Posts Tagged ‘Connection’

Shopping: The Next Killer Social Media App

Friday, May 1st, 2009

If your brand or your client sells anything using the Internet, you need to put down the BlackBerry and start working on a recommendation to build social media tools into the purchase process. I can’t overwhelm you with case studies and ROI models yet, but the forces of e-commerce and human habits are combining to make digital/social shopping a killer app. Act now before your competitor steals the spotlight and market shares.

Let me break down why this gets me excited enough to push a recommendation at you: First, people love to shop together. Many female friends, couples, and even a few bromances get together regularly to hit the stores to find deals and get second opinions together in the physical world. Second, more and more shopping is done online, but people lose the chance to have fun and get help from friends in this way. But digital social media tools are bringing friends together virtually, and people are using them to keep in touch with more people more often. Digital + Social Shopping (needing a better buzz word, btw) puts it all together. And when marketers get into the act of encouraging these meaningful connections, they have a high chance of closing the sale.

I’ve heard this trend called “social commerce,” a blend of social media and e-commerce, but so far this phrase has been used mainly by companies such as Bazaarvoice that enable product reviews. What I’m talking about is deeper than just getting help from people; it’s specifically around enrolling your trusted friends in the live-ish shopping process itself.

Case studies: Of course, you need case studies to buy into this new world of buying. Check out these three:

Sears Prom Dresses + Facebook

I would argue that a very modest Facebook application for Sears last March was the best marketing use of this social networking service yet. The idea was pretty simple: Allow girls on Sears.com to share pictures of their favorite prom dresses out of 70 available on the site, and ask for feedback from their friends on Facebook. The beauty of this application is that it put the social network to work for the customer, creating a fun conversation and getting real help to a girl in need of a second, third, or 10th opinion. For Sears, this tool provided a meaningful way to attract customers to its stores, and it benefitted from the viral aspect of a girl virtually bringing several friends into the shopping process.

Vans Sneakers

Three Minds on Digital at Organic alerted me to a great example at Vans.com. The site is a custom shoe creation tool that includes a very simple option to email or SMS a photo of your proposed shoe with a short message to friends. For something “artsy” such as self-designed Vans shoes, a quick peek from a buddy can really help make sure your fashion statement doesn’t produce laughter.

Bob Gilbreath’s New Shoes

Yep, that’s me, your friendly blog writer, with a case study that’s actually an example how people will use these tools whether marketers are involved or not. Two weeks ago I was looking for some shoes to go with some new agency-wear summer shirts from Lucky Jeans that I bought online. In the office I was walking by three female friends in our Client Service organization who I know have good eyes for fashion. I was wearing one of my new shirts and stopped to ask for shoe advice. Within an hour Amanda emailed me four choices from Piperlime.com, with some comments. She cc’ed Andi and Tiffany, who added some comments on their preferences. That evening I took a look and clicked to buy a nice pair of brown Steve Madden shoes. Of course I had to upload a photo to my Facebook account (above) and share with my fashion outfitters, as well as the rest of my friend network. I’m now looking a little sharper, and everyone who was involved in the process had fun.

If fashion victims like me are going to use digital/social tools for shopping anyway, why isn’t your brand part of the solution? There is absolutely no reason for any e-commerce provider to ignore this opportunity to build social shopping and sharing into their existing e-stores. Tools such as ShareThis already make it easy, and if a customer is wavering, this could be an easy way to prevent shopping carts from being left idle. Meanwhile, the chance to essentially place a free ad in front of trusted friends is simply wonderful.

What’s next is that these digital social networks will come into the store, thanks to better smart phones and mobile access. Take a quick picture of yourself in the dressing-room mirror and upload it to a handful of trusted consultants or even millions of strangers. Smart stores will find ways to make this more fun and useful.

So, e-marketers, please embrace social media to aid the shopping process. We customers need the help, and you surely could use the extra sales.

Teaming Up for Mutual Experiences

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

As I was putting together material for our upcoming book, I came across several examples of two brands working together to create a mutual experience that benefits both equities, and especially their joint customers. One example I ran across while staying at my regular W Hotel in NYC (541 Lexington) is the above offer for a free ride in an Acura MDX. I didn’t have time to take a ride, but I saw another great example of Marketing with Meaning.

This is a clear example of a win-win-win for all three parties. W Hotels gets to offer another service under its umbrella brand of “Whatever/Whenever,” which itself is a great way to differentiate their hotels from the many choices business travelers have around the world. And this comes at zero cost to the hotel chain. Acura gets a chance to connect with W Hotel customers, likely the kind of young, higher-income crowd that is in the sweet spot for its vehicles. These people can be difficult to reach with traditional, interruptive ads. And a free ride is a great chance to let prospects sample the vehicle in a low-pressure way.

Of course, let’s not forget the benefit to the customer. He or she gets a free ride in a cozy car by a considerate driver who knows his way around town. The customer also feels appreciated, and may feel a little like a big shot or movie star. This is a meaningful experience for the customer that connects her closer to both the W Hotel and Acura brands.

I have run across a few other examples of diverse brands hooking up to build mutually valuable experiences. A while back I wrote about Honda and Mattel hooking up for a special-edition Hot Wheels collectible car. There’s the Nike/Apple join-up with the Nike+ system. I read recently about the story behind how Fox and 7-Eleven partnered to create a dozen branded Kwik-E-Marts to support last year’s The Simpsons Movie. And I also recently came across the story of how Victoria’s Secret put on a fashion show last year in the aisle of Virgin Airways. (Check out the photos below for a glimpse of these diverse experiences.)

These experiential tie-ins seem to work best when the brands share both a common target customer and brand equity elements. The Simpsons and 7-Eleven both target 18-34 Men, for example. But they also take corporate organizations that are willing to give up some control and ownership to the other side. It’s a great exercise to conduct for your own brand: Think about other relevant brands in your customer’s life and consider the synergies that lie around a partnership, and then pick up the BlackBerry and reach out. Chances are there will be another marketer out there similarly looking for ideas to something new and meaningful.

Proof of the Power of Personalization

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Once in a while I bring up a topic that is such a no-brainer that it almost writes itself. This is one of those occasions. From the headline you likely got it right away: People absolutely love to personalize the products and services they buy. The overall concept hits on both sides of the brain. The rational, left side believes that there is a perfect package of features that will maximize the utility of a given purchase. Meanwhile, the right side loves to create something and show it off to others. More and more marketers have discovered the power of product personalization across one or both of these lines, and they are discovering that such meaningful marketing leads to great sales results.

Let’s start with M&Ms, a brand that has been in the personalization game for some time now, and was recently featured in a 3-minute Ad Age video. It’s a pretty simple concept: Let people go onto a website and create a personalized message to print onto their M&Ms candy. After starting in 2005 with simple messages of a few words, the company’s manufacturing process now allows faces, sports logos, and pretty much anything a customer can imagine. In other words, M&Ms helps people make more out of special occasions and personal passions. The result is a value-added experience that connects people deeply to the M&Ms brand. When people create a bowl of M&Ms with their wedding date on it, or buy a package of M&Ms with the Phillies 2008 World Series logo, they are creating a permanent bond with the brand that drives loyalty beyond reason.

People want to express themselves more and identify themselves more… and a brand like M&Ms can really enable that and evolve that.” (Ryan Bowling, PR Manager, Mars North America)

But the business benefits of personalization are just as powerful as the customer payoff. The candy itself returns a huge margin. One 7 oz. pack of Kyle Busch-themed candy sells for $12.99, which runs to $38.97 (plus shipping) in the three-bag minimum. Compare that to less than a dollar for regular M&Ms at the checkout lane. Personalized products also enjoy a strong word-of-mouth factor, as people often give these as gifts or can’t wait to show off their creations to friends and family. In the Ad Age video, Ryan Bowling, PR Manager for Mars North America, describes some of the other key marketing benefits of the program:

  • “Opened up new partnerships and allowed the company to reinvest in its manufacturing systems”
  • Led to a similar initiative with Dove bars called “My Dove“—which specializes in chocolate for weddings
  • Finally, he credits the program with: “Nothing less than revitalizing the brand.”

More and more companies are getting the message that personalized products represent a model of meaningful marketing and strong business results. Per my left brain/right brain comment above, product personalization seems to work best in categories where people have specific tastes (food and otherwise) that they want to get just right and/or where they can show off their creativity to others. Here are some of my favorites:

NIKEiD—This maximizes both logic and emotion by offering up the chance to pick the perfect shoe fit and a range of colors and styles. Nike continues to evolve this business and marketing machine with experiments in mobile and even a Times Square billboard.

Jones Soda—Add your photo and choose your flavor, and for only $29.99 per 12-pack (plus shipping), you can have your personalized Jones concoction.

Pringles Pop Art—I’m proud to say that we just launched this tool a few weeks ago at Bridge Worldwide. The Pringles can is iconic and with this simple tool you can create a new label, print it, and tape it on. With barely any media support so far, we’ve had thousands of people create and share personal labels. I’m amazed that: (1) people are already creating holiday versions; and (2) one of the senior Pringles leaders has already created eight cans! You can check out and vote for mine here (a remembrance of Pringles inventor Fred Baur, who was buried in a Pringles can this year):

Pop Art: vote for my design

LEGO Factory—Use special software to design whatever you come up with, then upload the design, and order the LEGO kit needed to make it a reality. Happy kids and high profits.

Heinz—The new labels are funny, but you can come up with a better one on your own, right? My only ding on this program is that there is some pretty heavy editing for trademarks.

Scion—The Gen-Y brand from Toyota came to market built around the idea of personalization. Car lovers continually tune their cars after purchase, so why not allow personalization off the assembly line? They have built on this theme of personalization with Scion Speak, a tool that lets you create your own coat of arms.

Of course, personalization hasn’t worked for every brand. I recall Millstone coffee offering a personalized-blend product several years ago through Yahoo! stores. It did a great job of asking questions about your taste preferences, and then made a personalized blend of beans under the name of your choosing. The plug was pulled on Millstone, however, as owner P&G discovered that the high-maintenance packing process was not paying out. I do wonder if the company could have figured out a success model by staying in the game over time. This also might have given Millstone a stronger competitive position in the marketplace.

Despite a few challenge and brands that have no right to play here, product personalization offers huge prospects for meaningful marketing and business success. If you are not at least experimenting here, your brand—and its most loyal customers—are missing out.

Lucky Charms to Sell Jeans

Monday, October 13th, 2008

Can a little thing like branded buttons sell jeans? The other day I received the propaganda above in an order of clothing from Lucky jeans. The buttons came loose in the shipping box, and I later found the fortune in the right front pocket of my new denim. It got me wondering about the strategy behind these little tokens. There has to be some reason the brand invests the money and time to produce and distribute them, right? I believe the answer is yes—and it’s another neat example of meaningful marketing.

One of the platforms of Marketing With Meaning is what we call Connections. A brand can make meaningful connections when it provides entertainment or an experience. Like the philosophy best described in the book The Experience Economy, the products and marketing are mere props that contribute to a personal experience. These experiences more deeply “connect” us to the brand and drive loyalty beyond reason.

Lucky is a brand in a category that has the best chance of winning by building meaningful connections. Let’s face it, jeans are jeans. Sure, some fit and look better or are made with higher quality materials, but there is no real intellectual property to protect style, color, or material (sorry, Levi’s). So jean makers have embraced branding to set themselves apart. Since around 1979 when Brooke Shields introduced the world to her Calvins, the brand of jeans we wear has come to stand for who we are; and while the physical products are basically the same, a wide variety of brands have risen in recent years, each fighting to connect with a niche of consumers.

I personally discovered Lucky in San Francisco a little over two years ago. My wife and I were enjoying our 10-year anniversary there and took advantage of the time without kids and work to do some shopping. She mentioned to me that Lucky was known for having great experts in fitting—a key need for a 6’3″ guy like me. The first thing I noticed on the first pair I tried on was the catchphrase “Lucky You” sewn into the inside of the fly. It made me smile, and I later discovered that this was a very controversial decision by the cofounders in 1990. I had a great shopping experience and picked up a couple of pairs.

Since then I’ve been happy with the fit and wear of my Lucky jeans. But I have also come to feel that they are my brand. It is a brand that fits both my body and my personality. So it was a no-brainer to head to Lucky.com recently when it was time to update the wardrobe. I came for a pair of jeans, but ended up buying a few retro t-shirts at a ridiculously high price. I got the shirts because I felt like broadcasting my Lucky personality to the world. The little surprises in the form of these buttons and the pocket fortune further solidified my passion for the brand.

Lucky isn’t the only brand that invests in showing such a connection to fans. Perhaps the best player in this area is Apple. For years, Apple has included window stickers of its logo in new computers and iPods. And, sure enough, we have seen the sticker everywhere from cars to notebooks to bedrooms.

Years ago I tried to include some similar brand propaganda when I launched Mr. Clean AutoDry Car Wash. After studying guys and cars for years, I was convinced that we needed to invest in making Mr. Clean a cult brand for, well, car guys. We did several new-to-P&G things at the time to encourage this, like giving devices to online discussion group moderators and going to car shows. I really wanted to include a Mr. Clean sticker in each Starter Kit package. I knew that “Tuners” love to place stickers of their favorite brands on their cars, and I figured that by including a sticker we could encourage cult status. Alas, it was something I just couldn’t convince my organization to spring for.  Our costs were already a little over budget, and it was hard to guarantee that a 1-cent sticker would pay out.

I couldn’t show the ROI on a Mr. Clean sticker, and I’m sure that the marketing departments of Lucky and Apple can’t either. As marketers we sometimes need to go with our guts and invest in little things that build connections between brands and the people who buy into them.

uPumpItUp: Social Motivation from Crystal Light

Monday, July 14th, 2008

One of my favorite topics to cover is anything that my loyal readers suggest. Last week, “doohan” sent me a link to uPumpItUp, a program from the Crystal Light brand. I would call uPumpItUp a “platform for social reinforcement of habit change” targeted at women. It is certainly meaningful marketing, and an interesting play for Crystal Light.

The site itself challenges women to “inspire each other to do more of the things that make us feel great, and help share that good feeling with others.” The program is “hosted” by Mandy Moore. It revolves around four categories and includes video hosts who are experts in each: Connect (share moments with the people you love), Express (upgrade your style), Inspire (“tune out distractions and tune into yourself”), and Explore (find new passions and be spontaneous).

Each category includes some short suggestions and ideas; but the focus is on member-generated challenges. And each challenge has multiple steps to ease members into the change. For example, on the Explore page, there are 152 members of the “Backyard Explorer: Become a Tourist in Your Hometown” challenge. Steps include: “Do Your Research” and “Explore a New Neighborhood.” Such challenges are another example of building meaningful connections in a social setting. People are often more motivated to change if others (even strangers) commit to joining them.

Overall, this feels like a meaningful marketing program. There are more than 50,000 consumers in the program, and I see a good amount of activity in the challenge membership and comment areas. These comments are very positive and I imagine that a good number of consumers who choose to engage with the program are making small steps to “pump up” their lives.

On the other hand, I see some room for improvement. First, the videos are a bit over-the-top and slow to load, and can be annoying for return visitors. There are other issues in how the information is presented and accessed. These issues really speak to the need of websites to prioritize User Experience over creative bells and whistles. In tools like this, people want easily accessible information. It’s why “ugly” sites such as Craigslist score so well with visitors. This is one of those areas of expertise that brand managers are just beginning to understand, and where many digital agencies are behind in building. (Yes, I’ve become a UX snob and we’ve got a great crew.)

The site is also missing critical aspects of Web 2.0 that make these tools more useful. I see no RSS feeds, downloadable content, or the ability to integrate with existing social networks such as Facebook. The hosts’ content is flat and unchanging. You can’t even search the site. I believe these are missed opportunities, and leave members wondering if this will go away in six months. The people who would participate in such groups have come to expect these features.

I think the jury is out on the business impact of uPumpItUp. The Crystal Light brand does not seem well integrated into the program. Branding is missing, aside from a logo at the bottom (below the fold) and a design element of colored liquid flowing across the page. I’m dying for Crystal Light to explain why it is hosting this program, and why it is a fit with the brand. On the positive side, it seems to have gotten a lot of press from leading magazines and online properties.

I think uPumpItUp is a good step into the world of meaningful marketing for Crystal Light. But I hope this is the first baby step toward real change, rather than a short-term promotion that will shut down when Mandy Moore’s contract expires.

A Tale of Three Ales: (3) Coors Light

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

(This is part three of a three-part series on beer companies that are building meaningful connections with their target consumers.)

In the past two posts I focused on challenger brands Sam Adams and Speight’s, both of which were built on creating close connections with a focused niche of consumers. But can big mega-brands with millions of diverse beer drinkers get in on the meaningful marketing game as well? I think a recent Coors Light campaign shows it is possible – but they have work left to do.

Coors Light recently launched a pretty interesting beer innovation – a “cold activated label” in which the mountains on the label turn from white to blue when the beer gets cold enough to drink. It’s a neat idea in a category that doesn’t get much innovation, and I think the focus on “cold” fits with the Coors Light equity in an ownable way (compared to, say, wide-mouth cans). The brand is supporting the new label with – you guessed it – a giant TV campaign. If you’re a sports fan you’ve likely been exposed to this copy dozens of times already, but if not take a gander here:

At first blush, it’s another amusing beer ad that is not especially meaningful. However, a deeper look shows some progress. A recent article in the New York Times announced that Coors Light is leveraging this ad idea to create a Facebook application that friends can use to send a “Code Blue” alert to friends and coordinate a place and time to escape from work. Coors Light has created other interesting applications on its website and MySpace page. There is a Happy Hour Locater, links to local city events, and an “Excuse-o-ator” widget that will provide you with rationale for leaving work early. All are tools that pass the Marketing with Meaning test: (1) consumers must choose to engage with them; and (2) there is a benefit even without buying the product.

Despite its progress, Coors Light is missing on a few levels. I think the biggest problem is that the 30-second ad is not truly integrated into the meaningful marketing. The TV ad does not tie into or drive viewers to the meaningful tools. C’mon, guys – there’s not even a URL at the end of the ad! We’ve seen this dozens of times with interactive work; the lead agency creates a commercial, and the client asks us to “build a digital link” after the fact. Tellingly, in the NYT article, the creative director at Draft FCB, Bill Lindsey, says that, “In this new world we live in, it’s something we’re learning to live with.” He doesn’t exactly sound thrilled to be in this new world, does he? Frankly, it is a pain in the ass to coordinate with outside agencies, and it’s much more work than AORs are used to. But the new world is here. Get used to it, and create better work. Going forward, brands must ensure that all advertising works together in a connected ecosystem – despite the lead agency insisting that it will kill the creative or take too much time.

Another big problem comes in the execution of the meaningful pieces of the program. Coors Light really should have figured out a way to use mobile (SMS) – as it is the communication tool of choice for coordinating party-goers. The article says it was not technically feasible, but we beg to differ. The Facebook application, which got such powerful buzz in this article, is nowhere to be found. Coors has purchased no Google AdWords to support consumers who are looking for its tools. And the user experience of tools such as the Happy Hour Locater is pretty poor; it feels slapped together (see Adrants‘ review of a banner ad).

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find data on the program in order to measure meaning or marketing results. But I did see that Coors Light share was up over the Memorial Day weekend. Despite a mixed execution, I’m excited to see this mass beer brand recognize the need to do something more than amuse its consumers with witty 30-second ads – and it is forcing its agencies to work together to improve. I believe the people who choose to engage with these Coors Light tools will build stronger loyalty to the brand. And the social element of the tools helps drive word-of-mouth at a minimal cost.

A Tale of Three Ales: (2) Speight’s

Monday, July 7th, 2008

(This is part two of a three-part series on beer companies that are building meaningful connections with their target consumers. – updated with video 12/5/08))

By now I’ve talked about my trip to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival so many times that I’m starting to feel guilty. But I do believe that each case study I share from the trip helps pay my financial and boondoggle debt to Bridge Worldwide, and to you, dear reader. Today I have a beer example that fits perfectly into this three-part series.

Next Up: Speight’s

You probably have never heard of Speight’s beer, even if, like me, you enjoy finding the most random beer brand in the cooler of The Party Source. Speight’s is actually a regional brew from the South… of New Zealand. According to Wikipedia, Speight’s markets itself as “the pride of the south” (who knew that there was a whole north/south thing in NZ, a country of only 4 million people?) and is the favorite beer of students at the University of Otago (which is known for a tradition of “couch burning” – not to be confused with bench burning at Duke University, my alma mater, after a big basketball win – but both happen to occur when large quantities of beer are consumed).

Enough of the trivia. According to marketing legend, the brand learned that fellow Kiwis in the UK missed their Speight’s beer. So in 2007 Speight’s launched “The Great Beer Delivery” – an actual working Speight’s Alehouse was strapped to the deck of a cargo ship. People in New Zealand applied online to accompany the vessel on a 24,000 kilometer trip to Samoa, Panama, the Bahamas, and New York City, before landing in London to thousands of thrilled – and thirsty – brand fans. The trip was covered by PR media in NZ and the UK for weeks as it made its way. It’s a brilliant idea and had brilliant results in terms of meaning and marketing.

I think the meaning here is pretty obvious: The brand connected itself with pride for the nation of New Zealand as it built a bridge between those in the home country and transplants in the UK who missed their mates. This reinforces the idea that beer can be a category that people closely identify with. So efforts to deepen that identification – or connection – are critical to success. A key measure of success is the number of people who chose to engage in the program: According to the brand, “6% of all New Zealand men” (I’m estimating more than 100,000 people) applied online to crew the floating bar.

The marketing results were also pretty impressive. The brand received millions of dollars of free PR for the effort. Speight’s regained its leadership share in the NZ market and drove a “double-digit increase in Brand Adoration… whilst all other mainstream beers declined.” Plus, it drove new distribution and sales in the UK.

The bonus benefit is the pride and fun that this event created for the employees and agency partners of Speight’s. How much more fun is launching a floating bar versus launching a 30-second ad? And, hey, you can even still win a Gold Lion!


The Speight’s Great Beer Delivery
Uploaded by hourigan

A Tale of Three Ales: (1) Sam Adams

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

In the weeks and months ahead, I will use this space to more fully detail a model for meaningful marketing. One of the features of our model is a grouping of the kinds of meaning that brands can provide. We call one level of meaningful marketing “Connection.” Connection marketing brings consumers closer to brands on a deeper, emotional level. It can be entertainment, experiences, a creative outlet, or social interaction.

Perhaps no product category better exemplifies meaningful connections than beer. Beer brands – and alcohol brands in general – depend on forming personal bonds with the people who drink them. After all, the category does not fulfill a true “need,” we often make beer choices in a social setting, and we tend to form loyalty to brands that reflect who we are (or who we want to be). As a result, great beer marketing is meaningful when it connects us closer to the brand and to others who share the same mind-set.

Recently I’ve come across three examples of beer marketing that hold high meaning for the specific consumers they target. This is the first of a series of three posts on meaningful beer marketing.

First up: Sam Adams

Sam Adams represents a cross between mass and class. It is an “entry point” in the microbrew category that adds higher quality to the traditional mix of nationally advertised brands. The target is likely someone who believes in paying for quality and likes to try new things, but wants a drink that is consistently enjoyable.

A few months ago I personally joined the Sam Adams brand world by purchasing a set of glassware that is specifically designed to maximize the experience of drinking Sam Adams beer. Founder Jim Koch met with a maker of wine glasses and wondered if glassware could do for beer what it has done for wine: Improve the taste and experience. I was already a fan of the brand, but when I read about this glass in Fortune I had to have it. You can see in the diagram below that the glass has several features that are designed to bring out the best in this beer, including laser etching on the bottom that produces a steady stream of bubbles.

I spent $30 for a set of four branded glasses and couldn’t wait to test them out on my own. Sure enough, my experience was excellent. I really do believe that these beer glasses improve the taste experience of the beer – and I won’t use anything else in my basement bar. Further, whenever friends come over and I’m serving drinks, I cannot wait to pour them a Sam Adams into my special glasses so that they can test the taste for themselves. Net, I paid $30 to become an ultra-loyal advocate for Sam Adams. That’s meaningful marketing.

When purchasing these glasses I also chose to opt into the Sam Adams email newsletter. As a digital marketing strategist, I’ve seen a hell of a lot of email newsletters. Many lack focus and feeling – but Sam Adams delivers. The newsletters are focused on the art of craft beers. Of course, there is mention of new seasonal brews that are arriving from the brand. But there is a lot of space dedicated to education about beer ingredients and helpful tips for home brewers. In other words, Sam Adams is driving consumer interest in making their own beer instead of buying Sam Adams. It’s similar to my post a few days ago about Tylenol using ads to help solve headaches without buying the brand. Despite a small risk to lower sales from home brewing, this builds a passion around craft brews and a deeper connection with the Sam Adams brand. It also pays off later in the year with the “Long Shot” home brewing contest, in which two winners get their work turned into a seasonal six-pack. Who wouldn’t want to buy the best homebrew of the year?

Sam Adams deepens its connection to their consumers in the newsletter by introducing a human element. The newsletter is authored by employees Andrew and Bert (pictured below), and shows photos of other employees and brand fans throughout. The personal touch helps a giant mega-brand like Sam Adams still feel like a local microbrew. It even allowed me to instantly forgive the brand when it had a product recall that forced me to pour a few bottles down the drain.

In my next two posts I will share additional examples of meaningful connections in the beer category. In the meantime, pour yourself a cold one and ponder the possibilities for your business.