James Cherkoff and I have had some interesting email conversations with Liam Mulhall a co-founder of Blowfly Beer. Last night I was able to interview him in Sydney, via Skype, to find out more about his story.
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Blowfly is a beer whose marketing is inspired by Open Source (Liam’s background includes a period with the Linux consultancy, Red Hat). He explalns how they created an open source model to create demand for their beer by word of mouth – a David and Goliath tale of using networking to challenge the brewing duopoly in Australia.
Here’s how it runs…
0.22 Liam explains how Blowfly started – from his time working at Red Hat. He saw how a lot of the benefits of Open Source worked – it’s where a lot the ideas for the brewery came from
1.03 Developing open source beer. A challenge to the duopoly on brewing in Australia and the search for new ways to bring a beer to market. Thinking about consumer interaction with the advent of Big Brother. Combining getting the word out the open source way with the principle of getting the consumer involved in developing the product. It started as a marketing experiment.
3.35 90% of things they tried didn’t work. It was stick-at-itness that made it work. Making sure you woke up every morning and kept trying, and involving the consumer at every stage. They didn’t actually expect it to work and they didn’t do a lot of conventional things to succeed.
5.35 You’ve got to keep moving (reference to Madonna and continuous reinvention) and really listening to customers. We’ve gone away from selling a proprietary product to custom-made and customer-made product. People can create their own brand of beer using Blowfly as the source. A kind of mass customisation.
7.25 Offering shares in the company to people who buy the beer. The need for physical ownership, not just emotional ownership. Getting a share in the company for buying or recommending Blowfly.
8.40 How Blowfly has created stories to appeal to different media – a business story, a retailing story, a marketing story. Building a million dollar business for a product that didn’t exist from a company they’d never heard of. Playing David and Goliath, mocking the big players in the beer industry. Lifting the bonnet off the car, showing how much it costs to make beer. Being willing to be controversial.
10.58 It’s not about the beer, it never has been.. we don’t talk about the brewery, it’s more about branded entertainment.
11.20 How the other breweries have responded to Blowfly’s success – in fact it can be a collaborative relationship.
12.12 Doing beer for Yahoo, Columbia Tri Star, Paramount Pictures, MTV – often as a result of introductions from the two big breweries. How that relationship may change if Blowfly grows.
13.20 Wanting to continue with the Open Source business model, it’s where the future is. We ended up in the beer business by accident, we really shouldn’t have done it!
14.00 On not having a business plan… the busness plan is a fluid moving thing dictated by the customer. How the customers are central to their success.
15.11 The attitude of “hey, it’s beer, people won’t die without having it.” It sort of liberates you, puts things in perspective.
15.35 What other markets could benefit from an Open Source approach? Digital radio and financial services.
17.15 Liam asks for anyone who’d like to bankroll his next venture to contact him at blowfly.com.au
UPDATE: Virtual viral brewery to list ZDNet Australia: “A ‘virtual brewery’ started by former employees of Red Hat and Computer Associates could be listed on the Newcastle Stock Exchange by the end of the year.”