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June 29, 2009

Ore-Ida® and SheSpeaks Speak The Customer’s Language

In this post: Heidi delves into a fantastic example of social networking and product sampling she learned about at the WOMMU Conference (Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s University) …

Heidi StrandA few weeks past, I attended the WOMMU Conference in Miami. Several outstanding speakers and inspired me, but one in particular has stuck in my brain more than the others.

H. J. Heinz Company’s Ore-Ida division conducted preliminary research and asked moms the question ‘Why is it that if homemade potatoes are the best, you don’t make them more often?’ (I’m paraphrasing a bit, but you get the gist.)

Moms answered: ‘I have to wash them, peel them and then boil them. It’s a lot of work and I don’t have the time.’ (Again, paraphrasing.)

“A-ha” say Ore-Ida brand managers; “Here’s an opportunity!” And, a new product was born.

Steam ‘n Mash potatoes are peeled, pre-cut and partially boiled. You simply stick them in the microwave, add your butter and sour cream, mash away and serve.

Now, Ore-Ida could have stopped there and said – we listened to our customer; we developed a product; we’ve created the packaging for it; let’s put it in stores. But, they didn’t. They went one step further and continued to seek input from customers and eventually closed the loop.

Ore-Ida contracted with SheSpeaks, an online community of women who willingly provide personal profile information in which they can be targeted and solicited for their opinions. SheSpeaks sought participation amidst their network and developed a micro-community for Ore-Ida’s Steam ‘n Mash.

Approximately 16,000 women (that number is by memory) received trial packages that included a Steam ‘n Mash bag, coupons and a masher. The participants were asked to provide their thoughts and questions to the micro-site and Ore-Ida representatives would respond. The questions and comments poured in and the enthusiasm to the product was overwhelming.

Ore-Ida kept their end of the bargain and responded – but, more than that, they listened. There was general confusion pertaining to where Steam ‘n Mash would be located in the grocery store. Ore-Ida addressed those issues. There were requests for potatoes with the skins left on. Ore-Ida’s in development to launch that as well.

What’s even more interesting are the results. Ore-Ida’s brand manager did an excellent job recapping the analytics and online conversations – which came to 600,000 and some – and that was BEFORE the product even launched. (One more time – I’m stating figures by memory. The stats were flying by so fast I couldn’t keep up!) Even if my stats are a bit off, the foundation of what I’m saying isn’t. Ore-Ida asked, listened and acted based on their customers’ input. The launch was a massive success and occurred in a mere 18 months (and that factoid is 100% accurate!) 18 months – almost unheard of in normal product launch timelines!

So, not only did Ore-Ida produce an amazing product, one that will sell easily because it addresses an actual need, but it generated a great deal of buzz and excitement. This consumer-driven enthusiasm allowed the product to launch in an unbelievably short timeframe -likely saving Ore-Ida a great deal of money – and it created a stronger, trust-filled relationship between Ore-Ida and its customers.

Kudos to Ore-Ida and SheSpeaks!