Vitaminwater ventured into the world of crowdsourcing Tuesday with the launch of a new a Facebook application in which users compete to create the energy drink’s newest flavor, even down to the bottle design, to the tune of a $5,000 prize.
The new “flavor creator” app features a cartoon of a lab-coat-clad woman who instructs users to vote on their favorite flavor or combination of flavors, based on the most buzz-worthy results culled from online sources like Google News and the food photography blog Foodgawker. Ginger, for example, takes the top slot for generating buzz online.
Users can play games and take quizzes about their fitness levels to determine which kinds of vitamins and minerals should be part of their new concoction, and can also team up with other Facebookers to design a bottle for the new drink. “We’re basically handing over the control and the lab coat to our fans,” said Eric Berniker, a senior vice president of marketing for Vitaminwater. “It’s one of the hottest brands with youth, and of course, Facebook is a great way to connect with them.”
The winning flavor will be selected by country singer Carrie Underwood and rapper 50 Cent, and will hit store shelves in March of 2010. The rapper, also an investor in Vitaminwater, has already co-created his own grape flavor, “Formula 50,” and allegedly raked in some $400 million when Coca-Cola acquired Vitaminwater’s parent company, Glaceau, for $4.1 billion in 2007.
Vitaminwater is far from the first brand to seek online fan participation. The online T-shirt company Threadless paved the way for companies to benefit from the idea of consumer-as-designer, scoring big with its crowdsourcing business model of rewarding the top user-submitted T-shirt designs.
And this isn’t the first time Vitaminwater has used a social-networking presence to gain fans. It launched its Facebook page in February and has more than 400,000 fans. During the NCAA basketball tournament in March, it devoted television airtime to plugging the page. In May, Vitaminwater worked with MySpace Music to offer a free song download with the purchase of a bottle of its new Sync flavor.
The Vitaminwater line markets itself to health-conscious consumers, with its emphasis on vitamin and mineral combinations for specific benefits like “focus” and “endurance.” Earlier this year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a class-action lawsuit against Coca-Cola on the grounds that Vitaminwater made deceptive claims about the drink’s health benefits.