Monday, August 23, 2010

Don't Make The Zima Mistake!

Though I consider myself a beer snob, somehow my mind recently troweled up Zima from its' dark recesses. Anyone remember that stuff? If you've managed to repress your memory of it, I'm sorry to bring it back up (although, if you were like me, "bring it back" up was exactly what you wanted to do after tasting it!). If you don't remember it or weren't around during its' heyday, consider yourself lucky.

Zima was what manufacturer Coors described as a "refreshing malt beverage." In reality, it was essentially Coors Light mixed with Sprite. Coors took their lowest grade beer, filtered it through charcoal to remove color and flavor, then added lemon and lime flavoring to create that malt-based, clear, ummm, beverage that was far more disgusting than refreshing.

To provide a bit of context, during the early 90's a bar with a "big beer selection" offered Coors, Coors Light, Bud, Bud Light and, for the connoisseurs, an import or two such as Heineken or Fosters. Needless to say, a clear malt beverage suddenly stood out from the crowd and it was that difference that encouraged curiosity and sampling.

As it turned out, getting people to try Zima was the easy part. Marketing it to a wide audience to encourage repeat consumption proved more difficult and this is where things went from bad (Zima) to worse for Coors.

Problem one came when Coors conducted follow up research for see who was actually drinking Zima. To their dismay, Coors found that women were the primary consumers. That disappointment came from the fact that Coors wanted to position Zima as a lighter alternative for men who didn't want to chug beer all night, not women (who traditionally consume less than men). Sadly, establishing the first real "chick beer" didn't make Coors happy...No, they had to market it to a wider audience the same way they'd done their other products...via television.

That was all well and good, save for the fact that Coors chose to market Zima using a character/spokesperson that no man aspired to be and no woman wanted to be with. In fact, this vaguely ethnic, hat-wearing 90's hipster (who pronounced all his "S'" words with a "Z", get it?) apparently didn't appeal to anyone at all (although the "stars" of MTV's would seem to indicate that he somehow did manage to reproduce). In a word, it zucked...

Needless to say, after the initial curiosity wore off and even the people who did like it didn't want that much more, Zima's sales nosedived. And, though the company later changed their TV to show young 90's hipsters of both sexes enhancing their trendy lifestyles with delightfully refreshing Zima, it only managed to grab any market share among women and gay men.

So, what's the lesson here (besides not trying to schlep novelty, crap beer to men)? Four words: Know your target audience! The first mistake Coors made was assuming men would like Zima as a lighter option. The second was still pursuing the male demographic even after their research and sales numbers showed more women were drinking it than men. Their final mistake was not testing their TV to see that no one, target audience or otherwise, liked their spokesperson.

If you're like most businesses, you don't have the money to spend on a national campaign like Coors did. That means you have to make every dollar count. And that means taking the time to know who your audience is to insure your marketing hits its' target.

Not sure who your buying public is? Start by looking at who buys your products and how it's used via observation or surveys. Ever notice how many stores offer incentives to fill out their surveys after your purchase? Whether they offer a free sandwich or five bucks off your next purchase, it's a small price for a vendor to pay to get accurate information on who their customer is (and it guarantees a repeat visit).

If an incentive-based survey isn't for you, there's plenty of demographic data available on the net, some free, some for a nominal cost. Find your product or service, narrow down your largest consumer group, and tailor your marketing message to them.

Finally, don't overlook the analytics available for free via the web. See who's visiting your website, track where they came from and where they're going once there. Consider a website-based survey of your visitors. And don't forget Search Engine Optimization. Look at the keywords your website visitors used to find your website and make sure to incorporate those terms in all your marketing materials.

Knowing your target audience is easy, but marketing to them is essential. Need help finding your target audience and the right marketing message? Give us a call and we'll talk it out over a beer. And I promise, no Zima!