Welcome to the iBev newsletter! Thanks to your feedback in the post-iBev 2 survey, we are keeping you apprised of the digital and social trends in the 12 months between iBevs. Enter: the iBev newsletter.
Every quarterly newsletter will include a formal introduction, a state of the industry report, a Q&A with an industry leader, an original case study or article, and a brief survey and/or links to relevant content.
Lastly, we have created an iBev LinkedIn group - please join it here. This will soon be a resource for job boards, sharing up-and-coming trends and regional networking events. You can now also follow iBev on Twitter here.
iBev2 Thematic Recap
As you may recall, the theme of this year’s iBev conference was ‘Identifying and Engaging Influencers’. We discussed the best practices for how brands identify and engage influencers across local, mobile, photo, video, and social channels. I myself was reminded that the principles of influence are largely unchanged from Robert Cialdini’s seminal work in his book, Influence, on the 6 principles of influence (find them here). We talked about why we as beverage marketers have an advantage vis-à-vis social and digital media in that beverages are inherently social (since they often involve ’shared experiences’) and are often tied to place, thus have an advantage vis- à -vis local.
Most of our keynotes from the conference underscored that great storytelling drives the most engagement for brands, which is why you need to align your brand(s) with awesome content and why you should leverage photos and video to help tell your stories.
We discussed the theme that localized expertise and influence will prevail vs. exclusively hegemonic influencer. We also discussed that mobile is here to stay, so brands need to develop a mobile strategy, and if nothing else, have mobile-optimized websites.
Last but not least, we mentioned that when communicating to and engaging influencers, AUTHENTICITY is 100% required. Relatedly, as First Beverage Group Chairman Bill Anderson said in his iBev introduction and in his article included in this newsletter, ‘We’re living in an era of small brands’. In turn, there is an increased importance of authentic engagement of influencers by brands, with personalized messaging wherever possible. And as Greg Shove of SocialChorus reminded us, the best place to start with recruiting influencers are your employees.
Key Insights Since iBev2: Highlights from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report as Related to Beverage Marketers
There is no better place to look for “Internet Trends” than the iconic Mary Meeker’s annual report on the topic. (Find it here)
The key insight from her 2014 report is that there is a ‘critical mass’ of sites that now leverage the ‘Internet Trifecta’ of content, commerce, and community.
- Content = provided by consumers and pros
- Community = context and connectivity created by and for users
- Commerce = products tagged and ingested for seamless purchase
The related questions for us as beverage marketers are: How can beverage companies create great content and make it easier for consumers to transact via desktop and mobile? How can we leverage digital and social networks to both develop relationships with influencers and inspire user-generated content and engagement with our products? Since, as Meeker reminds us, there is an overwhelming amount of digital information (the amount increased 50% Y/Y from 2013 to 2014), consumers are increasingly choosing to engage with companies that aren’t just sending mass messaging but rather interacting more regularly with a smaller group of influencers.
Meeker quotes Alex Carloss, Head of Entertainment @ Youtube, as saying that “fans trump audiences,” since “An audience changes the channel when their show is over... a fanbase shares, comments, curates, creates.” Furthermore, Meeker concludes that this digital information overload has also led companies such as Facebook and Foursquare to ‘unbundle’ their mobile apps in favor of more focused stand-alone app experiences (e.g. Facebook launched a separate Messenger app and the new Swarm app respectively).
In addition, as we discussed at iBev2, video platforms and photo sharing platforms continue to grow explosively (see Meeker's 'Internet Trends 2014' slide 38). This trend continues to underscore our conversations at the conference to ’fish where the fish are’ and get going on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat, and Tumblr.
Very truly yours,
Q: In your talk at iBev, you discussed how beverage and car brands have historically engaged audiences through influencers. What traditional marketing techniques continue to be “recycled” in today’s digital and social media worlds?
A: “The key point is that it’s still about a two-way conversation between brands and brand advocates. Traditionally, that conversation was somewhat limited with traditional broadcast mediums. A lot of brands created communities creating direct mail. Today social media tools enable brands to create communities. Successful companies are having conversations between themselves and their audiences real-time.”
Q: How does a brand collaborate with its audience and convert its most vocal members to become influencers and brand ambassadors?
A: “Successful brands are allowing word of mouth to live online. Consumers trust friends and family more than advertising in a traditional sense. It’s more important to maintain a quality core of brand champions that are trusted sources. For example, we were working with a packaging firm that enables milk not to be refrigerated and shelf-stable. Our goal was to make consumers aware of the packaging by bringing the brand straight to people’s homes. We found that mom bloggers used their power of communication with their followers. We empowered the bloggers and their readers to become an extension of the brand.”
Q: What do you think are the most innovative campaigns you’ve seen this year from beverage or car brands?
A: “I really like what Tesla is doing. If you look at a car brand, they’re the gold standard in my mind. They’ve done an unbelievable job using influencer marketing to create a community. Everyone talks about the product- not just owners. Consumers that aspire to engage with the brand, those that may never have an opportunity to purchase a Tesla- are still engaging with it. It’s easy to create advocates amongst your buyers, but extending your brand’s influence outside that community is also important. Tesla took a page out of Apple’s book. Let’s look at the precursor of the Apple Store. Instead of being merchandised behind locked cases in Best Buy or Circuit City, Apple displayed their product in open design stores, featuring well-trained associates across the world. Rather than being arrogant to assume consumers will find them, they decided to bring the product to the people, and located their stores in shopping centers. Tesla is replicating that concept.
Q: At Phelps, what are your 2014 goals from a social and digital standpoint?
A: “Our goals are to ensure all our clients have a category-leading Social media, SEO and SEM strategies. Clearly that is the foundation of any integrated campaign. A lot of firms like ours don’t start with that. We’re looking to ensure the opportunity to engage in the social space is integrated with an overall marketing communication strategy. It’s important to leverage all the tools that brands like Google offer, which are constantly evolving. The most important medium in my opinion is Twitter because it gives you that mass communication and immediacy, access to your community and the ability to search a universal robust platform. Finding innovative ways to keep your brand in the conversation on Twitter is essential to success. If you’re going to dedicate your efforts to one or three mediums, we think Twitter has to be a part of that foundation.”
What to Watch:
How Big Brands Will Respond
Bill Anderson, Chairman, First Beverage Group
We’re living in an era of small brands. Even tiny brands are getting a disproportionate share of mind not only from consumers, but from distributors and retailers. We’re also living in a time of extreme innovation and change. As MillerCoors CEO Tom Long said recently at his distributors convention, “Disruption and fragmentation seem to be the new normal in the beer business.”
It would be easy to think in this environment that the market share of mega brands and their owners will only continue to sink. But the big brands will respond. While it is possible some big brands will go into freefall, it’s also clear that other top suppliers will respond adeptly in their competition against small brands. For those suppliers, it will take adapting to this new world with creativity, nimbleness and speed. In other words, big brands will have to act small.
On the same day in February, two major suppliers gave us examples of how they are able to innovate and respond to the power of small brands. Anheuser-Busch Inbev announced that it was buying Blue Point, a relatively small craft brewery likely to be part of a regional acquisition strategy by ABI to bring attractive crafts to their distributor network. Coke also announced that it had purchased 10% of Green Mountain as a way to capitalize on the opportunity to extend the home consumption of their core brands through Green Mountain cold-drink pods.
Big suppliers are also showing how they will and can play local. Pernod Ricard recently announced their Our/Vodka platform which provides micro-grant like investments for entrepreneurs (from outside the industry) to manufacture local vodkas using locally-sourced ingredients. Our/Detroit is already launched, and Our/Seattle and Our/New York are in the works for this fall.
But not all steps by big brands will be so positive. It’s not unlikely that some big brands, to avoid further steep declines, may significantly drop pricing. Others may also take more extreme measures to control more of their distribution network or bite into their distributors’ margins.
We’re in an era of small brands, but the most interesting trends to watch may come from how big brands will respond. The winners will be those that can act small in an authentic way.