How Social Media Can Keep You From Becoming the "New Coke"

Last week Twitter lit up with complaints about Maker’s Mark’s reducing the alcohol level in its bourbon. The company relented, but is that smart business?
Contributing Writer,
February 19, 2013

Remember when Coke reformulated its signature drink? The resounding failure (and subsequent creation of “New Coke”) was one of the most memorable marketing mishaps of the 1980s. It’s hard to imagine that happening today. By tapping into social media, all brands, big and small, have an advantage that even a huge conglomerate like Coca-Cola didn't have back then—the power to learn what customers want in real-time. And they can turn on a dime.

Take the recent example of Maker’s Mark bourbon. When the company announced plans to reduce the alcohol level in its signature bourbon from 45 percent to 42 percent, fans went nuts (and not in a good way) on Twitter and other social media platforms. A few days later, Maker’s announced it would not change its formulation after all—and the carping stopped.

The question this raises for me is how far do you go in listening to customers? Maker’s reformulated its bourbon in response to product shortages, with the goal to produce more bourbon without having to raise prices. Will the same customers who screamed about “watered down bourbon” be willing to pay more if Maker’s has to raise prices? Or will that be cause for another social media meltdown, and if so what will Maker’s do? Yes, listening to your customers on social media is a smart idea, but in the end your decisions still need to be informed by your business model.

[Advertising Age]

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