To the disappointment of around 6 million beer enthusiasts, Oktoberfests have been cancelled yet again. The image below gives us a sense of why. However, if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that with digital transformation, a deep understanding of the current customer and the right platform beer brands can effectively engage their audiences.
The beleaguered beer industry fell “flat” and lost a lot last year. French brewers were forced to destroy 10 million litres of beer as a result of bars and pubs closing down, Germany saw almost 9700 of its annual beer-related festivals cancelled.
In the first six months of 2021, beer sales decreased by 2.7%, or 113.4 million litres, compared with the same period a year earlier. The Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) also reports that the breweries and beer warehouses in Germany sold roughly 4.2 billion litres of beer in the 1st half of 2021. Beer brands are hopeful, now that pubs and stores are reopening. However, to recover the losses from the car crash that was in 2020 and from numerous events like Oktoberfests getting cancelled, marketers need to understand their customers, how their behaviours and preferences have changed and use every tool available to effectively communicate with them.
None of us have lived through a period like this, it has permanently altered the way we think and the way we buy. Marketers need to ponder, and ponder hard on what their customer engagement strategy would be in this world of virtual Oktoberfests.
Pushed into long periods of isolation, and armed with the ability of the hyper-connected digital world, our purchases became more convenience-driven. Now that the world is reopening, what can we expect? In the first heady months of freedom, would the customers flock to stores and pubs or prefer shopping online? To help brands understand how their customers will shop post-pandemic, we surveyed 1000+ customers. The compilation of the survey results is a report titled “Personalisation Pulse Check 2021. The report stated that 40% of North American and European consumers will adopt a hybrid model of online and offline shopping once normalcy restores, while 36% would prefer shopping online.
When COVID-19 restrictions go back to how they were pre-COVID, how do consumers expect to engage with brands? Would they rush to attend Oktoberfests or frequent pubs? Or would they want to still stay at home?
Despite the cancelled Oktoberfests and closed pubs, most beer brands that have succeeded in navigating the virtual world have understood their customers well. To build a strong campaign, marketers need to understand what makes your customer buy from one brand vs another.
The industry has customers from all age groups. From boomers to Gen X to Millennials, the journey from a “production economy” to a “service economy” to today’s "identity economy", a marketer’s message will differ. Today’s customer, driven by the pandemic fueled importance of mental health seeks answers to questions like “who am I?” and “who will you as a brand help me become?”Gen Z and millennials as a cohort buy from brands that are socially responsible and align with their values. Brands marketing to this cohort should focus on value-based buying as a concept. This cohort is also more likely to buy locally and try newer brands. Baby boomers are more convenience-driven and aren’t interested in browsing while shopping. They know what they want, and look for a store that they know the item is available in.
“We should get a beer when this is over” is something we’ve all seen on a text thread or heard on a phone call from our colleagues, friends, family etc. Molson Coors, to help friends reconnect, the brand offered to pick up the first round if they’re able to show a screenshot of the text that reads “We should get a beer”.
The Carlsberg “Adopt a keg” campaign rewards lockdown drinkers with pub pints post lockdown. The campaign encourages customers to fill a virtual keg by scanning labels of store-bought cans or bottles, once you scan 4 labels you get a pint post lockdown. As a result of this campaign, more than 2,000 virtual kegs were created within the first 48 hours. By June, 10,000 kegs were created, 600 bars had signed up to be included in the initiative and the campaign had been expanded to four markets.
Now that we’ve seen the creative approaches beer brands have adopted to ensure good brand awareness and retention in a time of cancelled Oktoberfests, let’s look at strategies that can facilitate acquisition and retention for your customers.
Whether there is an Oktoberfest or not, one thing is for sure. Beer brands are innovative and resilient. Brands employing a customer-centric approach to engagement are certainly thriving and will continue to do so.
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