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Heineken wields digital weapon with brio of James Bond...

By Ben Bouckley+

08-Mar-2013
Last updated the 11-Mar-2013 at 14:25 GMT

Despite a resource gulf separating 'big beer' from craft brands, the latter are often ahead in their innovative use of digital media, according to a new report, and while Heineken tops the tree, Foster’s is simply ‘feeble’.

The Dutch brewer’s superiority vis-à-vis its rivals is flagged in “flashes of genius” such as its online Skyfall-related game with the James Bond franchise, which won Heineken a massive 988,000 Facebook fans in the fortnight surrounding the film’s UK premiere.

In the L2 Digital IQ Index report Change Brewing, author Scott Galloway also notes that Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) shipped close to 100m barrels in the States in 2011 (almost half the beer sold in the country), whereas the average craft brewer produces less than 6m barrels.

“While industry titans spend upward of 85% of their working media budgets on television, a single 30-second Super Spot ($3.8m) is larger than the annual marketing expenditures of many craft brewers,”  said Galloway, who is also a professor of marketing at NYU Stern.

Cutting through the noise

Thus, smaller brands with no or limited traditional media means have been forced to develop skills that, in Galloway’s words, “cut through the noise with superior products and innovation, an approach that is evidence of a broader trend threatening the broadcast industrial complex”.

However, the broader beer industry lags behind other industries in the Digital IQ distribution, with 60% of brands denoted ‘challenged’ or ‘feeble’  compared with only 55% in spirits, for instance, although craft brewers have an average digital IQ 13 points higher than other beer categories.

Diagnosing the digital competence of 50 iconic US beer brands, the L2 report assesses each upon the basis of brand site effectiveness; digital marketing efforts (search, advertising and innovation, blogs and other user-generated content, email marketing); mobile innovation; social media use.

Heineken topped the tree with a ‘Digital IQ’ score of 150 that Galloway said put it in the ‘Genius’ category, while Budweiser came in at No.2; Stella Artois, Bud Light, Samuel Adams, Coors Light, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Blue Moon all fell into the ‘Gifted’ category.

Foster’s simply ‘feeble’

But Guinness, Miller Lite, Beck’s, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Widmer Brothers and Corona are all consigned to the ‘Average’ category, while Red Stripe, Dos Equis were ‘Challenged’ and leading brands such as Amstel Light, Bud Light Lime and Foster’s were simply ‘Feeble’.

As the industry leader, Dutch brewer Heineken offered a host of brand-related mobile apps for iOS and Android, Galloway said, while its ‘Crack the Case’ Skyfall video game promotion hit consumers across all platforms and a video-centric focus was backed by a strong YouTube presence.

Meanwhile, Budweiser’s fast-growing Twitter handle was introduced in tandem with its Super Bowl advertising campaign, Galloway said, while the brand's ‘Track Your Bud’ functionality offered details on beer bottle origin.

Galloway said use of videos on websites upped user length of visit by over 40 seconds, while sports sponsorship (such as Bud Light’s of the NFL) boosted brand recognition among sports fans.

The full L2 report is available to download here