ON BEYOND ZIMA

Meet Duncan, the techno-savvy Generation X-er who is your personal guide through the Zima site--the Zimaverse--on the World Wide Web (http://www.zima.com).

Your first stop is the fridge, the storage bin for Zima and the place Duncan calls home. From here nine links take you to different areas; Duncan suggests you begin by clicking on the Leftovers bin to read about his latest adventures. Last week he took Alexandria, his new girlfriend, to the beach for a hot-oil rubdown.

If your interests are less prurient, the Zima site will tell you about restaurants from Seattle's Crocodile Cafe to Aspen's Shooter Salon--all of which, not surprisingly, serve Zima. Duncan even has a link that will hook you up to his favorite Z-spots. One is the Flowershop, where he can order Alex fresh flowers from florists across the country. He also likes to go online with Florida State's residence halls and cruise the "What's New Board" at the University of Seattle.

And then there's Tribe Z, the exclusive Zima-drinkers' club whose membership now numbers 5,000, according to Coors. To join, you need to answer a couple of questions about your drinking habits and your favorite alcoholic beverages, and you must guarantee that you are 21 (the brewer says it's very serious about making sure the site is used by adults only).

"What we tried to do in interactive marketing is to create a web site that is a metaphor for the concept of refreshment, choice and innovation," says Jim Davis, creative director of Modem Media and designer of the Zima site. "Zima is a series of pages. It's a tapestry; all the pages are like tiles in a great mosaic."

Some web surfers think the Zima page is cutting-edge; others find it as cloying as the drink can taste. But Coors isn't alone in trying to market to young audiences through the new technology. In the past several months businesses from MCI to MasterCard have attempted to catch customers in the net. Coors estimates that 10,000 users visit the Zima site each week.

Mark Lee, Zima's brand manager, believes his team's online efforts are working. "It's real time, and consumer feedback is one of the primary benefits that we see," he says. "It changes the whole relationship with the consumer and the advertiser: They are picking us instead of us picking them."

The World Wide Web isn't the only place where Coors catches potential Zima drinkers. The drink is the focus of an advertising campaign reported to cost up to $50 million, which includes trendy black-and-white television spots and catchy radio riffs, as well as print and outdoor advertising geared to twentysomethings. But the internet is where Coors hopes Generation X really marks the spot.

"We decided to advertise on the net because it provided a really good fit for the target audience we were going after demographically and psychographically," Lee says. "Zima really came about because of consumer choice. They told us what they wanted in an alcohol beverage, and we literally built a product around it. This whole interactive medium is about choice. We also use the site as a relationship marketing tool to get continual feedback and two-way communication going with our consumers."

That communication ranges from consumers sending e-mail to writing graffiti on the walls of the web site. "We are being innovative by letting the consumer drive the content of the site," says Julie Demlow, the assistant brand manager for Zima. "They are totally involved in what we have on there. For example, in the Freezer section of the fridge we are letting members of Tribe Z decorate the loft area they hang out and chat in. They also picked the Zima logo we use online, and right now they are deciding what color the walls in the loft will be."

And the Tribe Z chieftains over at Coors promise even more changes next year. "The web site is going to have new and exciting things happen to it in 1996, partly because there are some new technologies available that simply weren't available when we started this thing," says Davis. "There are little tricks like animation and sound that we want to use to make the experience Zima takes you to more impactful on the site. We are planning to make the site even more of a personal experience. Zima is an experiential product, and so is the site.

 
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