LONDON (AdAge.com) -- A Norwegian dairy brand has a novel approach to new-product development: A herd of 10 tweeting cows in a field will choose the next flavored-milk drink TINE launches, with input from Facebook visitors.
Dairy marketer TINE and Oslo-based DIST Creative, part of Aegis Group, is promoting Litago, a flavored-milk brand popular with young people in the Nordic country.
A farmer is allowing DIST to divide a field into 25 plots, each of which has been assigned a different flavor of milk. Over a five-day period, ending on Friday, the agency says the amount of time in which the 10 cows spend in each plot is being tracked using "sophisticated technology." At the end of the experiment, the plot that the cows have spent the most time in will be declared the winner, and the new flavor corresponding to that patch will be developed.
At the moment, a rice-pudding flavor is in the lead, followed by spearmint, passionfruit and then pomegranate. Other curious combinations that could stage a last-minute rally are chocolate and salted almond, pancakes with syrup, and vanilla cola. The 25 flavors were chosen by users through a Facebook poll.
Footage of the cows is being streamed live on a dedicated website, which also hosts clips of highlights from daily activities that could influence the cows' movements, such as a noisy visit from a high-school marching band. Online users can choose where the band is situated in the field and see if the cows are scared away by the band towards another plot.
The campaign encourages Norwegians to interact with the campaign via Facebook and Twitter, where each of the 10 cows has its own profile. The cows automatically tweet when they move from one plot to another.
The online cow contest builds on previous successful efforts by DIST Creative to engage with Litago's audience of students, polling them on developing new flavors. Since DIST Creative took over the TINE account two years ago and switched the marketing focus from TV to interactive, sales of Litago have gone up by 200%.
Morten Isachsen, director at DIST, said that the leap in sales has been driven largely without paid-for media because of the huge uptake of the campaign -- in a country of fewer than five million people, Litago has 50,000 fans on Facebook.
"Not all the new flavors become best sellers," Mr. Isachsen admitted, "but the launch is a super-important phase. There will be a lot of press and buzz surrounding it, and it should be a fun story in the shops and schools where the drink is sold. Most importantly, the Litago Original product sells more than ever because of this kind of innovation."
Three-year-old DIST Creative is part of Aegis Media's global network of mostly digital agencies. DIST bills itself as a "creative marketing agency" and claims a point of difference with other creative shops because all 14 DIST staffers have previously worked on the client side, rather than at ad agencies. Other DIST clients include Burger King and Google.