On November 14, Heinz released their newest ketchup flavor, their first in over a decade. The new ketchup variety is a blend of their classic tomato ketchup with balsamic vinegar, which substitutes balsamic for the traditional white vinegar. Rather than selling it in stores, Heinz planned to only release the ketchup for purchase through the brand’s Facebook page. The company had no intention of advertising the new ketchup, but rather relied on social media to spread the word. Heinz planned to later release the product in select retailers including, Wal-Mart and Safeway in late December 2011 until March of next year. They will then offer the new ketchup permanently if the product sells well.
Heinz’s efforts went amiss when they experienced technical problems on the first day of its launch, November 14. The e-commerce app prevented users from buying the product and the glitch was not fixed until about 9:00 PM the same day. So how did Heinz respond to the problem? They turned this mishap into an opportunity. Heinz responded to the issue by shipping free bottles to the 16,000+ fans whose orders were hindered during the hours it took to fix the technical problems. On top of that, they offered a free additional bottle plus free shipping to every paid order placed after the glitch until the end of the next day.
Despite the failed Facebook launch, Heinz’s Facebook likes have jumped from 40,000 to a whopping 877,000. In addition to that, Heinz is still ranked #1 in Overall Customer Satisfaction by the America Customer Satisfaction Index. They have a score of 89, which is eight points higher than the food industry average. Consumers also responded well to the new ketchup, declaring that it does a nice job of adding a sophisticated spin to ketchup. People enjoy that it’s unique tasting and appeals to all fundamental human tastes, including: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.
It was a clever strategy for Heinz to market their balsamic ketchup through Facebook. The same strategy actually proved successful earlier this year in the UK, where it’s now available in grocery stores. By launching the new ketchup on Facebook, Heinz enabled all ketchup lovers to tell their friends about it, which generated word of mouth buzz and increased purchase intent. Also, by naming their product a “limited edition”, it increased its status which enabled a higher price point and limited the risk of damage to the brand if the reception to the product was indifferent. Heinz has figured out a great way to maintain the integrity of the brand while testing out a new product.
Check out their Facebook app below!