In an effort to really understand the consumers of their different brands, Miller Brewing Company hired some research guys to do some in-depth profiling of the specific kinds...

  You want to know something funny about this program? When we were looking for a cell-phone partner, we pitched the idea to several. One of the first who turned us down ended up doing exactly the same program themselves about three months after we pitched it. Crazy coincidence, right? I still laugh about that…

You want to know something funny about this program? When we were looking for a cell-phone partner, we pitched the idea to several. One of the first who turned us down ended up doing exactly the same program themselves about three months after we pitched it. Crazy coincidence, right? I still laugh about that…

... of people who love and identify with – and consume the bulk of – Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft, and Icehouse.

When they began the presentation to us about Icehouse, they opened by saying “We’ve never encountered a consumer like this and we don’t know how you can market to him.”

  This guy is actually in a bar in North Carolina, watching an ACC football game, and he’s getting the call! Later he said that while he’d never been an Icehouse drinker before, you can bet he was now. And more importantly, the other patrons in the bar were jazzed that he won – and that made the bar owner happy – which made Icehouse happiest of all.

This guy is actually in a bar in North Carolina, watching an ACC football game, and he’s getting the call! Later he said that while he’d never been an Icehouse drinker before, you can bet he was now. And more importantly, the other patrons in the bar were jazzed that he won – and that made the bar owner happy – which made Icehouse happiest of all.

Not encouraging words.

Apparently the Icehouse consumer didn’t get out much. (I could have told them this – our on-premise numbers were low no matter how many times we came up with creative programs). In fact, he by-and-large didn’t leave his parents’ basement often. Mostly just to go to work. Even though he was in his thirties.  Plus he didn’t have many friends, he didn’t have much ambition, and as for girlfriends, well, yeah, not much going on there.

The researchers literally turned to us and shrugged and then moved on to another brand. And then the client handed us a brief for a fall football program that would drive sales in the Southeast (Icehouse’s biggest market), with a special focus in the on-premise.

  Another funny story. One of Icehouse’s biggest markets was North Carolina. But the client was upset with us that we weren’t getting an on-premise execution there. So we called them up. And guess what? On-premise events are ILLEGAL in North Carolina! You ‘d think the client would know that, wouldn’t you? Or at least would apologize after screaming at us about our low numbers there. So we got on the phone with a couple of lawyers in two different time zones and STILL figured out a way to make it work. Funny, huh?

Another funny story. One of Icehouse’s biggest markets was North Carolina. But the client was upset with us that we weren’t getting an on-premise execution there. So we called them up. And guess what? On-premise events are ILLEGAL in North Carolina! You ‘d think the client would know that, wouldn’t you? Or at least would apologize after screaming at us about our low numbers there. So we got on the phone with a couple of lawyers in two different time zones and STILL figured out a way to make it work. Funny, huh?

Welcome to the fascinating world of beer marketing.

I was actually happy to get this research. I mean, at least now we really knew who we were talking to, and what their issues were. What they wanted to do, and what they didn’t want to do. And I’m always up for a good challenge. I may have mentioned this to the client. Which is when they told us about their partnership with the Jefferson Pilot Television Network, that would guarantee them a second-tier ACC, and/or a third-tier SEC football game, every weekend in the fall.

So to recap – please convince people who don’t like to leave their homes  to go to bars to watch football games between teams they probably don’t care about, while they drink a beer they could get at home.

No problem.

All we had to do was create a reason that watching the game in the bar was more compelling than at home. And we had to make the program so simple to participate in that they basically didn’t have to do anything. Just show up and win – but we can’t say that because as soon as you say that, it’s not “winning”.  And our drinker doesn’t feel special.

So what about this. Come to the bar. Register your cellphone with the Icehouse guy. Watch the game. If you get a call from the sidelines reporter, you could win season tickets to your favorite ACC or SEC college.

And even if you don’t get that call, you might get a call from the Icehouse guy, awarding you great prizes right there in the bar!

  An announcement during the game of one of our winners – creating this seamless, real-time, cross-tactic event – every Saturday – that drove people to bars, got them excited about Icehouse, and rewarded them for doing nothing. Well, for answering their damn phones. Which is almost nothing.

An announcement during the game of one of our winners – creating this seamless, real-time, cross-tactic event – every Saturday – that drove people to bars, got them excited about Icehouse, and rewarded them for doing nothing. Well, for answering their damn phones. Which is almost nothing.

Amazingly, it worked. Icehouse drinkers crawled out of their caves and showed up on Saturdays in bars from the Carolinas to Florida and west to Louisiana. Jefferson-Pilot reported more bars were showing their games, because of the relationship with Icehouse. More non-Icehouse drinkers were drinking Icehouse, because of the excitement they experienced in the bars.

And for the first time in years, on-premise numbers went up, everywhere. But more importantly, Icehouse had figured out a way to connect with its consumers in a way that not only was relevant to them, but that also helped them build the brand as something local, regional and accessible. And thatwas huge.