Stop Listeningomics

For Chapter 8 -- "Sometimes You Just have to Lego"

By Published on .

In my last post, I described how the founders of Brewtopia -- who conceived of their business during a drunken round of golf -- systematically tapped public opinion before they tapped their first pint of Blowfly beer.

Though the partners were beverage-business novices, they did have solid instincts for self-promotion, managing to convert a comedy of errors into a kind of reality show that captured a lot of publicity and, briefly, the imagination of Sydney beer drinkers.

Alas, as a bona fide competitor, the Blowie wasn't long for the world. In short order, the negligible distribution and cost of subcontracting the actual brewing conspired to choke profitability. The noble experiment – in golfing terms – was falling apart on the back nine.

But then the phone rang. Someone named Reg, who happened to be nicknamed "The Blowfly," was having a birthday. Could the boys slap some custom labels on a case of Blowies as a special treat?

No worries, they said. Reg's got a big thrill. Not only that, he told his mates at his workplace about it, and Reg happened to work at an advertising agency. Next thing, one of the agency's clients wanted some beer with custom labels.

Ten thousand cases of it. And very soon, Brewtopia was doing 5,000-9,000 cases per month not of Blowfly, but of Larry's Beer, Bullseye Rocks Brew, Michele & Lewis's wedding day beer and any other label that paying customers might wish to personalize – including names far dirtier than Blowfly. Brewtopia sells a case of Blowie here and there, but it is now almost exclusively a custom bottler of beer, wine and water, for individuals, corporate promotions (Citibank, Amex, Yahoo!, Paramount Pictures, the Foo Fighters) and restaurant private labels.

(Click here to design your own label!)

Also, management now decides everything. Brewtopians at large have lost their voice.

"We used the great unwashed to a point in time," Mulhall shrugs. "I'd like to implement some of the things people suggest, but they're not always in the interest of the shareholders. There is 'open source,' and there is 'making money.' If you left it up to the people, you'd be giving beer away for free."
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