08/07/2012 03:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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.


Innovative 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:

  • Samuel Adams used crowd-sourced data to create "B'Austin Ale." As Steve Greenlee wrote at "99 bottles", "man is it good."
  • 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."
  • Gilt Groupe uses Facebook to select sale items and "refine products."
  • @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.

About Ernan Roman Direct Marketing Corp., (ERDM):
ERDM provides Voice of Customer-driven Customer Experience Marketing consulting services for companies such as IBM, MassMutual, QVC, NBC Universal, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Symantec Corp. They have conducted over 9000 hours of in-depth interviews with customers and prospects of these clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for a high value customer experience.

Ernan Roman, President, is recognized as an industry pioneer and was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame for creating three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-in Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.

He was also named by Crain's B to B Magazine as one of the "100 most influential people in Business Marketing".

His latest book on marketing best practices is titled, "Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay." 2010-12-08-ernan.jpg

Ernan is also the author of the widely read blog, "Ernan's Insights on Marketing Best Practices", (, and author of "Opt-in Marketing" and "Integrated Direct Marketing".