“Steaming” Ahead with Product Development and Design

Catherine Mills    June 14, 2016

In Spring of 1998 after recently being fired from a brewery, three friends set out on a canoe trip.  That canoe trip would lead to a campfire conversation that would change all of their lives. Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps and Greg Cromwell “The Three Fired Guys” wanted to make a Pilsner that would compete with the best in the world. They did just that! Their brewery is named Steam Whistle, drawing from the inspirational sounds of steam rushing from factory whistles, signalling the end of a fulfilling workday and a time for personal reward.1 The Three Fired Guys built their company with a retro feel, when marketing of goods relied on the trust between manufacturer and consumers. Steam Whistle understands the importance of listening to their consumers and makes ever effort to do so by utilizing social media.

Social media allows for companies to interact directly with their customers in real time.  Whether it is seeking feedback, consumer preferences, market trends or testing new ideas, companies are able to utilize web 2.0 to build better products and offer better services.  Steam Whistle uses Facebook, TwitterInstagram and their Blog as conduits for consumer feedback.

“We use a combination of all three when we are eliciting feedback to ensure we are gathering as much information as possible.

It’s incredible how generous people are with their ideas and time. For short answers (i.e. caption this, name our glass, this or that type questions) Twitter and Instagram reign supreme. For longer, more in-depth feedback Facebook still works really well for us.  I’m also continually impressed by how many people read and comment on our blog posts with feedback.” says Kendra Nicholson, Community Manager for Steam Whistle.

Steam Whistle’s website hosts a “Beer Survey” in which they ask their customers for feedback on their product, branding, marketing and competition.

“We received over 500 surveys last year.  The great thing about our web survey is it opens up a two way dialogue with our customer. We read every survey and send a personalized response with an invitation to come visit our cathedral of beer- which is the best way for us to deepen a relationship with a follower that is already actively engaged with our brand.” says Kendra Nicholson, Community Manager.




Although there are several ways to utilize social media in product development and design (Data Mining, Crowdsourcing, Social Media Listening, Online Focus Groups and Supply Chain Involvement) Steam Whistle mainly uses crowdsourcing and data mining.

“We really have one of the most wonderfully engaged fan bases in Canada. Giving them a platform is the easiest way for us to deepen our consumers’ connection to our brand and give them a say in how we build our business.”  says Kendra Nicholson, Community Manager.

The Ontario Liquor Control Board, The Beer Store and BEER CANADA (national beer industry association) all publish regular reports in which Steam Whistle uses for data mining. These reports provide a wealth of information ranging from sale volumes by beer type, to packaging format and so on.  Steam Whistle refers to this information in conjunction with insights from their own sales representatives to track consumer trends in beer, the competitive market and feedback from buyers. Although Steam Whistle only makes one beer, continual research still proves useful for other components of their business like gift pack offerings, packaging formats and merchandise.

Lessons for Others

Social media applications are becoming more embedded into our everyday lives, both professionally and personally. 2 Utilizing social media for product development and design in business can help boost higher sales and a stronger level of loyalty from your customers. Steam Whistle’s motto is “Do One Thing Really, Really Well”. This is evident when you drink their beer and when they engage with their customers.

Organization: Steam Whistle
Industry: Brewery
Name of Organization Contact: Kendra Nicholson,

Authored by: Catherine Mills

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.


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