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It's not exactly breweries throwing open their doors to let the public craft their own mix of hops and barley, but Budweiser's announcement of a new, "crowdsourced" beer is yet another example of a recognized multi-national brand using its crowd of customers as one giant focus group, and reaping the ancillary marketing benefits all the way to the bank.
Early next year, Budweiser will introduce "Black Crown," created by brewmaster Bryan Sullivan of Los Angeles, an amber lager with six percent alcohol by volume. Sullivan was one of twelve brewmasters who were called upon by Budweiser in early Spring of this year to participate in Project 12: A challenge to twelve brewmasters to create a new beer recipe to add to Budweiser's prominent line of beers.
After months of consumer testing by thousands of consumers at several events, Budweiser narrowed its twelve entries down to three. These three recipes were sold as a limited edition sampler pack that was released October 29th. Budweiser named each of the final three selections after the ZIP code of their creators, who hailed from Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Williamsburg, Virginia.
Budweiser invited thousands of consumers to taste test each of the Project 12 entries. This included over 10,000 attendees at the Budweiser Made in America music festival held in Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend. The twelve brewmasters were also present at the festival to sample each of the twelve recipes and offer each other feedback. At other tasting events, Budweiser brand ambassadors asked consumers to describe each beer's taste, flavor, freshness, and style before picking their favorites. Attendees to the tasting events were also able to enter feedback at iPad stations.
After completing taste testing, releasing the sampler, and gathering valuable consumer feedback, Budweiser declared Sullivan the winner of the Project 12 competition.
It's great to see Anheuser-Busch paying lip service to crowdsourcing, but this smacks more of crowd-surfacing (listen to this installment of the Crowded Room for a definition). We still wait for the day when one of these crowd-based contests for a major brand goes truly open-source and allows for suggestions, critiques and more. To truly co-create a product with the crowd requires taking all feedback -- the good, bad and the ugly -- otherwise, it's mostly just marketing.
- Crowdsourcing.org's Tiffany Howard and Eric Mack contributed to this report.