I’m excited to announce that I’m writing an e-book and it will be available as a free download. The book will document my experience as the Pabst Blue Ribbon Brand Manager/Director. Here’s a synopsis:
In 2000, I up and moved to Austin, TX looking for a new career path. I didn’t have a job or any money, so I was forced to live off a credit card until I found a gig. I finally caught a break when the San Antonio-based Pabst Brewing Company had an opening for a Divisional Marketing Manager. With my credit card maxed out and down to my last chance before I would have to swallow my pride and move back home, I caught a break and got the job.
Over the next 5 1/2 years I had the experience of a lifetime. Shortly after being hired at Pabst, I was assigned the responsibility of managing the company’s flagship brand, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Although PBR was one the country’s best-selling beer brands back in the 70′s, it had hit hard times in the 90′s and lost 90% of its volume from 1978 – 2001.
In the early 2000′s the brand was primed for a comeback. Young adult consumers in the Northwest who hated the mass-marketing of the big brewers started to adopt and take ownership of the brand. The brand was on fire in Portland, OR and Seattle, but how could we replicate this success when the thing that consumers liked about the brand was that we didn’t market the brand.
From 2001 – 2008, PBR doubled its volume and has reached almost ubiquitous status in urban markets around the country. This book will dissect approximately 20 amazing things that helped Pabst Blue Ribbon make an epic comeback and help readers better understand the power of consumer influencers.
I need your help on one important piece of this project: I need a name for the book. Please let me know if you have any ideas by leaving a comment. If you’re more of an email kind of person, feel free to send it to me at nealdstewart (at) yahoo (dot) com. If I choose your suggestion, I’ll send you a cool piece of breweriana.
I’m hoping to have the book finished by the end of February.
This one of my favorite comedy bits by comedian, Pat Brice, who unfortunately passed away a couple years ago. It came to mind today when I was considering the differences between a word-of-mouth and traditional, media driven strategy.
Do you rent or do you own your marketing?
A traditional, media driven strategy is like renting. Smaller upfront investment and less risky. If something goes wrong, you call the landlord and they fix it. But the problem is that you never own it. You gotta keep paying “rent” (buying media) to stay in the game.
But a word-of-mouth strategy is a lot like buying and owning a home. It’s bigger upfront investment and if something goes wrong, you own it and have to fix it. But over time, you build equity in your home and your investment pays off. Word-of-mouth is very similar. Over time, the consumers start talking about your brand and you don’t have to keep paying rent to maintain awareness and improve image.
The big question is whether you have the patience for that investment to pay off.
Today I was reading Peter Bregman’s piece on Harvard Business Publishing called Why Small Businesses With Win in This Economy.
The crux of the article is that people no longer trust big companies. Duh. But the new insight is that people no longer trust the big companies they work for, which is leading to a trickle-down effect of mistrust and corporate suspicion.
As I read this piece, I realized that the word “small” could be interchanged with “authentic”. Authentic companies will win in this economy because:
- People want to have REAL conversations with REAL people.
- Employees who are authentically excited about their job/employer/company sell their brand or service without even knowing it.
- An authentic brand creates sustainable word-of-mouth recommendations
Small companies have an advantage in that it’s just easier to be authentic. But even the biggest of companies can authentic – they just need to think and act small.
At the risk of looking like a total kiss-ass to my boss, I’m going to quote him: “Without the short-term there is no long-term.”
This principle is amplified about 1000% in a weak economy and has become my mantra for each and every day.
As a marketer, adopting the “live in the now” philosophy has been challenging, educational and rewarding. I prioritize 100% of every single day what is important NOW. What will move volume NOW? What will produce revenue NOW? This shift has resulted in me understanding and appreciating what happens at the point of purchase: on the shelf and out relationship with key stakeholders in the trade.
Yes, consumer pull and long-term branding still matters – but when cash is tight for brands, retailers and consumers, you gotta live in the now.
I don’t know about you, but I get asked this question everyday: How are you adjusting your marketing strategy in a down economy?
Here are my thoughts:
- Invest in people. Good people will always figure how to get the job done, even in adverse conditions.
- “All hands on deck.” This means everyone in the organization takes on a sales mentality. Make sure everyone is trained on how to identify a sales opportunity and how to take advantage of it.
- Put together a list of your Top 10 ways to save some money.
- Be consistent. The last thing you want is for your business partners, retailers, distributors, consumers to think you’re panicking.
- Play it safe, but don’t play it stupid. Yes, that advertising buy may make you look good in front of your boss or the board of directors, but is it going to sell product?
- Find ways to engage in conversation with your heavy users and fanatical consumers. More than ever, your brand’s stalkers are going to help you spread the word.
- Get uber-focused on your goals. If your marketing tactics aren’t directly affecting your core business objectives in a positive way, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Do have any other points to add to this? Drop a comment if you do.
“We need to ZIG when they ZAG!”
I hate that phrase. It’s a total over-simplification of differentiating your brand from the competition. What does it really mean anyway? Let’s do the opposite of what everyone else is doing? If so, that’s stupid.
Isn’t more important to:
- differentiate your brand in a compelling way?
- develop set of brand values and a purpose that guides everything you do?
- have more speed to market than your competition?
- do something that is different AND interesting?
- connect with consumers?
- make an impact?
It’s ok to zig/something different, just have some rationale and strategy behind it.
Do you plan out your marketing campaign on a yearly, quarterly, weekly or daily basis? It used to be that smart marketers planned on a yearly basis and it was all execution after that. It was “smart and strategic” to know exactly what you would be doing months down the road and not waver from the plan or the message.
I think those days are over because brands need to evolve and live. Sure, a marketing plan is a great when used as a guide throughout the year, but if you’re not reacting to opportunities and having conversations with consumers, your brand is not being treated as a living, breathing creature. In other words, you don’t have a new campaign everyday.
Here are a few ways to activate a daily campaign:
- Write a blog post that promotes something exciting about your brand or starts a conversation
- Post something on your Twitter page
- Update your website homepage with new and relevant content
- Read emails from your consumers and write back to them
- Go talk to people who sell your product – retailers or distributors
- Go to the point of purchase and talk to consumers – yours and your competitor’s
Do you have any other ideas on how to activate a daily campaign?
I’m not a regular viewer of The Big Idea on CNBC, but I caught some of Donny Deutsch’s show tonight and I really like his “One Minute to Millions” segment. Here’s how it worked:
They do a short, 1-2 minute segment previewing new product. In this case it was a scooter/bike hybrid called a “Kickbike”.
One-by-one, Donny and his two person panel (which happened to be Richard Simmons! and the publisher of Men’s Health magazine) spent one minute on the product innovator’s strategy in the following categories:
- Sales Channel(s)
- Target Audience
One minute per category! Total time for the segment was eight minutes and they pretty much hammered it out in that time. This is a bit of an exaggeration and I’m sure there was some preparation involved, but it was a good argument against over thinking things and just getting to the point.
The more I think about PUSH and PULL tactics, the more PUSH looks like Crack. As in Rock, Bones, Cloud 9, Crunch n’ Munch, Devil Smoke, Kryptonite.
Think about it, PUSH tactics are really addictive and give you a short-term buzz with a ton of side effects.
- A well executed PUSH program results in a sales spike. (the high)
- The success of a PUSH program spreads through the company fast. (the pushers)
- A successful PUSH program lead to it being adopted as a “best practice.” (psychological addiction)
- The more PUSH programming that is implemented, the less ROI it delivers, but you need it to deliver numbers. (physical addiction)
- Too many PUSH programs train consumers to expect price reductions. (admitting the problem)
- Strategy shifts to building consumer loyalty. (rehab)
I am the Director of Marketing at Flying Dog Brewery. This is my personal blog and these are my personal opinions.