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Mountain Dew drinks up social media (Q&A)

A sophisticated social-media marketing program shows how brands can extend themselves to new levels of audience engagement.

This past year we saw consumer brands embrace social-media programs for branding and product promotions in sophisticated ways that most tech companies haven't quite gotten to yet.

Much of the reason behind the tech lag is due to the breadth of the audience, but also because tech buyers have tended toward expressing their opinions to companies without being asked.

Mountain Dew recently unveiled the details of its year-long DEWmocracy 2 program, "an open communications platform that relies on the collective intelligence of loyal consumers to shape the direction of the brand and Mountain Dew innovation pipeline." In layman's terms this means it is looking to go beyond crowdsourcing and incorporate a huge variety of community marketing and branding efforts into a bigger strategy.

DEWmocracy 2 launched in July and is a 12-month, seven-stage campaign that will result in the production of a completely user-generated Mountain Dew beverage. This is not dissimilar to a program Vitaminwater ran on Facebook earlier this year to crowdsource ideas for new flavors. The main difference is that DEWmocracy is a sophisticated, fairly massive endeavor, encompassing online communities like Facebook, video submissions, Twitter, and a variety of ways to vote, allowing users to share their thoughts.

I put forth a number of questions about the program to Brett O'Brien, director of marketing, Mountain Dew, detailed below.

What stage of the program are you currently in?
We completed the advertising challenge, which is the sixth stage of DEWmocracy, on December 13. DEW fans voted for their favorite advertising submissions, choosing six finalists. The finalists will now create short pitch videos for the Flavor Nations, which will each select which ad creator they would like to work within 2010 to create ads that will run on national TV.

Has any one particular tool been most effective in your marketing efforts?
Several tools have been effective, but we're particularly impressed with the consumer response to our call for video submissions on In total, more than 1,000 videos [were] created by consumers and posted on and other social-media outlets. That type of response, coupled with the quality of the video submissions, screams a high level of consumer engagement. Consumer video submissions also enabled DEW loyalists to share content with other DEW drinkers and introduce them to the program not through the voice of the brand, but through the enthusiasm of fellow DEW fans.

How are you measuring success?
The level of engagement among DEW consumers is a key metric. At each stage of the campaign, DEW fans have shown an eagerness to interact with each other as well as the brand. A few key metrics include:

  • 4,000 members of the DEW Labs community, which is the core group of DEW loyalists guiding this overall process.
  • DEW's Facebook friends increased roughly 500% since the start of DEWmocracy 2.
  • More than 1.5 million people attended our mobile sampling tour.
  • Nearly 12,000 votes were submitted by DEW fans while selecting the color of the three new beverages.
  • Approximately 2,000 DEW consumers participated in the Twitter name race.
  • More than 1,000 videos were developed by DEW fans and posted on

While it's too early to speculate on case sales (a standard metric for the industry) stemming from DEWmocracy 2, Mountain Dew Voltage, the product that consumers developed during DEWmocracy 1 in 2007, already has sold more than 11 million cases of product.

This is a pretty big program. Did you consider smaller options?
DEWmocracy 1, which ran in 2007, engaged consumers in product development on a more limited basis, and was a great foundation to build off of and an important learning opportunity. DEWmocracy 2 is a big program, one that's grown very organically. We didn't completely know how big it was going to be when we started this past June. DEW's consumers embraced partnering with other consumers and the brand to evolve our campaign, which made managing a tremendous undertaking that much easier.

How would Dew suggest other small brands look at social media?
I think the most important thing is to not be afraid to put yourself out there. As important as it is to hear what your consumers have to say, it is equally important for them to get to know the brand by being transparent and honest and engage in dialogue that results in deeper understanding and connection on both sides.

Each stage of DEWmocracy 2 has been a new opportunity to explore and connect with our passionate fans.

Vitaminwater did a similar program. Should we expect more brands to crowdsource things?
Mere crowdsourcing isn't the end game. Frankly, a lot of the current brand and consumers collaboration currently in the marketplace looks a lot like our DEWmocracy 1 program that ran in 2007, which was an outreach to engaging consumers into the process of product development.

DEWmocracy 2 has evolved beyond crowdsourcing to a place where we're working hand-in-hand with our most passionate fans on all aspects of new product development. At its core, our program is about harnessing the passion, interest and know-how of DEW's fans to collaborate and co-create products and campaigns that are mutually owned and embraced.

Technology has advanced so much in just a few years, which makes a program like DEWmocracy 2easier to envision. But the program still relies on an intimate understanding and relationship with DEW's consumers, which may be the biggest obstacle to other brands attempting to replicate the success of DEWmocracy 2.