Commentary

Pabst Using Digital, Data To Reach A New American Beer Drinker

Jillian Davis, director, marketing technology, Pabst Brewing Co.; Trisha Stecker, director, channel strategy and digital media, RR Partners.

Case Study Interview: Digital & Data Make 174 Year Old Beer Relevant To The Next Generation

Jillian: The category is declining significantly as wine and spirits are growing. The creative is very different than anything you’ve ever seen. We wanted to create this road of personal harmony and diversity in this video, leveraging the messaging to reach new consumers. The category is declining more than any other alcohol category for young people. It was a wake-up call for us. It’s a new America that is coming. PBR wants to be in harmony with non-conformity. Our consumer was outgrowing us. The demo is aging. The older, white male is also ... dying.

Trisha: Also, there’s the fact that marijuana is becoming more legalizied, and the decrease of beer is not only that the consumer is choosing other beverages, they’re also choosing other recreational activities.

Jillian: Our new target audience is the 21 to 24 year old multicultural, and women provide a great opportunity, 52% of the U.S. population identifies as female. We’re taking that as an opportunit. 

Trisha: [The new creative] goes out on a limb, bringing in immmigation, political issues that drove the conversation and got media buzz. This positive news, the tweets, we use social listening tools to look across all channels. These are the type of words coming from a beer channel; it was shocking for us. It was showing that it might be negative, but we want to cultivate that. The word beer was not even mentioned.

Jillian: It’s an entire documentary on our YouTube channel, our [people] went on tour with these people. We all had hesitation because it was so drastically different. We’ve seen really, really hateful and shocking comments, and we realized we don’t necessarily want to keep those consumers. 

Trisha: Leveraging Vice, using their platforms, we think it’s best for other people to promote your brand. [The Pabst creative] looks more like a Vice video than a typical TV spot. How do we complement it within our own channel so current customers understand the shift the brand is making?  We’re using paid distribution across Vice and Pabst channels, dark posts, having Vice target a more specific audience.

Pabst is planning the next phase, showcasing undocumented immigrants and every hot-issue button in American controversies.

Jillian: Not gonna lie, we definitely lost some existing consumers, some of the older consumers felt it was a slap in the face. Looking at this from a cultural context and category context. This is a culture issue and if we don’t tap into that, how can we expect the brand to resonate with America as a whole.

There’s not one right answer for what we’re trying to do. It’s a complex landscape, but a step in the right decision to make a dramatic shift. It’s one step for [just] one of our brands. 

With the growth in our female audience, we’re using specific targeting, organic, dark posts. We worked with Vice, shifted media dollars to make sure we’re not wasting efforts, making sure we drag that message through Vice as opposed to its coming from Pabst. It’s not a heavily branded video. We’re not looking at it from a sales standpoint. We don’t sell direct to the consumer. We’re recruiting that new consumer. It’s our first big effort, first campaign with R&R.

Trisha: We’re looking at video views, the conversation through comments, the YouTube page, and we have a 1-800 number for calling in your American dream, which drew more videos, showing that it’s not just Pabst. I think it’s awesome. It got a on of PR. We’re taking this and applying it to all other creative. 

Jillian: The marketing efforts use a grassroots approach; locationization is important to us. That piece was grassroots. We’re hoping for organic growth. 

We’re building a DMP, the localization of our brands; there’s not one answer. The DMP is the first step in the right direction, we want to hone in on local markets, specifically for Pabst. We’re in the early stages of building our DMP.  Our marketing reps are hosting a ton of events with photo booths, sign-ups for emails, working with Live Nation with ticket purchases and on-site events. It’s finding the right partners, working with a great agency.

Trisha: So we got an empty DMP ready to be built, no historical framework, building websites for them. We’re looking at how can we not just ask for email, what other elements should we ask for. Thinking data first and what can we be doing to capture data and then feed out to the right audience. Data is all from the loyalists. Taking any second-party insights and applying them across all segments. Loyalists, advocates, how do we let them be more vocal, give them more content, drive the conversation. We’re building out segments based on loyalists and advocates to bring in the new consumer. For new consumers, we lean on the paid aspect. Look to partners like Live Nation to capture data on the impression level instead of working on walled gardens like Facebook. How do we balance that conversation. We walk that fine line knowing what our KPI is and if it’s awareness, we’ll do what’s best for awareness. When they come to our website, hopefully they’ll give us their email address. 

Walled gardens are our biggest challenge from a media standpoint. We pay so much for a DMP but can’t leverage all the data.

Jillian: Finding the right partners is essential, having our vendors/agency partners understanding our biz model. You want clarity going into agreements. Next, how can we make systems talk to each other. What’s crucial to bringing on a DMP is company wide buy-in and overall education. I’m a one-man show, marketing/tech at Pabst. I have to educate our brand managers. It’s super, super important to the success of any transformation. It’s a heavy investment, a big chunk of time. 

Why go from in-house to hiring an agency

Jillian: Bring in the experts, they provide an outsider perspective, they’re seeing what’s happening with other clients. It’s not having to manage people, which can be a time suck; we don’t have to onboard them. Moving forward, extraordinary behavior, experts at the table with us. 

Trisha: My job is to know ins and outs of digital, to come to table and enlighten them and test out changes on other clients, bring learnings to Pabst. We have a ton of players on Facebook and Google.

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