29 Apr 2010 @ 1:51 PM 

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!

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

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Last week, a little press release flitted across the wire. You may not have noticed it, so I’ll post it here for your inspection. It was in regards to Blue Moon’s latest release, their Blue Moon Grand Cru. It’s timed to come out in the same month as the only actual blue moon (the second full moon of a month) that has fallen on New Year’s Even in decades. We won’t see another one for 20 years.
Blue Moon: Craft Brewer
At this point, you may be looking up at the title of this post saying, “What’s this supposed to be about again?” Fear not, gentle reader.

Here’s a quote from the press release that caught my eye:

“The craft brewer is celebrating this rare lunar occurrence with an equally rare brew: the limited-edition Blue Moon Grand Cru.”

Yeah. You read that right. Craft brewer.

You may also notice that their tagline – which I hadn’t noticed before – is, “Artfully Crafted.” I’m not sure if that’s new, but after seeing them reference themselves as a craft brewery, it certainly caught my eye and this mention of “craft brewer” in their press release really set off warning bells for me.

Now, just in case you don’t know, let me put this out on the line: Blue Moon is brewed by Coors. In fact, if you look down at the bottom of the press release, you’ll notice that the contact person that’s listed is from MillerCoors. They also list Keith Villa as the Blue Moon Brewmaster – which is not inaccurate – he did come up with the beer. Keith is a brewmaster at Coors.

Coors is not a craft brewer.

The Brewers Association has a definition of craft beer that’s centered around taxation. They list a craft brewer as being Small (under 2 million barrels per year – which is a taxation benchmark), Independent (tricky definition basically saying you’re not owned by somebody else), and Traditional (50+% of the brewery’s volume must be all-malt beers).

On their site, they have a list of “concepts related to craft beer and craft brewers” which I have a LOT of issues with (example: “The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.” That is in no way traditional.), but this is not the post for that.

This is also not the post where we talk about how this definition actually cuts a lot of good, popular, small American brewers (Ommegang, Goose Island, etc.) out of the craft beer category, even though their products fit the bill in an exemplary manner.

This post will address this:

If you’re a consumer and you’re in the grocery store or a bar, and you want to buy a “craft beer”, how do you know what to get? You can’t just look for the CAMRA seal. If you haven’t taken the time to educate yourself, how do you know that Blue Moon is not a craft beer?
You can say all you want that, “Well, maybe they SHOULD educate themselves.” but it’s not reasonable, it’s a real issue. If you’re a craft brewer, your ubiquitous competition is Blue Moon (and Sam Adams) because: 1) It’s a decent beer and 2) It’s everywhere.

The fact is, if breweries – or the Brewers Association, really – does not come up with a simple and consistent way of showing the average consumer what products on the shelf count as craft beer, they risk losing the term and the definition to the multi-billion dollar marketing machine employed by MillerCoors and InBev.

“Artfully crafted” is a first step, and if it’s successful at reinforcing Blue Moon as a craft beer, then don’t be surprised if you end up hearing about Bud Light Golden Wheat being “craft brewed in small batches” or some such nonsense. I’m not a big fan of slippery slope arguments, but it seems to me like it isn’t long before you have BMC rolling out brands that are successfully marketed as craft beers taking significant portions of sales away from small craft brewers.

If the brewing industry doesn’t take the time, in the next year or so, to aggressively define “craft beer” in a way that is easily recognizable to the consumer, I think they risk losing the term and BMC will have won another battle against it’s minuscule brethren.

I look forward to a point at which I can walk into a store and look for the label, “Real American Craft Beer” so that I know exactly what I’m getting. I hope that day is coming soon and that we don’t have to invent and defend another definition, first.

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Categories: industry, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 08 Dec 2009 @ 05 25 PM

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 23 Nov 2009 @ 3:36 PM 

“With great beer, comes great responsibility.”

So says Uncle Ben on his death sidewalk to MillerCoors, the secret identity of Spiderbrau before he whisks off into the night, swinging from hop bine to hop bine to avenge the death of his only father figure, now dead…. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

And thus I have labeled myself as a comic book geek, as well.

Recently, MillerCoors launched a new website: http://www.greatbeergreatresponsibility.com and it is glorious. I don’t want to badmouth this for its focus on ecology and good environmental responsibility, and I’m glad they’re going through this contrived marketing exercise to let us know that they’re doing their part.

I want to badmouth it for so many other reasons.

For one thing, nobody should ever make anything that autoplays noise – especially talking – when you first go to a website. Let me walk you through my first experience with this website:

Erik clicks on a link from a news article announcing this website.

Swarthy and Attractive Multicultural Man pops up on the screen.

“Hi!” says Swarthy and Attractive Multicultural Man with a little wave.

Erik closes browser quickly. Erik’s cube-mate looks over at him.

“What was that?” asks Erik’s cube mate.

“Uhh.. nothing.” he replies slyly.

Erik mutes his computer, re-opens website. Fake Redhead pops up on the screen and starts talking animatedly with her hands clenched tightly together with some message that I will never hear.

And thus, your welcome script has been lost. Well-done MillerCoors.

Okay, so aside from irking me by trying to be over-awesome with their technology and co-opting a phrase from a movie made about my favorite childhood superhero, the thing that amuses me about the site is that it seems so hellbent on getting people to pledge to do stuff with them but… who’s going to use this site? Why would you? What do you get in return – self-satisfaction? I suppose that’s what the internet is all about.

Here are my favorite three parts of the website:

Alcohol Responsibility

Here, we see a graphic narrated by Attractive Latina of how many MillerCoors customers have pledged to never drive drunk.

111. Now, even if this number was 1, and that was really one more person who really was never going to drive drunk again, that’d be awesome, but I’m not convinced that clicking a link on a website saying that you’re not going to do it means that you’re really not going to do it. Part of me thinks that you want to give people some sort of incentive for not making this pledge, but then people would just pledge to get whatever you’re incentivizing them with, but it would at least give you a more impressive looking number than 111.

And y’know? Sit back for a moment and think about how many people work for MillerCoors worldwide. Don’t you think that they could have passed something around even one of their offices saying, “Please go pledge to not drive drunk, or you’re fired.” to pop that number up a little bit for release?

Environmental Sustainability

On this slide, Fake Redhead shows us how much water MillerCoors is saving compared to the rest of us. Please note, the number of gallons of water MillerCoors has saved so far YTD is not the actual number. It is an estimate based on projection of water savings from 2009 – 2015. So, essentially, they made it up.
And the rest of us lousy bastards have pledged to save only 2797 gallons of water, by doing one of 5 things that you can promise them that you’ll do:

– Take shorter showers
– Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth
– Don’t let the water run while you do the dishes
– Don’t let the water run while you wash your car
– Only do full loads of laundry

While they don’t explicitly say this, I’m pretty sure that if you pledge to do one of these things and do not fulfill your promise, you are no longer allowed to purchase MillerCoors products.

Really the thing that amuses me about this is the enormous juxtaposition between two-thousand gallons and fourteen-million. See my previous argument about passing this around the office.

Here’s something that you can do to save an enormous amount of energy and do very good for the environment: Drink local beer, not beer that was shipped halfway across the country or halfway across the world before it got on your grocer’s shelf.

What Will You Do?

This is my favorite part of the WHOLE website. This little scrolly bar shows all of the things that people have pledged to do in order to make a difference. You can click on it and make your own pledge.
These people are JUST LIKE YOU.
There are currently 20 in total. So that you don’t have to go to the website and watch them scroll yourself, here they are:

Water my lawn less. – Pam, LA
Use less plastic. – Peggy, LA
Turn the lights off when I leave the room. – Allie, IL
I will never drive drunk. – Bryan, IL
Wash my clothes in cold water instead of hot. – Katie, CO
Practice energy consevation programs,learned at work,in our homes. -Joel G., CA
Get a designated driver each and every time I go out. – Josh, IL
Use a rain barrel to collect water for plants. AnnMarie, CA
Visit talkingalcohol.com to know more about alcohol and health. – Amit, AL
Don’t let the water run when brushing my teeth. – Kim, WI
Don’t leave the water running when brushing teeth and washing dishes. – Lisa, CO
Purchase wind energy from the local utility to power my house. – Lisa, WI
Turn off the water when I brush my teeth. – Beth, WI
Turn off the lights when I leave a room. No exceptions. – Jim, CO
Encourage recycling in my office – paper, cans, boxes – anything possible! – Deb, IL
Take shorter showers. – Sandra, WI
Talked to my daughter about alcohol and what to do if it shows up at high school parties. – Diane, WI
Volunteer my time in my community on a regular basis. – Ryan, WI
Take a shorter shower and encourage my friends to do the same. – Brennan, WI
Start talking to my kids about drinking early so they make responsible choices. – Alicia, ME

I don’t know about you, but my first impression is that these are not real people. Nevermind that most of these statements look like they’re cut and pasted from the rest of the site. Nevermind that most of them are from the same 3 states. Nevermind that Amit from Alabama actually plugged another MillerCoors site. Real people are going to be putting things in like,

I will drink beer insted of watur LOLOL!!11

What I’d really like to see is a mass write in campaign on this site with all of the comments saying something like:

I will save fossil fuels by drinking locally-made craft beer.

(Go ahead, Go make your pledge now.)

So, I’m having a lot of fun with this, but I feel like this is a website that strictly exists as a PR campaign, or some way for MillerCoors to say: No! We care about the environment and we encourage people to drink responsibly… LOOK! We have a website! We’re excellent corporate citizens! (investors applaud)

And if that’s what it takes to keep the neo-Prohibitionists at bay, then so be it. That is a cause I can get behind.

On the other hand, if this is a dead serious campaign to get MillerCoors customers to be more responsible and environmentally friendly, I’d like to point out that it’s already been psychographically proven that craft beer drinkers “are 153% more likely to always buy organic” and I think that suggests that they’re probably overall pretty environmentally friendly. If that’s the case, we’ve already won, Spiderbrau or no.

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Categories: industry, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 23 Nov 2009 @ 03 54 PM

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