The Internet: Get It?

THERE’S A LOT of discussion these days about whether various people or companies “get” the Internet. This is not a major concern for us at Beverage Spectrum, as we, in fact, are creatures “of” the Internet. We don’t so much get it as are gotten by it, are glued to it, spend half our time lost in it, and enjoy forwarding amusing things back and forth that we have found in it.

They say write about what you know, and it’s with this in mind that I tell you I know the Internet. Or, at least, the various news and product sites I patrol hourly. Here’s the thing I get about the Internet: online, there is a justification or rationalization for every single thing written, recorded, or argued, and there are a lot of t-shirts for sale.

The idea that so much of our time is now spent online does offer a wide variety of opportunities for beverage companies and retailers to have an impact. For example, knowing my wife was headed up to tax-free New Hampshire (New Hampshire having voted long ago to officially change its state name to “Tax Free New Hampshire), I hopped on the New Hampshire State Liquor Store web site to find out what cheap cases of red wine were available at their 77 locations. It seems to me that this should be a fairly easy trick for chain stores to implement, particularly given the amount of work they are currently putting into category management.

There’s also a lot of knowledge and opinion available online. While a lot of that is political, there’s also a galaxy of sites orbiting around every trend or niche interest one can think of, from the best cheeseburger in Omaha to the various kinds of men who look like Kenny Rogers.

With so much to absorb – and so many misspelled captions laid over photos of cats – it’s easy to take your eye off the ball when it comes to harnessing the Internet for the purpose of making and selling beverages. To spare you the trouble of having to “get” the Internet, however, these are some observations that, having bothered to read this far, you should download to your own personal knowledge base:

1. The niches of common interest that form on the Internet are the same kinds of groups that can sustain a product. Bawls is an example of a product line that has found a variety of different, marketable niches rather than a broad, one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. If you’re launching or selling a new product, go for the right niche.

2. Environmental awareness is not going away, and bloggers, activists and nonprofits who find equal footing for their messages with marketers and manufacturers have produced a lot of the environmental zeitgeist. You can’t beat them. Join them. Start selling your environmental initiatives online.

3. As part of 2, remember – the Internet is the home of the “Master Debunker.” The Master Debunker is a semi-journalistic, semi-consumerist blogger or organization who will find out what is in your product, what claims you make are truthful, and where to get it for cheap. Do not try to lie to the Master Debunker. They will leave you naked and hurting, with all your calories and additives hanging in the wind. Look at the up-and-down fate of “All-Natural” 7-Up for a clue to that.

4. Just because something is an Internet fad, that doesn’t mean it’s going to translate into a good beverage. The better move is to understand what the fad represents: the answer to a question asked by Internet users. Jones Soda did this well for years –using the Web to let users express their individuality.

5. When all else fails, post a photo of a cat enjoying your product. Make sure to misspell everything the cat says.