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Failure is Great.

From The Iron Horse Brewery Blog

Failure is Great.


I have been ruminating about this topic for sometime, but with Greg’s most recent Win-Win blog and Natalia’s referencing the issue, I figured now was as good time as any to write about it; and even if this doesn’t come across exactly as I hoped, well, then it will aptly illustrate the point I’m trying to make, so really it’s a self-fulfilling topic.

So, first let me clarify one thing. I hate failing at things. Hate. it. I suppose this is not unique to me, but it is why I tend to express myself somewhat passively so not reveal how much it bothers me that I let someone/a business/Gargamel down.

Now that the mini Dr. Phil moment is over, let’s get to why Failure is Great.

Failure means you tried.
It’s true. It might sound pedantic, but it’s still accurate. Unless of course, you failed by not trying. So let’s revise that statement.

Failure means you tried, if you actually tried.

One of the most compelling reasons I was excited to work for Iron Horse Brewery is because of the brazen, throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude that the company seems to live by. Even more compelling is the seemingly haphazard approach in getting ideas to fruition.

Here are two examples of this for your reading eyes.

QR Codes
In late 2010, early 2011, I suggested to Greg that we should put a QR code on the 22oz bottle caps so that we can provide information on the beer, run periodic contests, use geolocation/mobile apps to push events, or just promote the honey badger video.

The conversation was something like this:

Jared: Hey Greg, we should put a QR code on the bottle cap.
Greg: To what end?
Jared: To deepen the consumer experience, provide info on….
Greg: Do it.

That was pretty much the gist of it.
We didn’t do in depth analysis of qr code analytics.
We didn’t research the best types of content to post, or even verify that the QR code would be scannable across devices.
We just put the pieces in place and ordered 3 years worth of crowns (bottle caps).

Boom. Done.

Today, we get anywhere from 10-30 scans a day from the bottle cap alone, which isn’t bad considering the marketing department (see what I did there?) has done jack shit about keeping that content fresh, or running contests or pretty much anything. I think the same epic meal time bacon video has been up there for 6 months now.

Anyhow, my point is, we tried and it mostly worked. The failure comes in the form of content execution.

We can and will do better with the QR code bottle cap stuff. Now that there is going to be some additional help this summer, I’m excited to get some of the ideas out of our collective heads and into your mobile phones. Stay tuned.

Pass the Death
In early 2012, at a marketing meeting, I brought up the idea of creating a video based contest.
What inspired this more than anything is that someone had posted a pic of them and a bottle of Irish Death over in England, I believe. It was neat.

My thinking was this: we have some pretty kick-ass fans of the brewery and of Irish Death in particular; we should get them to post videos that we can link all together to see how far Irish Death can “travel” on the internet.

Well you can read what the idea was here.

So, we created a Facebook app, the site that you just saw and made a demo video of the idea.

Guess how many people submitted a video?


I didn’t really understand it at first. I mean we had a good fan base, some avid photo posting fans, and what I believed to be a relatively clear set of directions.
But still this was an obvious failure, of which I was hoping more people would mock us for.

I needed to know why.

After some research that indicated a similar pattern, I felt a little better, but realized that even though other companies experienced a similar response rate, the lessons to be learned were almost more valuable then what we were trying to do.

(yes, this is more of that Win-Win stuff that Greg was talking about)

So, What did I learn?
1. Execution and timing is critical. Without a strong, clear and concise execution plan, it makes it very difficult to understand where a breakdown or its counterpart can occur.
2. Don’t force an idea – even though we receive several photos and comments weekly on Facebook, Twitter and via email, it doesn’t mean that it will translate into contest-participation.
3. Make it worthwhile – Doritos was successful because their grand prize was $1,000,000 and the video would appear during the superbowl. Interestingly enough they only had 3500 entries, which considering their fan base, well it is indicative of… something. Not sure what. Our dinky $200 prize was not significant enough. I get that. Next time…$300. Maybe.

Failure is an opportunity to showcase your limitations.
This is also very true, as much as it pains me to admit.
I recognize that as much as I want to do everything that’s within my scope. I can’t. When I try, I fail somewhere; at home, at this set of tasks, or at planning an event, etc. By acknowledging our limitations, we are then best equipped to tackle them.

I tackle them by finding brewery cousins who are better at things than I am, steal them from Suzanne’s department, and convince them that they would like to do the job at hand. So far it’s worked. Which is really just a reminder that the humans of Iron Horse Brewery are a diverse and amazing bunch of which I have no real place being, but am fortunate I am.

So, what the F is the point of this, again?

Failure. Own it. You are better off tackling it head on, than burying it in excuses.

That is all, because I am tired and am also late for dinner.


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