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Caution: If you are a vegan or vegetarian beware – the following post contains meat.

I love chili-cheese hot dogs.  Every once in a while I take my sons to Sonic and treat myself to a famous foot-long quarter-pound Coney. While attending the SAPPHIRE NOW conference in May, I overheard a conversation about a hot dog creation that puts the Coney to shame. But before I fire up this hot dog story, I need to put on my marketing hat and touch upon a challenge that faces many companies:

How can a business engage, serve, and gather feedback from customers they don’t interact with?

Think of the retail model for consumer products as you stock up on cosmetics, toothpaste, or diapers at drug store. CVS and Walmart own the customer connection at the point of sale, not Maybelline, Colgate-Palmolive, or Proctor & Gamble. 

Thankfully, social media allows companies to engage with customers like never before. One real-life example is the story of a super-sized hot dog known as the Boomstick.

Feeding the Crowd

Delaware North is a hospitality management company serving half a billion people on three continents. The company provides food and retail service operations for organizations and facilities across the globe, including 12 Major League Baseball teams, 7 National Football League Teams, the Boston Bruins, Wembley Stadium, and the Kennedy Space Center.

In an effort to better serve customers, Todd Merry, CMO for Delaware North, outlined three critical issues for his company: 

  • How do we understand our customer’s customer?
  • How can we deliver a better experience?
  • How can we do it cost effectively when interactions are fleeting?      

Delaware North might work behind-the-scenes but it was definitely looking to get closer to the fans that buy hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jacks.  Social media was the answer.  

Boom: A Two Pound Hot Dog

In 2012, a new snack was primed for introduction at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Measuring two feet and weighing in at two pounds, the Boomstick is quite a hot dog. But the culinary experts didn’t stop there. With chili, cheese, jalapenos, and onions, this behemoth tips the scales at close to three pounds.

Since its inception, the Boomstick was positioned as a “man’s” meal, appealing to hungry dudes looking to conquer the latest digestive challenge. Just think Man vs. Food at the ballpark. But something funny happened along the way. As Delaware North monitored conversations around the Boomstick - using SAP Social Media Analytics by NetBase - they noticed that initial reactions were mixed with some negative sentiment around the product being “excessive” and “a bit too much.”  

As social conversations continued, a new theme around the Boomstick began to percolate. Parents started chiming in, not as individuals consuming the two pound creation, but as breadwinners impressed with the Boomstick's great value for its ability to feed a family. That's when the light bulb turned on for Delaware North. The company shifted the positioning of Boomstick, branding it as a family oriented meal. As Delaware North's CMO Todd Merry puts it: “This is a family product. Stop trying to sell it to frat guys. Sell it to people who actually see it as a good value.”

As a result, Delaware North changed how they were talking about the Boomstick and sales went up. The Texas Rangers also saw the value in the new positioning and started encouraging families to come to the park and share a Boomstick.

Reading the Social Buzz

Social media analytics helped the Texas Rangers and Delaware North to:  

  • Listen to customers by analyzing social media in different ways for different venues and services
  • Introduce a new product by seeding conversations and generate buzz
  • Reposition the product in a way that met market demand by developing new services and share insights with customers  

If you live in Rangers territory, grab a Boomstick at the next game and have a bite for me…and one for each of my sons. Just tweet me a picture.

To hear more, watch the video of Mr. Merry’s SAPPHIRE NOW presentation here. To learn more about the Boomstick, Like the Boomstick Facebook page here.

Follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Like this story? Sign up for the SAP Business Trends newsletter here.