Campaign Trail is our look at some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
Our editors' picks this week examine Budweiser bringing together alcohol brands on Repeal Day, how Chipotle turned ingredients into holiday season art and Maker's Mark's massive, Scarlett Johansson-assisted global campaign:
Budweiser invites competitors to celebrate Prohibition's repeal with DOOH displays
The rundown: This week, Budweiser partnered with Jim Beam Bourbon to mark the 85th anniversary of Prohibition's repeal by calling on fellow alcohol brands to join in on the Dec. 5 celebration, a press release announced. The beer maker parked a number of digital billboards in front of the breweries and offices of Sam Adams, MillerCoors, Heineken, Yuengling and others, according to Adweek, displaying special messages for each competitor, such as: "Dear Heineken, get your heinie to the bar on December 5th. It's repeal Day. Cheers, Bud."
Budweiser also worked to rally consumers by inviting them to end their work day early and toast to their right to drink at 5:32 p.m. — the exact minute Prohibition ended in 1933. On Wednesday, Budweiser marched its iconic Clydesdales through New York City to deliver beer, just as it reportedly did in Washington, D.C., immediately after Prohibition was repealed. The beer brand and Jim Beam also hosted speakeasy-style parties across the country to celebrate.
The AB InBev brand's digital billboard effort move comes off as less of a dunk on competitors and more like a move to bring together the alcohol industry to celebrate a shared event in America's history. By cleverly parking special displays in front of the breweries and offices of fellow spirits makers, Budweiser likely generated some brand awareness among passersby and reminded consumers of Bud's Prohibition-themed products.
Sending Clydesdales to distribute limited-edition brews in New York City nods to the beer maker's classic holiday advertisements that typically feature the iconic horses.
Budweiser's move to celebrate the end of Prohibition this week is part of the beer maker’s broader push to highlight its long history in America. Earlier this year, the AB InBev brand partnered with Jim Beam on a special Copper Lager anniversary brew, and in 2017, brought back a recipe that was originally created before Prohibition, but was never distributed once the law went into effect.
Chipotle takes a page from Saks with flashy, food-based holiday window displays
The rundown: For the holidays, Chipotle is joining a long-standing tradition among New York City retailers like Saks Fifth Ave.: running elaborate, flashy holiday window displays. At a single Columbus Circle restaurant location through today (Dec. 7), passersby will be able to view vignettes featuring winter wonderlands, carolers and more scenes related to the season.
Here's the twist: The displays, of which there are five total, are made entirely out of the chain's much-touted 51 fresh ingredients, such as rice, peppers and avocados. Visitors this week could drop in to the store to see sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton at work installing their creations.
"We hope the window display gets everyone in the holiday spirit while also showcasing Chipotle's longstanding commitment to preparing fresh food using real ingredients," Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt said in a press statement.
The results: Chipotle's holiday promotion may be limited to a single location, but fills the dual role of providing tourists and New Yorkers with some eye candy tied to the holidays while also touting the freshness of the fast-casual chain's ingredients, which has become a focal point in its marketing. The elaborateness of the scenes on display will probably be impressive enough for passersby to snap pics and share online, bolstering engagement with the installations (which Chipotle has promoted sparsely on its own channels).
Here's the thing, though. The idea is kind of gross. While it's hard to deny that Pelton and Victor's work is visually impressive, the fact that it's made out of food — including items that don't keep well at all, like avocados — might make some consumers queasy. The promotion is also coming from a company that's been rattled by multiple, high-profile food safety crises, most recently through an illness outbreak in July affecting 650 customers in Ohio.
Other promotions Chipotle is running around the holidays, such as ingredient-themed wrapping paper sold through its e-commerce store, are more accessible than the window displays and might sit better in the stomach.
Maker’s Mark toasts tradition with expansive, Scarlett Johansson-assisted campaign
The rundown: Maker’s Mark has poured out its first-ever globally unified campaign, called "Mark of the Maker." The Beam Suntory bourbon brand enlisted actress and Maker's fan Scarlett Johansson to voice the ad, which also features indie-rock act Moon Taxi's song "Good as Gold." "Mark of the Maker" focuses on the traditional way that the bourbon is made and packaged at its distillery in Loretto, Kentucky, where every barrel is hand-rotated, every label is hand-cut and every bottle is hand-dipped with the brand's iconic red wax seal.
"These days, it's easy to be swept up in finding the most efficient way of doing things, but at Maker’s Mark, I’m proud to say that we’re making our bourbon the same way my grandparents did when they created it more than 60 years ago," Rob Samuels, global general manager and chief distillery officer at Maker’s Mark, said in a press release shared with Marketing Dive.
"Mark of the Maker" includes TV, digital and social assets, and extends to retail. Maker’s has teamed with Thirstie to allow for direct-to-consumer sales — the first bourbon to do so through the spirits platform. Plus, the brand has planned a series of large-scale "Maker’s Wanted" pop-up events that will appear at festivals across the United States.
The results: Maker's Mark's campaign is a full-court press to engage the millennial consumers who have brought spirits — especially bourbon — back into the limelight, as consumers shift away from beer. The campaign's focus on the brand’s traditional production process could resonate with consumers looking for authenticity in products and their marketing, and it's certainly clear what Maker’s Mark is advertising — which has not been the case with alcohol brands as of late.
That authenticity is explored with the pop-up appearances, the type of experiential elements that have proven to be a key way to engage millennial consumers and increase brand awareness, especially in a crowded space like the spirits market. And by teaming with Thirstie to build a direct-to-consumer platform, Maker's can shorten the sales funnel with younger, tech-savvy consumers who favor DTC and digital on-demand services.
Capping off the campaign like the brand’s iconic red wax is a well-suited pitchwoman in Johansson. She provided the voice of the digital assistant in 2013 Oscar nominee "Her," and her familiar, smoky voice matches well with the brand. Ironically, Johansson has said she was "terrible at commercials" as a young actress because of her deep voice. "At the age of 9, I sounded like a whiskey-drinking, chain-smoking fool." Now that quality is an asset — for her and Maker's Mark.