Marketeers Word of Mouth Case Studies no 1 - Beer Pabst Blue Ribbon

Word of Mouth Marketing Marketeers word of mouth marketing word of mouth marketing case studies beer word of mouth marketing marketeers don't know how to do word of mouth marketing

Selling beer is a fickle business. In the 70's you knew that a beer was a badge of a tribe. In the 80's a badge of lifestyle but by the 90's it had become a badge around occasion. Put simply, there was less loyalty and you chose your beer around the occasion. So how did a beer, with no profile, which had 23 years of straight decline grow at 10% between  2008-2013 to become one of the fastest growing beers in the USA? The answer is by word of mouth marketing, which most people think they know how to do and only 6% of marketeers know how to do.

Let's get really clear about this. Word of Mouth marketing isn't about referrals, it's about creating word of mouth movements and that's what Pabst Blue Ribbon did. They created a movement around supporting creative people do their thing. They supported people who 'didn't care about marketing' to do their thing - it was an 'anti-brand'. In fact the New York Times described the brand as " The Marketing of no Marketing". And their resurgence was all down to a company called Fizz in the USA.

The founder is Ted Wright and we'd recommend his book, Fizz, without reservation. The fizz team went across the USA to 5 places where the brand was selling well to try and understand why it was doing well there and not elsewhere. Now that might sound an easy thing to do but how many of your top executives of your brand go 'out there' and have direct contact with 'my consumers'?. How many executives really know their Advocates outside of the logical cool outlines of the market research department? Very few. The fizz team went out there and supported the creative people who supported Pabst Blue Ribbon. Now before you write this off as obvious, hey support the cool people, most executives would say the cool people are 'too left field for the brand.' They would want a business case to show how each cool person is going to be successful and only then would they consider supporting them. They certainly would not support them on the basis of a brief interaction where gut feel was the reason why they were supported. Basically, most beer brands would not support someone before they were cool, Pabst supported them to become cool.

How does that compare with the current approach to influencers? Today, you buy cool, from a list of so-called influencers who push your brand. It’s only one step back from traditional advertising, you have a demographic and influencers and a kind of pact with the latter, make me look cool and I won’t tell on you, I won’t tell we’ve paid you a fortune to talk about our brand. This is the opposite of what word of mouth marketing is about – influencers today are after money, they aren’t real influencers. Today’s influencers are yesterday’s TV channels.

So it begs the question, do you know your influencers? Are they really who you think they are, the chances are, they aren’t. Why? The facts are that you don't know who they are. Most of your advocates won't enjoy your product in a volume sense. Think about people who live a long way form their favourite restaurant - do you think they use you a lot? No. But they recommend you a lot.

Most people have no idea about the difference between advocates and champions. Champions don't use you a lot but talk about you a lot. So back to Pabst Blue Ribbon - they knew the difference. And if you want to find out if you are ready for Word of Mouth, use our Readiness test. - look down half way and you'll see a video, under there do the Readiness test. Better still, come to our UK event.

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About the author

Jake Pearce

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"Different to get better results". Jake is obsessed with marketing ROI. He helps companies amplify word of mouth to get business more easily. He uses Meanomathics to boost Comms cut through 10-30%. He uses co-creation to future proof innovation - he turned around a drinks category providing 15% growth using professional co-creation. And he helps top CEO and celebrities with their personal branding and brand purpose, which links back to Word of Mouth marketing. 

Worked with Vodafone,Kellogg'sMcDonalds,ANZ,McDonalds,Suntory,Danone,HSBC,Barclays,BAT,Meat Brands,Saatchi&Saatchi,Draft FCB,Fairbrother Industries, Les Mills, Holmes Place, Grey and a host of digital start-ups.

Jake Pearce is a specialist in brand planning, development & innovation. Jake is currently working on a Word of Mouth Marketing start-up, a personal branding start-up and new delivery systems for wellness products. - for brand development and innovation - for word of mouth marketing expertise


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