IQ News: Insider Mining Molson’s Community




Molson’s Brian Flanagan is one-man testimony to the fact that Canadians surf the Web in numbers which percentage-wise outnumber their American counterparts by a long shot.
“We’re pretty wired up here,” asserts Flanagan, supervisor of Internet projects and the architect behind Molson.com. According to a recent A.C. Nielsen report, roughly eight million out of a total population of 28 million Canadians surf the Web. Given the popularity of Molson, chances are a sizeable percentage of wired Canucks have dropped by Molson.com, dubbed Canada’s first authentic online community.
Flanagan has literally come a long way since 1988, when just out of college, he took a summer job in the Northwest Territories with Inco Limited, Canada’s largest nickel mining firm. Standing alone on the tundra one day, he realized that he was much more suited for city life.
A modem user for more than half his life, Flanagan earned some extra money as a teen writing a program designed to test the efficacy of Ortho Pharmaceutical’s birth control pills. After his stint at Inco, he went back to his college town of Sudbury, Ontario, and began designing software about the mining industry. He eventually landed in the media services group at Molson Breweries in Toronto, where one of his claims to fame was getting a Molson Canadian truck in the John Candy flick, Canadian Bacon.
A few years back, Flanagan figured a Web presence would be an ideal way to communicate with Molson fans spread out over a land mass that is 3.8-million square miles. Launched in July 1995, Molson.com has become a place for the digerati to mingle.
“I really get a chance to get close to people on a regular basis,” he says, noting that his duties include patrolling the Web site. Designed by CyberSight of Santa Monica, Calif., the site features a virtual pub, a chat area and fantasy hockey league. Monitoring such human interactions has made Flanagan something of a cyber anthropologist. He says marketers should not fear that if they launch a chat community it will quickly become populated with online smut peddlers and pedophiles.
“There’s always going to be that big scary corner,” Flanagan, 32, says. “But most people on the Internet usually behave themselves.”