastes, developing, marketing and launching new products has never been easier.
“What? How can that be!?” most executives ask me.
While many think of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Pinterest as places consumers go to interact with friends, companies such as Whole Foods Market and Frito-Lay are turning consumers on these sites into their market research departments as well as their marketing channels. Smart 21st-century organizations are using the enormous amount of information available and the priceless communities they have painstakingly curated as the “new and improved” focus group or media channel at launch.
There’s no need to “reinvent the wheel” when developing or launching a new product. The best product development and launch campaigns operate at the intersection of paid, earned and owned media, leveraging all to encourage participation in the launch.
With mountains of data being created through social mediums, companies can use the data to decide what merchandise to carry where, what products to launch, and when and how to position a new product or service.
Maximizing your current assets is the name of the game. Sometimes it’s not necessary to look to completely “new” when you can just tweak some of the things you’re already — or should be — doing.
Focus Groups 2.0
We’ve all spent hours in one of those dark, two-way mirrored focus group rooms, watching an “Alpha Mom” influence the feedback and conversation around a particular product. No offense intended but, in general, people who sign up for consumer panels or focus groups are not hip, young “trend setters.” But social media users often are.
Adding social media to the mix lets companies get a wide range of consumer feedback. Companies and brands using data from social media have the ability to see what consumers do, want and are talking about on a massive scale — without leaving corporate headquarters.
For example, Frito-Lay used its social equity to develop its new potato chip flavor. Ordinarily this would have involved piles of trend analysis and market research, as well as a series of focus groups in at least five major cities. This time, it involved using Facebook and Twitter, mixed in with its traditional television advertising buy. Driving traffic to and using the new Lay’s Facebook app, “fans” were asked to suggest new flavors and click an “I’d Eat That” button to register their preferences. And when the new flavors launch, don’t you think the consumers involved are going to want to tell their friend, and families, and followers, and…everyone that might listen.
Customer Service=Serving The Customer
Whole Foods Market is one of those brands that is integrating traditional and social media, thus maximizing its current assets to reach the retailer’s customers in a better way. Connecting with customers through social media provides a huge opportunity to improve customer service. Not only does Whole Foods have social media accounts for its headquarters in Austin, Texas, but it also has Twitter and Facebook accounts for each of its local stores. These local accounts allow Whole Foods to take a more targeted marketing approach, reaching out to local customers and creating relationships with them through personal “conversation.”
When @wholefoods saw on Twitter that I was headed home to a dinner-less abyss after a long day at the office, it tweeted to me @juliehallboston about a special on rotisserie free-range chicken. I went directly to Whole Foods — right after I retweeted the message to all of my own followers and then texted my neighbor. Then, I bought the chicken, and some eggs, cheese and a six pack of Zevia all-natural soda.
When you look at the Whole Foods Twitter page, it isn’t just a stream of links to sales and products. In between the @replies to individual followers’ questions, there are links to healthy recipes, articles about sustainable food and retweets from food bloggers. Whole Foods’ boards on Pinterest include pins for recipes, kitchens, garden tips, sustainable living, books, wines, vegan lifestyles and more. These efforts help to build on the market’s brand of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
In the last issue of this New Products Report I wrote about what I call the “Fifth P” in marketing—Participation. Whole Foods and Frito-Lay and countless of other smart retailers and brands are maximizing their current assets and participating in their customers’ lives. Participatory Marketing blends online, offline, paid, owned and earned media. It leverages every single asset a company or brand has to develop new products and sometimes even reposition old ones.
All businesses are experiencing a seismic shift in the way we are developing and launching new products. Participation Marketing has replaced traditional product-focused marketing. The consumer is the new medium – and digitally empowered consumers are rewriting the rules of marketing. Product launches that stand apart in the coming decade will include more social than traditional media in their launch mix and one will play off the other. And how you use what you already have will play a big part in your success.