Heineken’s Ideas Brewery Taps into Customer Innovations

Terrah    June 11, 2013

Heineken map

Today’s consumers do just that – we consume.  We have more choice than ever before, both locally and abroad, and we want to get our hands on the latest and greatest products.

It’s this “out with the old, in with the new” mentality that seems to have shortened the life cycle for many products, forcing businesses to become more effective and more efficient in bringing new products to market.

So how are successful businesses adapting?  They’re turning to social media, and they’re asking their customers for ideas.  Customers ultimately determine if a product will be purchased, so it makes sense to engage them in the product development process.  Social media helps companies do this on a much larger scale.  In other words, these companies are crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing is a term originally coined by Jeff Howe and Mark Robinson of Wired Magazine, and is currently defined as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

heinekenHEINEKEN is tapping into the benefits of crowdsourcing with its Ideas Brewery site (and its affiliated Ideas Brewery pages on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and LinkedIn).  See what Alexis Nasard, Chief Commercial Officer Heineken N.V., has to say about the site:

To enter the Ideas Brewery site, you’re first asked to provide your date of birth, country and state.  You’re then invited to take on a specific challenge, currently to create a new beer concept for the 60+ generation, by submitting your ideas online and promoting them through social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter.

Some details about the challenge:

  • Your idea should be targeted at the 60-70 year old generation, be based on one of the three given insight themes, and must include:  1) An idea for a beer product, and/or  2) its packaging,  and/or  3) and the serving experience.
  • All entries will be judged based on:
    1. Innovation (25%) – is your entry inventive for the beer industry?
    2. Technical Feasibility (25%) – can your entry actually be developed?
    3. Commercial Feasibility (25%) – would your entry be commercially interesting?
    4. Number of votes (25%) – how many votes did you get for your idea?
  • Submissions will be accepted in the form of a written pitch (max 500 words) and must include 1-3 accompanying images, and can be supplemented by a PDF or videos.
  • After the closing date a panel of HEINEKEN experts will review all entries and choose 6 finalists who will be invited to participate in a 3-day idea-enhancement workshop in Amsterdam (travel and accommodation paid).  The ideas will be improved at the workshop and re-pitched for a chance to win a share of $10,000 in prize money.

From the crowd’s perspective, it’s not only a chance to have their very own idea produced by the brand they love, but it’s a chance to win some great prizes and have a little fun along the way.

For HEINEKEN, it starts with collecting simple demographic data and it ends with a (potentially limitless) pool of new product ideas that are shared broadly and are even ranked by the public – genius!


When I spoke with the team at Ideas Brewery about their experience with the site they said, “[We] are very happy with the results of this new crowdsourcing initiative.”  They’ve captured the results and activity of their previous challenges in the infographic to the left (click on thumbnail to enlarge).

Lessons for others:
Customers determine whether or not a new product is a success.  Let them tell you what they need, and build your products accordingly.

As Riley Gibson explains in 5 Ways Businesses Can Use Social Media as a Tool for Progress,

“Customers love having the opportunity to influence the direction of companies, but they’re unlikely to provide valuable ideas without being prompted first.”

It’s up to companies to proactively engage their customers and ask them for ideas.  And companies, such as HEINEKEN, are using crowdsourcing techniques to do this.

What HEINEKEN has done particularly well with its Ideas Brewery challenges, is they’ve encouraged creativity while also clearly defining the scope.  Being too broad in your request for ideas could be too difficult to manage.  HEINEKEN’s approach, on the other hand, generates submissions which are more focussed and more feasible to implement.

Remember, your fans and followers want you to succeed.  Why not give them an opportunity to help?

Web references:

Submitted by: Terrah Warner – SMBP Student University of Waterloo
To contact the author of this entry please email terrah.warner@gmail.com

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.