What Lite Beer Can Teach You About Internet Marketing

What Lite Beer Can Teach You About Internet Marketing

by Bill Hibbler

When it’s time to create a new product or marketing campaign, do you talk to potential customers first? Or do you dive right in based on what you think customers want?

Most online marketers don’t spend enough time listening to their customers. So they end up wasting valuable time, energy and resources creating products that people don’t want. Or they create a good product but market it poorly because they don’t understand what’s important to potential customers. And they don’t speak their customer’s language.

The key to creating products that sell is taking the time to listen to the marketplace.

I recently read a story in Mark Hughes excellent book, “Buzzmarketing: Get People to Talk about Your Stuff”, about how the Miller Brewing Company first developed Lite beer in the 70’s. At the time, low-calorie beer accounted for only .3 % of the market and carried a ‘sissy’ image among beer drinkers. Several brewers attempted to market a low-calorie beer and they all failed.

Miller acquired the Lite recipe from another brewer, improved it and conducted taste tests among their delivery drivers. When the drivers ranked Lite better tasting than regular beer in numerous tests, they had a strong benefit to promote in their marketing campaign: great taste. But they knew they needed more if they wanted to avoid the fate of other low-calorie beer brewers.

First, Miller surveyed 75 people in New Jersey who were drinking a rival’s low-calorie beer. What they discovered won’t come as a revelation today but thirty years ago, it shocked them.

Beer drinkers had no interest in cutting calories. They were drinking the beer because it didn’t fill them up as quickly as regular beer. That meant they could hang out at the bar with their buddies longer and down four or five beers rather than the usual two or three.

To confirm the New Jersey research wasn’t a fluke, Miller sent researchers into bars in Indiana where a low-calorie beer from Schlitz had become the #3 beer without any advertising.

Once again, they heard the same comments over and over: “It doesn’t fill me up.” Or “I can hang out longer at the bar.” This confirmed what they’d learned in New Jersey. They also learned that word of mouth was how Schlitz Light had captured the market.

A bar is the perfect environment for word of mouth. If a patron ordered a low-calorie beer, others would hear the order and ask questions. People sitting at a bar tend to talk and that light beer order was often a conversation starter.

Now Miller had the key benefits to make Lite appealing to beer drinkers. They’d promote Lite as a beer with great taste and less filling than other brands.

A TV ad campaign was conceived and launched based on the great taste and less filling concept. Remembering the effect of word of mouth, the ads were created on sets resembling a typical corner bar. They featured former athletes and macho celebrities to counter the sissy image.

Rather than have those celebrities face the camera, they were filmed chatting, laughing and having fun in the bar setting. And they’d have wacky arguments about whether “Tastes Great” or “Less Filling” was the reason to drink Miller Lite.

The Miller Lite ads became one of the most successful ad campaigns ever propelling Miller Lite to the #3 selling beer in America.

So how can you apply this to your own marketing and product development?

Simple. Go to where your customers hang out online and listen to what they have to say.

The online equivalent to the corner bar is forums and discussion groups. You can ask questions, conduct surveys or just ‘sit and listen’.

If you’re doing business in a particular niche, be aware of any forums and discussion groups for your target market. To find them, simply do a Google or Yahoo search for your subject followed by the word “Forum” or “Discussion Group”. You can also check Google Groups and Yahoo Groups.

If you can’t find a forum or discussion group in your target market, consider launching one yourself. Free software like PhpBB makes it very easy to add a forum to your website or on a new domain.

Once you find your forums, look for the hot button topics that get a big response. This is where you’ll find your best product ideas. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can always ask, “What’s your biggest problem with ______?”

Once you’ve fleshed out a few product or service ideas, you’ll want to conduct an online survey to gauge interest. Just because people in forums seek solutions to their problems doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to pay for one.

You’ll want to survey potential customers to see if this is a problem they’ll pull out their credit card to solve. If it’s an info product, you’ll want to ask whether they prefer a printed book, ebook, downloadable audio, video or some other format. You can also survey to see what titles appeal to them.

Surveys are fairly simple to do using free or paid services. I use One Minute Poll  and Survey Monkey.

When you’re surfing on forums, besides seeking problems to solve, pay particular attention to the language people use. Use similar language when writing your marketing materials.

Let’s say you’re writing an ebook on how to save money on car repairs. If you see forum posts with complaints like: “I’m sick and tired of getting ripped off by mechanics that charge me for parts that don’t need replacing!” then, in your sales letter, you could turn that statement into a question like this: “Are you sick and tired of getting ripped off by mechanics that charge you for parts that don’t need replacing?”

You’ll also want to note questions or objections people have regarding a product like yours and make sure you address those in the sales letter. For example, if you see people frequently ask, “Is it safe?” when discussing products like yours, make sure you address safety in your sales letter.

Do this effectively and visitors will feel like you understand their concerns and speak their language and are far more likely to click your order button.

So take a page out of Miller Lite’s playbook. Spend time with your customers and listen to what they have to say. They’ll reward you handsomely when you do.