"Before we went on Facebook, the largest fan base for a wine that we could find had only 1,000 members," says Lisa Kalfus, marketing director for Toasted Head, a division of Constellation Brands, Inc.
The Facebook page, created by online agency Renegade, offers a variety of applications related in some way to the brand's name and mascot image, a fire-breathing bear. These include a "burning question" of the week; tips on how to "fire up" your life; videos and photos showing fans engaged in firing up their own lives; and wine and pairing suggestions from the "Wine Guy" (the brand's head winemaker).
Toasted Head is also employing Facebook's SocialCalendar to reach over nine million users with mad-lib-style toasts, a "fired up" quiz and a roadblock campaign on the home page to ensure maximum presence within the application.
Toasted Head started with its own informal lists of friends and family, plus targeted Facebook advertising for a few weeks, to drive users to its fan page.
But the brand's rapid growth on the social media site speaks most to its somewhat cult-like following among "adventurous spirits" who identify with its "playfully rebellious" attitude, says Kalfus.
"We wanted to create a page that fit with that spirit -- more of a forum for the existing community than a typical branded site selling product -- and we're extremely happy with the results," she says. Now that it's in touch with fans via Facebook, Toasted Head will seek to recruit brand ambassadors and move into other social media as well, she adds.
"Some people say that social media don't work for marketing, but we think this demonstrates that it's very possible to make a low-cost campaign work very well, if the brand does have a community and you serve its needs," says Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade.
Toasted Head, launched in 1995, sells for about $11.50 and is now the #7 ultra-premium brand in sales as measured by IRI, according to Kalfus.