29 Apr 2010 @ 1:51 PM 

Colorado Native Beer and Social Marketing.


A little while back, I ran across a fascinating article over on Ad Age.

What first drew my attention was, unsurprisingly, the beer. Colorado Native is made by AC Golden Brewing Company, a small 30 bbl subsidiary of MillerCoors. Much like Blue Moon, they are relying on “craft”-style marketing: word of mouth/viral marketing. Part of me really likes the idea of Colorado Native – it is made with almost 100% Colorado ingredients. I mean, we’re talking barley, hops, water, packaging, and even the social marketing they’re using on each bottle.

And that’s what kept my eye on this article. Social Marketing? What what? The article kind of blows through the Snap Tag reference, which is a little crazy considering it’s Ad Age magazine and not a beer-related media. I, on the other hand, was fascinated, so I did a little reading because this is something that I think that craft brewers can learn from.

MillerCoors/AC Golden is using this interesting new type of barcode technology called a Snap Tag. Snap Tags are, for all intents and purposes, pretty barcodes. Here’s an example, from SpyderLynk‘s website.

See the dots in the circle? That’s what defines the code. I’m not exactly sure, but my guess is that the location of the dots in the circle, probably in degrees based on the orientation of the logo, can denote specific information. I speculate that they’re probably a numerical format that can be translated further by an algorithm held at SpyderLynk. Since the particular product we’re talking about is Colorado Native, it’s probably a small code that changes per batch of beer manufactured so that you can track exactly which batch this came out of, who it was distributed by and, very likely (if you have that kind of tracking technology – and why wouldn’t MillerCoors?), what retailer it was bought from.

“Okay,” I can year you saying, “What’s the big deal? People put tracking codes on their products all the time. It’s really helpful for figuring out defects in batches, it helps with customer support, etc., etc.”

Yeah, I totally agree. But what you have here isn’t just a tracking program, it’s a program in which consumers are encouraged to interact with you. The amount of information you’re getting off the Snap Tag and the bottle is small. The information you’re getting from the consumer is enormous. It starts with their phone number and/or e-mail address and then, when you send something back, it continues with their birth date (you have to verify age, right?) and then continues further on with a nice questionnaire asking about their lifestyle preferences, etc. Okay, are you on Facebook? Twitter? Yeah? Awesome. Hi! You are my target market, for you have bought my product. Now I know pretty much everything about you and you have given it to my freely.

It’s a ridiculously good use of modern technology and I’m a little shocked that I don’t see any craft breweries going in this direction.

Snap Tags? No. I’m still not convinced of the merit of Snap Tags, themselves. Each of the case studies that SpyderLynk has listed on their website doesn’t actually use the information listed on the snap tag so much as it uses the Snap Tag to get people to willingly send in their contact information to a company — which is, as far as I’m concerned, the magic.

Allow me to introduce you to something called a QR Code. It’s a bar code many people (those with Androids, maybe even with iPhones, now, I’m not sure) can actually read them with their cell phones, and I’m sure that as time goes on this will become more prevalent. Here’s an example of a QR Code:

Now here’s your Snap Tag replacement, with apologies to SpyderLynk for stealing their format:

Yeah, that’s right. Take a picture of that and send it to me and I’ll get back to you and find out about you, the consumer of said QR code. In many ways the QR code itself is completely inconsequential. In this case, however, not only am I getting information from the consumer, I am also giving information back to the consumer. You can do anything with this – contests, event information, business card info, whatever. And you can make your own QR Code for free. But it doesn’t matter! The code isn’t important! The customer contact is.

Craft breweries, it’s not often that I will tell you to take a an idea from the macros, but… take this one. The most valuable marketing tool you have is a personal relationship between your business and your customer. Take this idea! Use your packaging to do more than just signify what’s inside, it is your easiest customer contact – use it! Take this awesome idea and run with it!

Tags Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: industry, marketing, media, news
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 29 Apr 2010 @ 01 51 PM


Responses to this post » (30 Total)

  1. Sean-B says:

    I think UPS was one of the first major companies to use QR’s. I don’t know if they are even scanning them yet, but they’ve been on packages since the early 90’s when I was a driver. They were talking about small blue tooth scanners that drivers would wear as a ring to scan QR’s when I left.

    I read that a video game company put QR’s in one of their games in secret spots, and somebody playing was curious and took a screenshot of one and decoded it and there was some kind of message to players. That’s interesting, too—using new communication technology as entertainment.

  2. ingrate says:

    @nerdsherpa had his spiffy new business cards made by @mierla that had a QR code on it that resolve to his blog. That was the first time I had seen one in action (resolvable by the iphone). Mixing them into craft culture would be interesting.

  3. “The most valuable marketing tool you have is a personal relationship between your business and your customer. ”

    Agreed. So, just to be a little ornery can I confirm this bar code that otherwise reminds me of a package a UPS guy left at the door after ringing the bell and departing as quickly as possible is better than somebody – for instance the brewer or another person who works at a brewery – handing you (ms. or mr. customer) a beer, talking to you about it, asking you what you think?

  4. erik says:

    Stan –

    To be honest, I don’t think that the barcode (which, yes, is very UPS-y) is even necessary in this instance, it just happens to be an excuse and, in this case, it’s also a carrier of information

    In the case of the SpyderLynk stuff up top, the bar code doesn’t even seem to be conveying information to to the company that is using it for advertising.

    I think that the really important part of the entire transaction is giving someone yet another reason to get in touch with the brewery that isn’t complaint-based. In the grand scheme of things? No, nothing replaces sitting in a bar and drinking a beer with the person who made it. As much as I love social media, I would rather see it used as a motive to get a customer face-to-face rather than a replacement for that personal transaction.

    These QR codes are scannable, by the way. And, yes, butt-ugly.

  5. Good timing! Your post came up just as I’m redesigning the Fullsteam business cards. Thanks to you, the back of the card will look like this!

  6. AccuChris says:

    If you want to make your own business cards with a QR code check out this site: http://www.b2vcard.com
    it lets you upload your own art or you can use one of the templates. best of all it creates your QR code from your profile so if something changes you can update your profile for free and your QR code on your old cards scan your new info!

  7. Nice article. 2011 will be the year of the QR Code.
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    Please give it a try!

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