Following the cooperation between soft drink company Calpis and noodle maker Acecook with Mixi in 2008, we have yet another case of social media integration into product development in Japan. Major convenience store chain Family Mart is concluding its campaign [J] where they release new rice ball flavors according to the suggestions of Twitter users [J]. During September, twitter users imagined and tweeted new flavors of rice balls for Family Mart – which were then selected based upon a popularity ranking on the campaign website.
As of November 30th, Family Mart released the top five rice balls including 1) fish egg cheese 2) seaweed beef and egg and 3) bacon and cheese, with many more flavors to follow. Family Mart also published some of the more interesting ideas which they eventually turned down – two popular ones being “russian roulette” rice ball – where you have a 1/3 chance of having a wasabi-filled rice ball, or a Fami-Chicken rice ball, with a piece of Family Marts trademarked fried chicken in the middle. You can find more detailed photos / dissection of the products over at Gigazine [J].
As Twitter rises into one of the dominant, marketing friendly social networks in Japan, its use in mainstream product campaigns has risen like with Georgia Coffee’s twitter novel campaign, or Sony Vaio’s outdoor installation displaying tweets. Depending on the success of this rice ball campaign and the sales of the product, Family Mart may have taken a small but important step forward in integrating social media into other parts of business like product development.