Videos of Members and Humor Help 'Craft' a Huge Marketing Campaign

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We've had Fail Fast for a while now as a sort of new-product mantra. Now we have Failfest. It was part of ASAE's Technology Conference & Expo held outside Washington, D.C. earlier this month. They called it "an interactive session that explored how mistakes play a critical role. The stories highlighted how failures led to improved systems and changes within organizations."

However, one of the most captivating marketing campaigns to come out of Failfest really didn't belong there. The Brewers Association launched a "Take Craft Back" campaign in an attempt to raise more than $213 billion in contributions—yes, you read right—to buy out its members' behemoth corporate competitor—Anheuser-Busch InBev.

They "failed" to the tune of raising $3.8 million in pledges, actually quite impressive. "We're grassroots and scrappy, and our goal with this digital campaign was to move it from our brewers outward," said Julia Herz, Brewers Association craft beer program director, in an Associations Now article. "We have yet to do the audit, but it's fair to say that we had strong buy-in from our community of members..."

In another case where a SIPA member provides expert commentary, Ad Age quoted Benj Steinman, publisher of Beer Marketer's Insights, in their coverage. "So far if you just judge the trends, [consumers] don't particularly care [who owns the craft labels]. But this is obviously a core belief of the Brewers Association that more people would care if they knew. And they are willing to keep pushing the envelope on bringing more awareness to the distinction."

Awareness they brought. The videos brought millions of YouTube views. Here are some positive lessons from the campaign:

Think out of the box. Building an idea-sharing culture was one of the themes at our recent BIMS conference. Elizabeth Green, CEO of Brief Media, told about the great ideas she gets from young colleagues, and Debra Walton of Thomson Reuters, said, We have to take the risk to disrupt ourselves." It was echoed by ASAE's keynote speaker, Adam Steltzner, a NASA rocket scientist, who said, "A truly innovative organization embraces big or crazy ideas, so long as they've been put to the test." Someone at the Brewers Association had the courage to propose a campaign seeking $213 billion to acquire Anheuser-Busch InBev. Maybe the first 10 minutes of a marketing meeting should be the "crazy idea period."

Find the issue that resonates most with your audience... Okay, it was pretty easy for the brewers to point to "the man" for their woes and rally behind that. But still, there must be an issue for your subscribers/members that really drives at their core. Are larger companies stealing their thunder?

...And activate your best customers. The Brewers Association used social ambassadors to ignite their movement. and it resulted in quite the ripple effect. Social media can turn your members into remote and vocal advocates.

Hop on the video bandwagon. The videos they produced for this campaign are funny and professionally done. The most effective ones may be the 20-second videos of independent brewers telling the camera how much independence matters. The faces here are real and highly persuasive. "You're hiring and giving back to the community," says Garrett from Maui Brewing Company.

Humor can be effective. After Garrett says that "probably the best day of your life is hiring someone," the next frame says, "Not your wedding day? Sorry Mrs. Garrett."  Appealing to emotions and getting people to laugh was essential to the campaign's success, Herz said.

Come up with a recognizable logo. The Brewers Association logo for Take Craft Back is an up-side-down beer bottle. Then when the pledge drive started, they began marking the bottle to show where they stood in terms of the goal. With the "goal" being $213 billion, the mark on the beer bottle is very, very low, but the caption says, "We are sooo close."

Leverage digital media on your own terms. The Brewers Association built their own site for the campaign – It gave them more control over functionality and more data about who was coming to the site.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…