What it says on the tin
Arvo is a crowdsourced brand of beer, where everything from name and design to flavour was voted on in social media. The question is whether this approach significantly broadens its appeal, or whether it simply makes Arvo the the ultimate mirror-brand, which in its attempt to be the jack of all trades ends up being the master of none.
The brand deserves credit for having engaged people by allowing them to co-create their product. It can be risky. Action drives behaviour change, and investment in time and cultural capital should ensure a certain amount of success, depending, of course, on how many people were actively involved in the project.
I do wonder, however, whether the risk involved has less to do with the quality of the final result and more to do with a possible backlash against it. What happens to the attitude of those participants whose suggestions were ditched or whose votes went to losing ideas? Wouldn’t many become negative to the ideas they didn’t support? Wouldn’t they, once they backed the losing candidtae, lose interest and the feeling of ownership in the project? To justify their choices they might develop negative feelings towards the finished product, those who created it and those who consume it. The risk of losing once dedicated crowdmembers would increase exponentially with every item that is put out for voting. Having one’s preffered idea win on every single occasion, and thus genuinely feel this is the perfect beer, is thus a bit like winning the lottery. Which means there won’t be many hardcore fans left at the end.
These are not assertions, but questions. Perhaps people are satisfied with having been part of the process. Perhaps the real target market are those of us who didn’t participate, but who thought it sounded like a cool idea (but who didn’t stop to analyse it).
Don’t get me wrong, the concept is really interesting, and I like the result (haven’t tasted it yet though). The main reason for my scepticism is my strong belief in brands as leaders. People look for someone to lead the way on ideological and cultural topics, not for someone to do exactly what they think the customers want (they have no idea anyway). Brands taking this approach risk becoming bland and boring, devoid of personality and attitude, confusing and soon to be forgotten. A bit like the policies of our two major political parties, who, after having paid too much attention to focus groups and too little on the ideologies that once upon a time constituted their foundation, are suffering an identity crisis.
Arvo may be able to surf the novelty wave to differentiated success, but the next brand who gives crowdsurfing a go might as well call itself “Beer”.