Picture tens of thousands of fans waiting by their computers, refreshing a website to pre-order the hot new product. Is it the iPhone 6? Oculus Rift? Nope, it’s a bag of chips.
How do you pre-sell chips on the internet? Through the power of community.
Quest’s product launch strategy is unique within the food and fitness industries. By building a massive community, we are able to market and build buzz for new products to over 1 million consumers. We fuel Quest’s online ecosystem with high value content (videos, images, blogs) that fans love to talk about and share on our social channels and their own. And when it comes to launching a new product, our fans get just as excited as we do.
Read on for the three stage product strategy. Note: All social posts are embeds from the original source so the Likes, Shares and Comments are in real time.
Stage 1: HYPE
It had been almost 8 months since we launched our latest Quest Bar flavor, Cookies and Cream. Fans were hungry for something new. When we teased the above image the fans were ignited and immediately began speculation in the comment thread, on personal social channels, message boards and blogs. Most assumed we were releasing another Quest Bar flavor. The image contained a clue however; to a discerning fan, the wrapper was clearly not from a Quest Bar.
The next day we made it clear we weren’t just releasing a new protein bar flavor, but a whole new product line. At this point, speculation shifted from bar flavor ideas to new product ideas. Some users went so far as looking up our trademark filings in hopes of discovering what the new product was.
It’s fun to see fans getting excited and it would be easy to prolong the hype stage for weeks. But this is a short marketing cycle. 15-second attention spans mean that your marketing campaign will only stay top of mind for a few days. Build hype for too long and fans will either forget about your product or get tired of the message. React in real time. Think of yourself as the director of a film, adjusting performances to get a specific audience reaction.
Quest Memes consistently garner the highest engagement, so we used them as part of the chips hype cycle. These images get a lot of shares, tags and regrams, which help circulate the message to an extended audience who may not engage with the Quest brand.
People have been burned for decades with the notion of ‘healthier’ chips which have slightly fewer carbs and a little more protein, but are not actually good for you. We had to make it clear that our product really was different from a nutrition standpoint but still tasted as good as traditional potato chips.
The first few hundred bags of Quest Protein Chips that came off the production line were next-day aired to key influencers. The influencers received a cryptic email letting them know we had sent them a new product and asking them to record their reaction. The turnaround would be tight. We needed their reaction videos back within 24 hours so we could edit the clips into a teaser and a reveal video. The influencers would then post their reaction videos to their social channels the day after.
STAGE 2: REVEAL
While the fans couldn’t sample the chips themselves, if taste-testing influencers liked the new product, chances are the fans would too. While a bigger brand may have controlled product sampling and feedback tightly, we wanted honest reactions. The influencers didn’t receive talking points or rules dictating what the could or couldn’t say. All we wanted was the truth — and we were willing to share that truth with the rest of our fans in a very transparent way.
Videos often gets lower engagement for us, especially on Facebook. This image announced the Protein Chips along with the flavor assortment and release information. Ultimately, the video generated thousands of organic impressions with an amazing reach and outperformed the image. Our core fan base and their friends all knew about Quest Protein Chips before we even began accepting orders. Our ‘talking about’ on Facebook jumped 60% and new fan acquisition increased 66% over the week prior.
Our influencers began uploading their full unboxing videos to Instagram and YouTube which have over 180,000 views on YouTube.
STAGE 3: RELEASE
Unique views to QuestNutrition.com spiked to over 220% above normal throughout the day. Our Amazon Web Services hosting scaled to match the task, unlike years prior when our site would go down minutes after we opened up a pre-sale.
There’s social capital gained from being the first amongst your friends to post a picture of the new Quest product. It’s a signal that you are not only part of the club, but a top-ranking early adopter within it.
Our #HappyFriday image became our most Liked image on Instagram, ever. It was the first image of the Protein Chips in the hands of a consumer. We had a different image ready to post for this day, but a fan submitted image was far more powerful than what we generated internally. It’s a case of letting go of your marketing and giving the fans control.
The entire week saw a unique traffic lift of nearly 100% with sales to match.
Bonus stage – STAGE 4: RETAIL
One benefit of releasing direct-to-consumer first is that we get feedback on the new product, ranging from taste to how it arrives when we ship. Hearing directly from our fans allows us to make changes before going out to our 10,000+ retail partners. When done correctly, it’s only a matter of days before fans post asking when they can purchase the new product at GNC, Vitamin Shoppe, 24 Hour Fitness or other sports nutrition retailer. With Protein Chips, the requests started before the pre-sale even began.
It was clear that our fans wanted Quest Protein Chips in stores as soon as possible. Our retail partners felt the same way. Sending a new product through the retail channel takes time to coordinate and ship, but Protein Chips will be in stores soon. This will create a second round of fan excitement and opportunities that are unique to the in-store environment with in-person interaction.
Your relationship with your fans is like any relationship, online or off. It’s a give and take. When it comes to the fan/brand relationship I’d reframe that to give and ask. I suggest to give exponentially more than you ask for. When you do, fans will come out in a big way to enjoy the excitement and support a brand that they love. Break down your release schedule, be aware how long you can stay top of mind, react in real time and give your fans control.