Tuesday, March 16, 2004

How open are you to your customer's input?

Fast Company's blog has a story about a few guys in Australia that wanted to start a pub with a microbrew. Instead of creating multiple microbrews that mirrored everything else in the market, they turned to the Internet and let potential customers tell them what they wanted in a beer.

From the post:

"What if customers got a chance to design a beer themselves? Within weeks of pitching the idea to 140 friends and associates, the friends' start-up, Brewtopia, had more than 10,000 people on a database. Through a website, these 'members' created a beer, voting on everything from its alcoholic content to the design of the bottles. In return, members received 'viral equity' that pays dividends depending on how well the beer sells."

One of the things that strikes me when I watch the Thirsty Traveler on Fine Living is how so many breweries are into their old ways and old recipes. Beyond moving from wooden casks to stainless steel and improvements in manufacturing, what have the real innovations in beer been?

Is it really any surprise that beer has fallen by the wayside in the face of malternative beverages like Smirnoff Ice? Michelob Ultra seems to be the only response to current market conditions and I would be willing to bet that it wasn't an easy sell inside the Anheuser Busch organization. First mover advantage -- Michelob Ultra is the low-carb beer and everyone else looks totally reactionary (by the way, Michelob Ultra is taking a chunk out of the premier AB brand, Bud Light) in their responses to it.

The idea presented in the Fast Company blog seems like something that these major breweries should be able to pull off. In fact, it may be something that they may not have a choice but to do in the coming years.

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