Whether it’s the long established (1759) mega brewer Guinness with its worldwide celebrations of Arthur’s Day (for founder Arthur Guinness) and fan page attracting over 276 thousand “likes” or the much younger (est. 1991), much smaller New Belgium Brewery of Fort Collins CO with – at this writing – a very competitive 191,167 “likes”, it’s clear that brewers large and small are embracing social media with gusto.
Why I spent probably far too much time in the past week researching this subject
Just over a week ago I was asked what I knew about beer companies using social media. Knowing nothing about the subject at that point, my response was “I’ll get back to you”.
I thought, just a few enquiries and I’ll have something to share.
Little did I know how much there was to know and how many questions I was in the process of generating for myself!
Because, while I freely acknowledge that I’ve never had to have my arm twisted to savor a good ale, pilsener or the occasional stout, the fact is I don’t profess to any serious knowledge of the brewing and beer marketing industry.
Crowdsourcing to the rescue
In response to some online enquiries, a number of people around the world have shared generously with knowledge and links, especially by way of responding to a question I uploaded to LinkedIn Answers.
And I have now come to realise this is a huge industry – according to Wikipedia a 294.5 billion dollar one worldwide – with a number of very large, dominant companies and many thousands of smaller regional and local brewers.
So how engaged, or not, are these companies, via social media?
The short story is that I have a lot of facts, but only the beginnings of a bigger picture.
Too much information for one post
The number of examples I’ve been given, of brands and their social media engagement, has grown to the point where the blog post I originally envisaged as a quick overview with some examples, has had to be split into two – this one focused on big companies and a second post on smaller ones.
Examples of social media engagement by big, global companies
Please note that this listing does not pretend to be in any way comprehensive, either in terms of companies and brands or in terms of the examples mentioned of social media engagement. Comments providing further examples will be welcome.
The Heineken social media story is particularly interesting from a social media strategy viewpoint because there are available:
- a media release, on the occasion of Heineken’s signing a deal with Google, that gives some insight into the company’s strategic thinking about social media – specifically “to reach our target groups of 20-somethings”
- an interview with Cees van Lede, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Heineken NV, who talks about social media in terms of corporate decision making and a “substantial shift” in strategy: again, targeting social media “because that’s where the younger generation, today’s generation, spends their time”.
This company was suggested as worth looking at.
I’ve found it a bit frustrating to get any clear idea of the SAB Miller social media story, but there is clear indication that there is a story. For example, a blog post I read today highlighted the fact that SAB Miller is one of only 7 of the FTSE 100 companies to have an active presence on all four nominated social networking channels, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogging.
And with that indication of SABMiller having a pro-active approach to social media, I’m quite tantalized by what the story might be about SABMiller, social media and the best selling beer in the world, Snow – a China brand owned by SABMiller. Again I’m confident there is a story there, given the extent of social networking in China, with something like 221 million blogs, 117 million BBS and 176 million social network users (blog post from presentations at last year’s SXSW).
As to Molson Coors, at the Socialbrite.org site there is an interesting blog post, 4 examples of corporate social responsibility done right, on the company’s social media endeavours and the issue of responsible drinking. In his book Twitterville: How Businesses Can Thrive in the New Global Neighbourhoods, author and social media specialist Shel Israel devotes several pages to stories of how Molson “uses generosity as a key component of its social media strategy”.
The Budweiser “Bud House” project, via YouTube for the FIFA World Cup 2010, drew over 4 million views on YouTube and 1 million plus likes on Facebook.
The Budweiser Facebook page, with its 1,231,042 likes, is quite active, with contributions from fans predominating, rather than the corporate promos and attempted “conversation starters” from the company, as are noticeable on some other big brewers’ Facebook pages.
A couple of people in Ireland mentioned Budweiser, with reference specifically to the Budweiser Ice Cold Ireland beer promotion and a “Budweiser blogger outreach” exercise in 2009.
Guinness have had an apparently very successful social media powered engagement from 2009 on, with its Arthur’s Day celebrations (video link). Proceeds go to “social entrepreneurs” around the world, which is an interesting aspect in terms of a “giving” component of a social media strategy – compare the Molson Coors support for responsible drinking, mentioned above.
From a strategic viewpoint, there is a very interesting video interview from that first Arthur’s Day year, 2009, by Irish social media expert Krishna De with Grainne Wafer, Head of Marketing for Guinness in Ireland, looking at the bigger picture of the company’s social media engagement, helpfully recorded in bullet points by Krishna in the accompanying blog post.
In Belgium, Carlsberg created an app called Tournée Digitale (Digital Tour), which encourages users to step away from their computers and meet their friends in person and share beers instead of links. Via Simply Zesty.
I hadn’t previously come across the Yomego Social Media Reputation Index, for which I was pointed to a top 50 companies in a “snakes and ladders” image – Corona is the only beer company included there, for what that’s worth (I don’t know the date that infographic was done or when it was uploaded, but as at February 2011 Corona was listed on the same “league table” at 49 out of the 50.)
The number two beer in Australia and number one in the northern state of Queensland, XXXX (“Fourex”) is a beer produced by Castlemaine Perkins, not itself a global company, but owned by Lion Nathan, which is a subsidiary of Lion Nathan National Foods, itself fully owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings Limited, and thus part of the definitely global Mitsubishi keiretsu.
XXXX used the Holler agency to develop a site to build connection with fans in an “ongoing and sustainable way”. A video explains how this was done, aggregating content from sites such as YouTube, flickr, Twitter and blogs and with a community manager serving content. Results in 2009 alone included 1 million visits to the main site. Of particular interest is that the video outlines the specific steps in developing the strategy.
A few general observations
Although I still don’t have a clear big picture view (and haven’t yet found anyone who claims to have that), a couple of things seem pretty clear:
- of the several big corporations in this industry, at least some are investing deliberately and strategically in social media
- the big brewers have deep pockets to finance national and even global socially-empowered campaigns
My impression, admittedly quite subjective at this point, is that big brewers pursuing social media engagement seem to focus their social media efforts more on campaigns and events rather than on the building, care and maintenance of genuinely interactive, long-term relationships. That’s probably understandable and for the most part not atypical for how big corporations in any industry are using social media, compared with the smaller companies.
More on the smaller brewers in the post to follow. In the meantime, in case I’ve not yet heard of your pick for a good story about social media and small breweries, please share the link in the comments here and I’ll check it out.
My thanks to all the people who shared links and leads for this topic, especially the twenty four people who responded to my question on LinkedIn Answers.
Heineken by md-2 CC BY 2.0
Molson Canadian Sixpack by Like_the_Grand_Canyon CC BY 2.0
Pint of Guinness – Stephen Edgar – Netweb CC BY-SA 2.0
Corona Extra Tim Hill CC BY-SA 2.0
XXXX bitter Jeremy Eades CC BY-SA 2.0