I try not to get too bogged down in celebrity type stuff… and I am definitely not a groupie, but I do follow a few stars, especially Bethenny Frankel. Maybe it’s a girl thang, maybe it’s because I have an A-type personality, maybe it’s because she tried and failed before she had enormous success, heck maybe it’s just because as a marketer I appreciate that she figured out her brand, focused on a demographic and went for it! I find her story to be relate-able, her energy captivating and her business sense inspiring.
Bethenny is well known for her appearances on a variety of reality TV shows, her line of Skinnygirl products from cocktails to vitamins, her numerous inspirational/aspirational books, and more recently her own talk show (now cancelled). She has found her audience and she uses her playful no-holds-barred candor as a way to relate to the women she empowers, which has come to be her signature. Check out this audio clip where Ryan Seacrest interviews Bethenny (within the last year) as she shares her perspective and some insight into how she identifies with her audience.
With a highly personal appeal, Bethenny has managed to engage her audience through social media and achieve a following that is anything but skinny: over 1.37 million twitter followers to her Bethenny account, and another 100,000 across all her properties of Skinnygirl product accounts (see references below) cocktails, and over 1.4 million likes across all her Facebook properties. Sweet devil, that is awesome!
And it is no sweet surprise that she saw an opportunity to have her audience/followers/fans participate in some of her product development, particularly her new line of Skinnygirl Sparklers – a lovely line of 4 sparkling flavored waters. She used her Facebook and Twitter voice to enlist her customers into submitting suggestions for a fifth flavor – all with the promise of finalists presenting on her talk show and a healthy sum of prize money for the winner. This was a great way to actually… um… well… develop a fifth flavor, but also to get a good dose of ideas for further product development, from and for her specific target audience.
Part of Bethenny’s appeal for most women, including myself, is that she has always presented herself as hard working, genuine, believable, honest, and involved, if not totally engaged in life and her work. This lends itself quite well to the social media stage – as it really does feel like when you tweet her or post a comment that it is in fact actually her responding. Likely this feeling led to the numerous submissions Bethenny received and the excitement of the entrants, and ultimately the winner – see the finalists of the contest as Bethenny announces the winner on her talk show.
For the most part, the best thing about using social media for developing products is that not only do you have actual real feedback from your target audience, but in this day and age of people connecting to brands on a personal level, individuals feel a deeper connection as they participate in the product evolution – and the desired effect is that they will then spend more money.
Joanne Kiskis, SMBP Student, University of Waterloo
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