Coors embraces Social Influence Marketing™

A May 28 article by Stuart Elliott of The New York Times and a June 8 Associated Press article mention how Coors Brewing Co. has embraced Social Influence Marketing — or employing social media and social influencers to meet the business and marketing needs of the enterprise. As discussed in this blog post, the effort has not been without controversy.

As reported in The New York Times, the Coors Light brand, working with my employer, Avenue A | Razorfish:

  • Launched a MySpace page to strengthen its brand relevance among males aged 21-29. The MySpace page isn’t just another destination plastered with ads. The page provides downloadable widgets such as a Happy Hour Locater that you can use to find bars in your zip code that serve Coors Light, and an “Excuse-o-rator” that generates random excuses to leave work early to celebrate happy hour.
  • Created a viral video, the “Perfect Pour.” The video, posted on YouTube, is a humorous stunt — intentionally and obviously doctored — in which beer drinkers seemingly pour beer flawlessly from the new Coors Light vented wide mouthed can into a drinking glass from impossible angles and locations like behind one’s back or from the top of a roof. The video comes in two versions, one at a party, and the other at a bar.  Since their launch on April 8, the videos have been seen more than 400,000 times.

In both instances, Coors isn’t employing social networking sites and YouTube videos to embrace social media for its own sake. Rather, the company wisely employs social media and the power of viral marketing to achieve two business objectives: build brand with Gen Y males of legal drinking age and promote the vented wide mouth can.

Since The New York Times discussed the efforts, some bloggers have expressed disappointment and even shock that Coors did not disclose the fact that the “perfect pour” videos were actually the work of an agency. The implication is that Coors deceived consumers by not disclosing its role or that of Avenue A | Razorfish.

At the risk of sounding like an apologist, I disagree with the criticism, but I’m also interested in your opinion — should Coors have been more transparent in the effort or not? Here’s my take:

  • How many people seriously believed those perfect pour stunts were the work of amateurs? The opening disclaimer (“this video should not be viewed by anyone under the age of 21”) should be your first clue right off the bat that this is no amateur effort. And it’s obvious from the comments posted on YouTube that most viewers were in on the joke from the start. Some were even critical of the video for not being even more imaginative.
  • Coors is simply tapping into the engaging and social nature of the digital world by providing an entertainment experience. Experiential marketing is all about engaging consumers instead of pushing messages at them. The branding comes through in the obvious product placement of Coors Light and the conversational references to the wide mouth vented can throughout the video. I would argue that Coors revealing its role more obviously would be like a magician explaining a magic trick in the middle of a performance, thus spoiling the fun.

For another perspectives, check out this post from Launch Squad.

I’m interested in your reactions.

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0 Responses to Coors embraces Social Influence Marketing™

  1. We just used to call this \”peer pressure\”. 😉
    DW
    \”Just say no!\” –Nancy Reagan

  2. David Deal says:

    Dawn, when you and I were in high school together, I was too dorky and anti-social to be pressured by my peers. Seriously . . . there is no question that our peers influence our decisions to purchase goods and services, for a variety of reasons ranging from trust (I\’m more likely to believe your opinions about fun things to do in Los Angeles because you\’re a friend of mine and you live there) to good-old fashioned peer influence or pressure (I might be influenced by a peer who I know and admire, period). But there\’s more to it than that. Consumers quite willingly trust even anonymous peers — fellow consumers who rate products and services even though we might not know those peers personally. Social Influence Marketing is about harnessing the power of peer influencers to achieve your business and marketing needs. For a better insight than I can offer, check out a great blog by my colleague Shiv Singh (http://www.goingsocialnow.com) and also the book \”The Groundswell\” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. They cite how the company eBags willingly (and smartly) makes it possible for consumers to rate its products on its commerce site. eBags knows that the power of peer review is greater than anything eBags can say about itself.

  3. \”I might be influenced by a peer who I know and admire, period\”

    Me too. And of course many people like us are influenced this way. The real question is – can a bunch of super clever cookies in an advertsing agency (despite giving away what might be obvious clues) pass off a professionally devised campaign as being socially generated?

    This is the point of what viral, buzz, socially influenced, whatever you want to call it marketing isn\’t. It isn\’t designed by professional sellers. Why? Because it takes away the benevolent and therefore untainted intentions of someone recommending a product or a service to someone else. The intent is untainted (for want of a better word) because they have no vested interest in promoting the product so the trust we have in the product comes back to the trust we have in the integrity of the person, which I presume is not the case here. I presume the client paid a wad of money to launch this campaign and despite how well targeted it may be it\’s traditional advertising dressed up in viral drag.

    \”Engaging the consumers\” in an \”entertainment experience\” comes off in the end sounding like bollocks because it\’s not the consumers who are talking about the product. It\’s you. The agency.

    I hope this doesn\’t come off sounding too snippy and I have read your excellent blog for quite a while now and of course will continue to do so I allowed myself to be as honest as possible.

    Kind regards,

    Tim.

  4. David Deal says:

    Tim, thank you for your comments, and they are well taken! It\’s far more interesting and useful to hear your constructive criticism so that we can have a conversation about it. We debate this question all the time: although we believe the enterprise (in this case, Coors) should join the conversation that consumers are having with each other already, at issue is how to do that in a compelling way (which is where being entertaining and engaging often comes into play)? My blog post overlooked one important point about that \”perfect pour\” video: Coors essentially acts as a host for the consumer-to-consumer conversation by posting the \”perfect pour\” video on to YouTube, where consumers can comment with each other in all manner (as they are doing). Another one of our clients, Carnival Cruise Lines, does this via its own site, CarnivalConnections. In both instances, I think the enterprise is creating an engaging experience and enabling a conversation among consumers simultaneously. Please keep the comments coming.

  5. I am sure you are talking about these issues constantly and I don\’t have the presumption to think I\’m teaching you anything new but the ambiguity is how the client (Coors) uses an agency (you) to transfer the message to the consumers.

    \”Experiential marketing is all about engaging consumers instead of pushing messages at them\”.

    Am I right in thinking it\’s also about how the relation I have with the brand makes me feel? I babble to our clients about the idea that we are in an experience-based (as opposed to function-based) age and our sense of well-being is in part tacked along by little consumer experiences and if I am vaguely correct then the delicate relationship a company has with the consumer depends on delivering messages which will make them feel in harmony with the experience sought after in purchasing the product.

    Considering beer has no function to speak of the choice of the consumer would be almost entirely made on how the buying of this beer creates an experience. If they feel like they are joining the fun gang of beer pourers like on YouTube then mission accomplished.

    Anyway, we are in interesting times and the job of trying to glue handles on the sides of all of this must be quite engaging.

    Kind regards,

    Tim

  6. David Deal says:

    I think you\’re absolutely correct. In fact, the brand IS the relationship that one person or company has with another. Like a relationship, a brand can be good or bad. And, like a relationship, you can influence it, but you can\’t control it. The essential buiding blocks of a brand remain as relevant today: having a clearly articulated positioning, a visual identity, and product or service performance that makes people trust you. Experiental or \”engagement marketing\” is another way of building a brand. Through an experience, the enterprise says, \”I am not going to tell you what I\’m all about; I\’m going to make it possible to experience what my brand is all about.\” And by the way, your insights are valued! Especially at a time when an amateur can create a Doritos Super Bowl advertisemet for $12, no one can claim to be the expert. If you were Coors, what would you have done differently with the \”perfect pour\” viral ad? Would you have done it at all?

  7. It\’s the viral part which is the root of your post. The idea of impossible beer pouring to illustrate the new features of the product whilst targeting a certain consumer is fun and entertaining but by putting it on YouTube and Myspace it skates the line of pushing the brand to be viral. As you say you can influence it but you can\’t control it.

    The ad is just an ad. For it to be a success in the sense of people talking between themselves about it requires real people to have real conversations.

    So what would I have done differently (obviously without knowing all the background to the meetings with the client and their specifications and without telling you how to do your job which would be ridiculous but still biting the bullet instead of sounding off like a jackass)? In conjunction with the ad shown possibly use the same base idea to promote competitions in bars/on beaches/at parties/in ski resorts/et al and encourage people to post in as many of their own videos as possible in a type of Coors/YouTube partnership (in the loose sense of the term). Competitions could be organized, championships, etc. Everything is upfront, okay Coors is behind it, okay it\’s commercial and professional but maybe somewhere out there is some talented person who is capable of pulling off the type of crazy pouring feat which would motivate others to post about and watch it and comment about it and the machine is lauched.

    Or maybe an amazing prize for the most amazing pour then posting up the video. The idea is authenticity and conversation then hoping the mix motivates the public to participate. The experience is intact so the brand maintains it\’s position of trust with the consumer.

    Like I said, the questions raised about the campaign are not ones concerning the creativity of the ad but how the ads are freight trained into the public arena. The brand is the relationship we have but it is perpetuated by creating expectations in the consumer then delivering.

    I hope at least some of this made sense and I must say I have enjoyed blathering away to you about it all. Keep up the great work.

    Kind regards,

    Tim

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