Vitaminwater to Crowdsource New Flavor Through Facebook App

Vitaminwater, the beverage brand that has become nationally-known this decade through clever marketing efforts, is making another innovative move today — on Facebook. It has launched its own application, called “flavorcreator,” that appears within its Page and intends to get users creating their own virtual vitaminwater beverages.

While the app has all sorts of games, contests and other features, what it really is trying to do is gather market research about the sorts of flavors that Facebook users like. More on that in a second.

On its face, the app is a notably complex effort by a big brand to build a meaningful experience on Facebook, even as many others are still experimenting with basic Facebook page functionality like wall postings.

The app is actually a three-step game, and it has not gone fully live yet.

The first step asks Facebook users to vote on their favorite drink flavors, although voting only goes live on the 14th of this month. The app currently shows a list of top ten flavors, along with a swirling virtual cloud with names of different flavors. To generate the list, vitaminwater is scouring Google, Twitter, Flickr and a food site called foodgawker to try to track top flavors that people are talking about across the web. Facebook is not a part of that mix, presumably because most information about popular flavors on Facebook is not publicly available.

However, to get fans involved in this step before the voting starts, vitaminwater lets you click on the name of any flavor in the cloud. You can see a close-up view of automated information about each flavor pulled from the sites it searches around the web. So, for example, when I clicked on “mint” I could see a virtual bottle with a list of mint-related stories on Google News. Scrolling through, I could also see the latest on “mint” from Flickr and the other sites. There’s also a feature to “like” any given flavor — when you like a flavor, the app asks permission to post the flavor on your Facebook profile wall.

Even though the first step is not fully functional, you can already access the second step. “Through a series of fun and easy games we will test your skills, physical health, mental state, and your potential earning power,” as the company explains this step on the site. These games are very simple. In the first one, you try to run through a street dodging obstacles like lightning bolts and snakes. In the second one, you’re in a gym, racing on a treadmill against a bodybuilder type to try to win the affections of a girl. In the third game, you try to run through a maze-like park while dodging weirdos. The fourth game is actually a health quiz. Once you’ve played all four, vitaminwater gives you a recommended vitamin. In my case, it was “everything but the kitchen sink,” including caffeine. I’m not sure where my potential earning power was factored in. Once you were done playing the game, the app also asks if you want to share your performance on your Facebook wall.

Once you’ve played around with the voting and the games, you can see a dashboard detailing your game performance and the types of vitamins that vitaminwater thinks you need.

The third step, however, won’t be live until the 5th of October. It will be a label contest, where you design a graphic, a name and a blurb for your drink. And, the prize for the top label is $5,000; to raise the profile of the contest, vitaminwater is having celebrities Carrie Underwood and long-time business partner 50 Cent help choose the winner. You can have up to three Facebook friends to help you create a label — presumably, if you win you’d split the money up to four equal ways.

In sum, the game looks very slick, although the user experience is not quite at the same level. In testing the app out, I was confused to discover that step one wasn’t fully live, yet I was already able to go and play step two. I have to wonder how many users will think that step two is not yet available, and not bother accessing those games as a result.

Conceptually, however, the integration between other web sites and Facebook was perhaps the most striking part of the app. Vitaminwater is essentially testing out internet-wide buzz versus the specific preferences of each Facebook user. The in-app features for sharing information with Facebook friends, including the “likes,” the wall postings and the comments, all are on the surface about getting more people using the app.

But what vitaminwater seems to really have in mind is a massive market research project. By combining web-wide information with as many Facebook users as possible, the company is gathering new insights into what sort of new flavor users will want the most, in terms of flavors, vitamins and bottle design.

Coca Cola-owned vitaminwater will announce the new, crowd-sourced flavor in December, with the product slated to hit the shelves next March. If the company can use this app to figure out a popular new flavor, this market research could translate to lots of new revenue next year.