Melyssa Glassman, Creative Director, New Belgium Brewing Company, and her team realized the Colorado-based craft brewer product line lacked a key beer.
The craft beer market was growing more interested in beer with larger amounts of hops -- the ingredient that adds bitterness. One particularly hoppy style, India Pale Ale (IPA), was becoming widely popular, but New Belgium didn’t yet offer an IPA.
"IPA is not a Belgian style," says Glassman. "So how do you come out as a Belgian brewer, who’s always talked about being a Belgian brewer, and brew a style that’s not Belgian, that’s not unique, and that there’s a lot of competition in?"
The team realized they needed to do everything right to succeed, Glassman says. The beer would have to taste fantastic, and the marketing would have to make the product stand out in a very crowded category. CAMPAIGN
After spending about a year perfecting their beer, the team was ready to build their campaign for a Feb. 1 launch. They decided to combine online and offline tactics using a microsite, Facebook, and in-store displays and events to help make a local connection between the brand and consumers in its 26-state distribution area.
Here are the five steps they took:Step #1. Use customer research to set strategy
Craft beer drinkers, Glassman says, are commonly:
o Men in their 30s
o College educated
o Reasonably affluent
o Urban dwellers
o More "progressive"
Through focus groups and anecdotal evidence, the team knew customers liked the company’s beer and appreciated the fact that they were an employee-owned company. However, the team also found this group did not look to New Belgium for hoppy beers such as IPA.
To overcome this market perception, the team needed to capture attention at points-of-sale. Otherwise, hop-seeking customers would walk past their beers without a glance.
- Localizing the product
Craft beer drinkers often support locally-owned businesses, particularly locally-owned breweries, Glassman says. Although based in Colorado, the company has sales reps -- who they call "beer rangers" -- in each of the 26 states in which they sell.
The team thought connecting consumers with local reps would help localize the brand and capture more customer sentiment.
- Creating a story
To emphasize a local connection to customers, they decided to call the new beer the "Ranger IPA" and designed a launch campaign to tell the story of their company's "beer rangers."
Throughout their marketing materials, team used an image of one of their reps dressed as a forest ranger in front of a bicycle covered in hops (the brand’s logo features a bicycle). They also used an image of the beer in front of a hops background to emphasize its hoppy character. Step #2. Create a microsite
The team created a Flash microsite -- dubbed "Rangerland" -- to receive the majority traffic driven by the campaign. It included:
- Product images
The microsite’s homepage featured a picture of the beer, and the image of the uniformed ranger posing with a bicycle. Images of hops were placed throughout the site.
- Product information
A "Meet Ranger IPA" tab contained images of the product and hops, and featured details about the beer.
- Interactive map
The site contained a "Find Your Ranger" tab, which took visitors to an interactive map highlighting the locations of the team’s sales reps throughout the country. Locations were marked by icons that looked like hops.
By clicking on one of the hop icons, visitors could see:
o A picture of the sales rep
o The rep's personal information
o A link to the rep's Facebook page
- Photo upload tool
A "Get In Uniform" tab allowed visitors to upload a photograph to be pasted over the face of the ranger on the microsite’s homepage -- making it appear as if the consumer was in uniform. Visitors could save the image or share it on Facebook.
- Humorous video
The team also created a humorous video of three team members dressed as forest rangers, performing a rap song about the company and the beer. Step #3. Incorporate map on main Facebook page
The team had more than 70,000 fans, or "likes," for their Facebook page. They wanted these fans to connect with local sales reps on Facebook, so they brought the microsite’s interactive map to their profile.
Visitors accessed the map on Facebook in two ways (see creative samples):
o "Rangers" tab
o Large image button on the left side
- Rangers’ profiles
The team created Facebook profiles for the majority of their sales reps. Some profiles covered several representatives within a region. The team added these profiles to their Facebook page so consumers could find a local representative. Step #4. Promote at points-of-sale
The team’s sales reps are responsible for working with local distributors, stores, pubs and restaurants to create local promotions for their products. Here are some of the strategies they used to promote the new beer:
- Launch parties
The team worked with local proprietors to hold about 250 events across the country for the launch. They gave away branded shirts, buttons and beer glasses, and also arranged to have bands play at suitable venues.
Some of the team’s reps promoted local events through their Facebook updates and photos (see creative samples).
- Case displays and signage
For stores, the team created signage for the point of sale. They also arranged with stores to have special case displays set up around the launch. The signage emphasized the message "IPA the Beer Ranger Way," and featured the main campaign image of the ranger with a bicycle.
- Photo canvases
One of the team’s reps requested a life-sized cardboard display of the campaign’s ranger with its face cut out, so customers could pose for pictures behind it. The team loved the idea and created several more to send to other reps.Step #5. Print and website promotion
The team purchased magazine advertising to support the product launch. Print advertising has been a major element of their marketing strategy for years, and they did not cut back on that spending in recent years like many of their competitors.
"We’re really reaping the benefits of those partnerships," Glassman says.
For example, the team got more than they expected when they purchased an ad for the back cover of Rolling Stone
. The ad featured an image of the product, the ranger and the "IPA the Beer Ranger Way" message. (See creative samples)
"They gave us a national buy even though we’re a regional advertiser because we’ve been supporting them, and because they like our brand," Glassman says.
The team also purchased a two-page insert in Wired
that included an image of the interactive map and urged readers to "go find your local ranger" with a URL to their microsite.
The team also placed advertisements in these magazines:
- Link microsite to homepage website
The team’s homepage regularly cycles through four to five large linked images. For this effort, they included an image of three rangers linked to the funny video, and an image of the product and ranger mascot linked to the microsite. RESULTS
"This was the first launch we did in this fashion, and it proved very successful," Glassman says. "The beer is selling. We’re doing well."
The team passed their three-month sales goal within six weeks of the launch.
"If Ranger IPA continues selling on the trajectory it currently is, we will have the #2 best-selling IPA in the country by year’s end."
- Social media gains
They gained about 7,000 fans to their Facebook profiles within the first week, helping to connect customers with their local sales reps.
- Microsite traffic
About 100,000 unique visitors arrived at the microsite in the campaign’s first two months. They typically stayed for 5 to 7 minutes each.Useful links related to this articleCreative Samples from New Belgium’s Ranger IPA product launch campaign
Members Library -- Launching an Ecommerce Site with Social Networking: 7 Takeaways
Members Library -- Merge Email, Microsites and Social Media for Product Launch SuccessRangerland MicrositeNew Belgium on Facebook
o Rolling Stone
: Helped the team build the interactive map for FacebookBackbone Media
: Assisted the team’s media purchaseCultivator
: Helped the team design the ads’ and campaign’s look and feelNew Belgium Brewing Company