Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
In classic Lagunitas fashion, the brand is keeping things weird with a recent campaign for its flagship IPA making its way to cans. A series of over-the-top videos riff on home shopping networks like QVC and highlight a real online store, the IPA Can Shopping Network, where loyal Lagunitas fans can buy branded merchandise.
Goofy products like shuffleboard pucks and plant holders are made out of actual Lagunitas cans, while others are designed to look like the cans themselves, including a gym bag and "giant inflatable flappy thing." By clicking on the case of beer — the featured product in the shop — users are directed to an interactive beer finder map to help them locate where the brew is sold based on their location.
Traffic to the beer finder map is up 60% since the campaign launched in mid-November, while engagement with the creative assets has increased 34%, about seven times higher than the industry average, according to Kelly Murnaghan, CMO of Lagunitas. The brand started as a craft brew in 1993 and was acquired by Heineken in 2017.
Neither IPAs nor canned beer are groundbreaking concepts, per the executive, so a key challenge surrounding the campaign was how to drum up consumer excitement for the packaging upgrade as Lagunitas taps into the distribution opportunity that comes with producing non-glass bottle beverages.
"The Can Shopping Network was just a little self-deprecating campaign — a fun way for us to go completely overboard about all the magical things you can do with cans," Murnaghan told Marketing Dive. "The videos and shop format allowed us to speak in a really overtly funny, sales-y way about the products themselves."
Paid social makes up the majority of the media buys for the campaign because the tactic is targeted and allows Lagunitas to identify brand loyalists versus newcomers while delivering different content based on how aware of the brand someone is, Murnaghan said. A content collaboration with ClickHole, the satirical website by The Onion, launched in late November to complement the digital campaign. To promote that partnership, the duo hosted an event in Lagunitas' Chicago taproom and hid tickets in beer cans around the city.
"We told people through our social channels so they could go and find the stash cans and attend the event that night," Murnaghan said.
The campaign was developed entirely in-house, with media buying help from agency Scenic Figure. Once the concept was crystallized, the team set up to film the video series in Lagunitas' California headquarters. Hosted by the brewmaster Jeremy Marshall, the series stars only employees from the brewery. That strategy of such an internal effort underpins the brand's grassroots style. Featuring employees in creative assets better communicates the brand voice, Murnaghan said.
"Lagunitas is a very homegrown company and we take care of each other. It felt like the most appropriate familial brand voice to hear these stories from employees," she said. "I think it would feel disingenuous to have somebody else represent us in the same way that all the creative came from the internal team."
Tapping employees as brand ambassadors is a growing trend among brands looking to forge deeper connections with consumers. Employee advocacy has a greater impact on purchase decisions than typical influencer marketing campaigns, according to a Sprout Social survey. The brewer's internal team even made many of the products sold in the online store, including the handmade gold clutch constructed from hundreds of can tabs.
"It has been a team labor of love to make those products," Murnaghan said. "When you buy a funny can product, you'll get a personalized note from our CEO thanking you for being a loyal fan."
2020 global expansion
Lagunitas' latest campaign promoting its IPAs hitting cans fits into the brewer's easy-going, cheeky creative strategy. It's easy to pinpoint this in ts branding, social media presence and past marketing efforts. The brewer began producing IPAs when it was just starting out. And now, it's brewing edgier products like a cannabis-infused beer only available in California and Colorado.
"I think it would feel disingenuous to have somebody else represent us in the same way that all the creative came from the internal team."
"I think Lagunitas is really good at brewing up unexpected things. The brand has recruited a consumer set that allows for that ingenuity and thinking, and I think we have a really strong brewing team who is not afraid of taking risks and putting things out in the world that are different and special," Murnaghan said. "As long as we're able to do that, and as long as we're able to support those types of projects, I think we'll continue to stay weird."
The beer brand is readying marketing to support new products that debut next year, most likely with a content strategy where it develops specific assets for loyalists and newcomers to the brand, according to Murnaghan. Since Heineken fully acquired Lagunitas in May 2017, the California brewer has focused on extending its distribution strategy to get products into other countries. Murnaghan said her team plans to place greater attention on globally coordinated campaigns in 2020 to support the expansion. As Lagunitas creeps into other countries where consumers are less familiar with the brew, it will be essential to align marketing efforts that introduce its unique, West Coast-style branding and voice.
"We're all taking on the task of making sure that as the product becomes available in other countries, that people truly understand what the brand means over there," Murnaghan said. "We're focused on growing the Lagunitas brand in the right way for Lagunitas, and not losing any of the unique tonality."