Readers of the print edition of Beverage World each month may be familiar with our Connections section, where we look at how the emerging world of social media is being harnessed by beverage companies in their marketing programs. In the upcoming April edition, I explore some of the ways Anheuser-Busch is making use of social media to create deeper connections with its Budweiser consumers.
One of A-B's recent successes in this area was around a Super Bowl ad it ran in Canada, called Flash Fans 2012. It's a really great ad and I suggest you click on the link if you haven't already seen it.
When I interviewed Budweiser's global marketing director, Jorge Meza, for April's Connections article, he gave me a little bit more background about the ad:
“It’s such a moving piece,” he said. “it gives consumers a little bit of the flavor of what it means to live a dream.”
Meza says the response to the ad has been, "amazing," adding, "What’s interesting is that this video started only on Facebook and because of the viral power that it had, it very quickly generated half a million views. So, even before we actually had shown it during the Super Bowl, it was racking up views and a lot of buzz online. So by the time it was in the Super Bowl it was already a phenomenon in Canada.”
“Steve believed the corner bar to be the most egalitarian of all American gathering places, and he knew that Americans have always venerated their bars, saloons, taverns, and ‘gin mills,’ one of his favorite expressions. He knew that Americans invest their bars with meaning and turn to them for everything from glamour to succor, and above all for relief from that scourge of modern life—loneliness. He didn’t know that the Puritans, upon landing in the New World, built a bar even before they built a church.” — “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer
In his 2005 memoir, “The Tender Bar,” J.R. Moehringer recounts how the local tavern in Manhasset, Long Island, where he grew up, served as his home away from home, with all of the people who frequented it nurturing him and helping him grow into the man he is today. “Americans have always venerated their bars,” Moehringer writes.
That is, until recently. Times change, and so does, apparently, where Americans like to stop for a drink. For better or worse, the independent neighborhood tavern is disappearing from the American landscape. According to a recent article in USA Today, “Neighborhood taverns, which for generations were cornerstones of Chicago’s ethnic communities, are being squeezed out by the economy, gentrification, changing tastes and city regulations that make it more difficult to operate in residential areas.” The article goes on to say that in Chicago, the number of tavern licenses has dwindled from 3,300 in 1990 to about 1,200 today.
And the U.S. is not alone. Even in the U.K., where the neighborhood pub has been even more important to the social fabric, a similar trend is playing out. Six British pubs were closing every day, according to one recent survey, a trend attributed to the smoking ban, the huge discounts for alcohol offered by retail chains, and, of course, the effects of the recession on extra spending money.
Here in the U.S., a big part of the reason also has been the proliferation of national chain restaurants, with their flashier, brightly lit bars and big-screen TVs. I’d venture another reason as well—the rise of social media. In “The Tender Bar,” Moehringer describes how the other bar-goers became his extended family. Log onto Facebook today and our lists of friends have become the digital equivalent. That’s not to say we don’t still want to see them in the flesh to hoist a real, not a virtual, pint. But with all that Facebooking, friending, Tweeting and FarmVilleing, how much time does that leave for a trip down to the neighborhood bar?
Is this for better or for worse? I’d argue it’s for the worse. America has become a country where people of different political persuasions or different social strata rarely come into contact with one another. And that is an important ingredient for a healthy democracy to function. To mull this issue or that over a beer with your neighbors at the corner bar used to be as important as the U.S. Senate debating and filtering down the latest piece of legislation. Just think of all the mulling we’ve been missing.
In my previous column, I discussed how we are witnessing a global trend of “people power.”
Everyone from governments to corporate behemoths have had to sit up and take notice that they are not quite as in charge as they think they are. Instead, there has been a shift in power from those at the top to those at the bottom, noticeable from uprisings on the streets, to the consumer uprising over Coke’s holiday white cans (of course of vastly different significance for humanity, it goes without saying).
Weeks after I finished writing that column came the news of Samuel Adams’ Facebook-based crowd sourcing initiative, yet another example of people power. Only this time, it’s an example of a company getting out in front of the people power trend, instead of being caught blindsided by it.
If you haven’t heard about it, here it is in a nutshell: The nation’s largest craft brewer, and one of its modern day pioneers, has turned to its thousands of fans on Facebook, asking them to design its next beer. They call it the Crowd Craft Project.
I just paid it a visit and came away thinking this is pretty much one of the most brilliant uses of social media in the beverage business I have seen so far.
After first “liking” the Crowd Craft Page, the visitor uses a sliding scale to enter preferences for color, clarity, body (mouth feel), malt (sweetness), hops (bitterness) and yeast (finish/complex flavors).
Participating in this social media experiment was not only a lot of fun, but also really educational. And that’s why I think it’s so brilliant, not only for Samuel Adams, but for craft beer in general. American beer drinkers, indeed many beer drinkers around the world, might think they know beer. But if they take a few minutes to become part of the Crowd Craft Project they will come away thinking, “Hey, there’s a whole lot more to beer than I thought!” And that will generate a whole lot of excitement for Samuel Adams, and for the craft beer category in general.
So that’s why I think Samuel Adams’ Crowd Craft Project is a winner. It hits all the right notes (pun intended), using the power of social media to meet head-on a world where power is increasingly shared and interactive.
As a journalist covering the beverage business, you learn one thing pretty fast. There really is no other company in this business with the global power or influence of Coca-Cola.
But there is one entity in this business with perhaps even more power. With a few taps of their keyboards, and some clicks on the “send” button, it can influence the decisions of even a company as large as Coke. I am talking about the consumer.
Case in point is the controversy that arose this past holiday season when Coke changed the colors of its cans from their traditional red to white. The limited-edition white cans—the first use of white cans for Coke in its 125-year history—were part of an arctic-themed campaign with the World Wildlife Fund to call attention to the plight of the polar bears.
However, apparently some consumers mistook the white cans for diet versions of Coke—a mistake that could be potentially serious for those with health conditions like diabetes. Others, according to the Wall Street Journal, actually felt it tasted different in the new cans. While others just felt it “bordered on sacrilege,” according to the paper.
Coke decided to change the cans to red two months after it announced the promotion in October. It was supposed to extend through to February.
The can conundrum calls immediately to mind Coke’s biggest public relations fiasco—its introduction of New Coke back in 1985, and subsequent change back to ‘Coke Classic’ after a huge
What do both instances have in common? In both, Coke made major changes never thinking they would lead to any problem. And in both, the company was shocked to discover the level of passion and ownership consumers have with its brand. This brand is such a piece of Americana, they feel as though it is a part of them, especially here in the U.S., like baseball and apple pie.
Coke’s misfire over the white cans actually fits perfectly into the year we just ended. I was recently watching an interview with The New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman. He spoke about 2011 being a year where powers that be made major decisions only to be rudely awakened when they were rejected by the ones who really hold the power in today’s hyper-connected world—everyday people. His examples ranged from Russia’s Vladimir Putin who was told by his people, ‘No, you can’t just continue to lead us because you want to!’, to Netflix, who was told by its customers, ‘No, you can’t just raise prices on us because you want to!’
While Coke’s white can mistake isn’t as egregious as Putin’s, or even Netflix’s, it does fit in with this trend in 2011 of major powers being forced to sit up and take notice—because the people have spoken.
It’s been a genuinely fun several weeks reading over all the different reactions to Dr Pepper Ten’s tongue-in-cheek ad campaign. If you haven’t seen it, one of the popular ones shows an adventurer racing through the jungle in his jeep, escaping villains á la Indiana Jones. The commercial ends with the tagline, “Dr Pepper Ten, It’s Not For Women!” It’s a funny and attention-getting ad, that I think works well. But for the purposes of this column, it’s not so much the commercial I want to talk about as it is the name of this new drink: Dr Pepper Ten.
Since this is our annual HIT list issue, I’ll tie this all in by saying I think the name of a product can go a long way in helping it become a Hit or a Miss.
Let’s face it, some names just work, and some don’t. And this doesn’t just go for beverages. It goes for anything. Movies—how many times has a quality movie been torpedoed by a really bad name? Celebrities—Lady Gaga just wouldn’t be the same if she went by her real name, Stefani. And even restaurants.
I personally find it annoying when a restaurant gives its different foods, hokey, cutesy names. And, unfortunately, it appears that this trend seems to be spreading. One Mexican food chain here in New York City has the cutesy gall to call its vegetarian burrito the “Art Vandelay,” the pseudonym George uses on “Seinfeld.” I have a hard time yelling over the counter, “One Art Vandelay please!” Funny on “Seinfeld.” Not so funny when ordering a burrito in a crowded restaurant.
But I digress.
I think Dr Pepper Ten is a perfectly fine name for a new soft drink that boasts just 10 calories. Studies have shown that men feel uncomfortable about drinking a soda with the word “diet” on it. Sure, maybe that’s a little shallow. But it’s also a fact. You can’t blame the powers that be at the company for listening to the latest research and trying to come up with a name for their low-cal drink that everyone would warm up to.
It’s just another example of the power of a name. Done well, it can really put your brand over the top. Done poorly, and it can doom your product to obscurity.
It’s my observation that the beverage business usually gets naming right. Beverage marketers excel at coming up with names that work. Just try to think of a beverage that was sunk by a bad name. It’s really hard to come up with one. Usually it’s the taste, or some other factor.
And then think of how many names have worked so well that it’s unthinkable they should ever be changed. Take Crush, for example, or Snapple, 7Up, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Fanta, vitaminwater, Honest Tea. And the list goes on and on. So what’s in a name? For a beverage, it can be quite a lot.