It’s one of those ideas that could just as easily backfire due to its own momentum: Ritter Sport asked the Facebook community what chocolate flavor and combinations of ingredients fans would buy as a special edition. The result in 2016 was unicorn chocolate, this year the flavor chocolate & grass with hemp seeds. Both were soon sold out and the bars were traded in the usual classified ads portals for many times the original price.
This generated a lot of buzz for Ritter Sport, virtually free of charge; the brand was talked about again – in families, at work, even serious news broadcasts reported on the campaign. In addition to this commitment to the brand and a presentation as a progressive and sustainable company, the Ritter Sport special editions showed one thing above all: there are ideas out there that product management probably would not have come up with first. And there are products that work first and foremost because they are different, and would not be possible with the usual product management resources. Ritter Sport has probably learned a lot here – about sustainable communication and forms of customer loyalty, but also what customers particularly appreciate about their products and which flavors are currently “in vogue”.
Social media: The driving force behind customer communication
Social media has made it easier for companies to stay in touch with customers, identify what features they want for a product, what they are complaining about most and what may have worsened due to savings. Even phenomena such as a customer hotline that is difficult to reach or hotline employees that are hard to understand after a relocation of the hotline to another country become apparent very quickly – often faster than via the service provider itself.
But be careful: the insights that you can gain as a marketing or business development manager are usually not representative and often not reliable in their exact quantity. They cannot be, because only a certain subset of all your customers are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and so on. On the other hand, this is also where the appeal and opportunity for a company lies: people who blog, or open up on Instagram or Facebook usually have a certain sense of mission, they want to influence and convince others. And if these people express their opinions about your product, they are in certain ways an opinion leader and brand ambassador.
Mashup and upcycling communities are also a good source of new ideas, if this fits your product group. For example, a lively community has developed around Ikea (for example here), which modifies the furniture, adds new elements to it and reports on it – in YouTube videos, on Instagram or in furnishing blogs. Ikea itself has no official opinion on this, but if you talk to employees in the field of interior design it is clear that the company is not only completely satisfied with this form of identifying free advertising: the interior designers who are tasked with designing rooms in the furniture stores (the German furniture stores are relatively free in this respect, because each store is supposed to look different) draw inspiration from such sources on the Internet and check which of their given personas could live as suggested by the ideas from the Ikea furniture hacks.
Community maintenance can generate added value
Maintaining a company’s own community is worthwhile because these are probably the buyers who maintain a close relationship with the brand, are well acquainted with the products and can competently report on their use (and weaknesses). An excellent example of such a strong brand is the Thermomix from Vorwerk: those who visit the relevant forums and communities will not only quickly find ardent admirers of the products, but also learn where weaknesses lie in the documentation, why such products do not sell primarily based on price and what a particularly large number of customers find annoying (for example when washing certain parts).
But idea generation via marketing also works excellently starting from individualization tools, such as those that are becoming increasingly common in the sporting goods environment. Thanks to more individual production, in which certain parts of a sneaker or sunglasses, for example, can now be automatically produced in any color, it is possible to determine over time which color combinations are particularly popular. And if you also know age, gender and other preferences, for example for certain types of sport, you can also determine which color and equipment combinations you should bank on for your mass products in the near future.
Free guide to download
The conclusion is clear: there are a multitude of strategies for how product marketing and product development can benefit from customer experience – in eliminating weaknesses, enhancing certain features and tracking down current product trends. To find out how you can uncover this treasure for your business, see our collection of ideas “10 ideas how you can generate decisions for your product management with clever product marketing,” which you can download for free here.