In Japan, beers are born out of general elections



After the emergence of the popular girl idol group AKB48, ‘Sosenkyo’, or ‘general elections’ became a common tactic for brands and companies to obtain user feedback in the form of votes. Companies have always sought feedback from customers in more traditional ways such as postcards or surveys, but now these interactions are online. One company that has excelled in leveraging online tools is beverage company Sapporo Beer.

Sapporo Beer chose Facebook for its social marketing initiatives, with campaigns called ‘Hokkaido Likers’ and ‘Hyakunin Beer Lab’ (‘Hyakunin’ meaning ‘100 people’ in Japanese.) The idea was to not just to sell beer directly, but to create trends surrounding its products.

Hokkaido Likers began back in April of last year, and on the Facebook page local writers and photographers are encouraged to post photos or information specific to Hokkaido. Everything is posted in Japanese, as well as in English and Chinese. The total number of likes now exceeds 800,000, which is a significant following.

The Hyakunin Beer Lab launched last September. That initiative aimed to create a new line of beer based on user feedback. Every Friday night, users can join a live meeting to discuss the new beer product in Facebook comments. Sapporo Beer also held offline meetups and invited the more active users within its Facebook group to get involved. There were over 100,000 users participating in the campaign, and many elections were held to decide on the type of the beer, the name, and its label. After many Friday night meetings, the company found that people want to relax and drink beer, not with friends, but alone. After all the responses, the resulting beer was a little expensive — but it sold out a fews days after it hit the market.

Similarly other brands have held these kinds of elections. Haagen-Dazs Japan launched a new website to ask consumers which limited flavor of ice cream they want to taste see on sale again. There are over 24 limited flavors to vote for, and users can do so by signing in with their Facebook, Twitter, or Mixi account. For those who voted for the top flavor, 1,000 ice cream cups would be delivered. There have been over 160,000 votes in the month after the start of the campaign, and so far the number one flavor is Custard Pudding, followed by Chocolate Macademia and Caramel Walnuts follow.


Japanese consumers frequently see companies like Sapporo Beer appearing in traditional media like TV commercials or in magazines. But less people are watching TV these days, and they can skip commercials with the push of a button when they recorded videos. Most of the younger generation are online, and brands now have to scramble to adapt to that shift.