As business owners and entrepreneurs, we’re all looking to stand out a little from the crowd. One of the ways we can do that is by taking a page from the marketing playbook of beer companies whose marketing campaigns are one of the only ways they can differentiate themselves from all the other beers available.
If you’re an entrepreneur, you don’t need to have a beer-company-sized marketing budget to benefit from the lessons these spokesmen can provide. Nor do you need to introduce a spokesperson in your marketing (although you can, and that’s a clever way to connect with buyers). In this blog post, I’ll look at 5 current (or recent) beer spokesmen and share some lessons that you can apply in your business. (Note: I’m using spokesmen here because the ones I’m referring to are men. And it could be argued that these are technically mascots, not spokesmen — whatever).
A SHIFT IN BEER MARKETING
You don’t see a lot of celebrities and athletes pitching beer on TV commercials anymore. The most famous celebrity beer endorsement is probably the Miller Light “great tasting/less filling” debate between football players Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith. Today, athletes might wear a beer logo on their clothes or equipment, but we don’t see them appearing in commercials.
Instead, beer commercials have generally gone in two directions: (1) Regular people drinking beer and having a good time in some kind of social setting (this is a popular and time-tested marketing method), or, (2) beer spokesmen who portray the face and style and attitude of the beer (but have replaced celebrities and athletes).
MOLSON CANADIAN SPOKESMAN: JOE
Molson is one of the biggest, oldest beer brands in Canada and they continue to rely on national pride as a way to sell their beer. It works. They’ve been using the “I Am Canadian” slogan off and on, and in 2000 they released a commercial in which “Joe”, a typical Canadian, goes on a bit of a rant about who Canadians are and aren’t. This ad worked. It was parodied frequently, it stirred up some national pride, it won a bunch of awards, and I still hear people quoting lines from it more than a decade later.
As a spokesman, Joe appeared just once (that I’m aware of) and reflected the common Canadian stereotype of being a nice guy, if not a bit understated. He wears plaid and portrayed the “everyman” approach.
The ad won numerous awards ad, as you can see from the following Google Trend comparison, Molson Canadian and “I Am Canadian” are still searched frequently even though “I Am Canadian” was no longer used as a slogan after 2005.
Marketing lessons learned from Joe
- Appeal to pride. Joe appealed to national pride but there are a lot of ways you can use this: Pride of parenthood is a big one among “mompreneurs”, for example.
- The slogan expresses a feeling — not just a benefit or feature — and can outlive your marketing campaign.
- As a representative of your brand, you can be the “everyperson” that your customers will identify with.
BUD LIGHT SPOKESMAN: BUDD LIGHT
Bud Light’s spokesman, in my opinion, failed. It looks like Bud Light was trying to go for an awkward-cool counter-hero (heroic in a nerdy kind of way) but they fell short of success. It took me a long time to discover that his name is, apparently, “Budd Light”. They created someone who was doing things that their customers would want to aspire to do (be the life of the party, pick up women, etc.) but he was also creepy and ubiquitous… NOT someone you want to have around and not someone you want to be like.
Marketing lessons learned from Budd Light
- Counter-heroes are compelling but they are risky. If you’re going to have some kind of mascot/spokesperson/persona as a counter-hero, they need to do heroic, aspirational things but your audience needs to aspire to be like them.
- If you want to leverage a marketing effort, you need to brand the effort itself, not just your product or service. Bud Light should have worked harder at branding Budd Light.
We’ll see in a moment where this was done very well…
KEYSTONE LIGHT SPOKESMAN: KEITH STONE
Keith Stone is the Budd Light guy done right. There are a lot of similarities (He is a counter-hero who does heroic things but takes himself too seriously). But the differences are what makes the Keystone campaign successful: First, they have made the spokesperson someone that people can relate to — a dumpy, regular guy but with a cool confidence that an audience can aspire to. Second, they have branded the effort, not just their beer. In fact, check out how searches for “Keith Stone” have accelerated past searches for “Keystone beer”
Marketing lessons learned from Keith Stone
- Counter-heroes work when your audience can relate to them AND aspire to be like them.
- The marketing effort is a brand unto itself and it should tie into the primary brand.
- Your marketing needs to match the tone and attitude and style of your audience. Clearly, you can pick out the target audience by watching this marketing.
KOKANEE SPOKESMAN: THE RANGER
Kokanee is another Canadian beer, brewed on the west coast. They ran a series of ads for a while in which the Kokanee Ranger was always faced with a beer-stealing Sasquatch. I confess that I don’t like the beer and I didn’t like the ad. And if you want to know what the Kokanee Ranger was like, just watch the Budd Light commercial again. He was a creepy counter-hero… this time with a mustache. But just when I thought Kokanee’s commercials were started to wear me out, they introduced an audience-participation element that I was happy to see: After running a series of commercials, they had a “LiveOrDie” campaign where viewers voted on whether they should kill off the Kokanee Ranger.
Not surprisingly, viewers voted to kill him off. I don’t imagine that people would vote for him to live, simply because why would you vote for maintaining the status quo when the status quo is boring and tired? And I think people wanted to see if Kokanee would actually kill him off. Apparently they did, although I never saw the commercial.
Marketing lessons learned from The Ranger
- Don’t run the life out of a marketing campaign. Kill it off when it’s at its height.
- Involve your audience in your marketing.
- Once again, we see an example of the marketing effort itself branded (beyond the brand of the company).
DOS EQUIS SPOKESMAN: THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD
My favorite spokesman! This is a fantastic marketing campaign because Dos Equis appropriately captures the mystique of a character who is, refreshingly, not an counter-hero but an actual hero. He is not an “everyman” but he is the kind of spokesman that viewers can aspire to be like, even if the whole idea of “the Most Interesting Man In The World” is unattainable. People like being interesting and having a character who lives an interesting life helps viewers to vicariously live his interesting life by drinking his beer.
Dos Equis introduced this campaign way back in 2006, and you’ll note a small spike of searches for the beer at that time but they really got aggressive in 2009 and you’ll see how searches for both Dos Equis and the most interesting man in the world have taken off.
Marketing lessons learned from The Most Interesting Man In The World
- This is another great example of a marketing effort that is, itself, branded above and beyond the brand actually being advertised.
- The spokesman has a cool factor — something none of the other spokesman have — that people are drawn to.
- We see another tagline (“Stay thirsty my friends”) — like the “I Am Canadian” tagline, that can moves beyond the realm of beer. People can apply it elsewhere in their lives, which will remind them of the beer.