Beer marketing and advertising from the end of WWII, to the time when Philip Morris purchased Miller Brewing Co. was somewhat simple. What little above-the-line marketing (ATL) existed, was composed mostly of commercials with cartoon characters or simple life style situations. (Below)
Above-the-line marketing also focused on print ads using famous people, usually athletes or movie stars. Sports marketing consisted of professional ballparks with billboards, which can still be seen in old movies.
When Philip Morris purchased the Miller Brewing Co., PM employed their refined marketing expertise which had been developed through years of selling cigarettes. Using Miller Lite, they went after sporting venues whenever possible. This action by Miller woke up Augie Busch III, and AB aggressively went after young MBA marketing professionals and dramatically increased ATL spending. Schlitz, still about 10 years from imploding, followed suit. Marketing in the beer world had changed!
The next great shift in beer marketing took place with the advent of the internet. Much of craft beers’ success today must be attributed to the internet which the consumer employs to discover the various brands and styles of beers available. Until the advent of the internet, off premise chains were dominated by the major brands which controlled what products went into the cold box. In other words, consumers had limited choices. The internet changed the scope of business and then, with the invention of social media, the world of beer marketing changed even further.
Dallas’s life style magazine, D Magazine, recently named the top 30 craft beers for 2014. First on the list was a brand made by Grapevine Brewing Co., who only started selling beer in November. The same brewery had another brand listed 12th on the list of best in rankings.
Within 24 hours, Grapevine Brewing had announced these results to all their followers on e-newsletter, Facebook, and multiple other forms of social media. Prior to the internet, it would have taken Grapevine Brewery weeks to get this news to the public. Press releases, display ads, and space purchased in print or on the air could not have been released overnight! And the costs associated with public relations or an advertising firm had to be included.
So the question is, just how is today’s social media classified in a true marketing planning? Is it ATL or BTL? Two key marketing and advertising professionals commented that there was not a clear definition of classifying social media. Warsteiner, for example, managed Facebook from their corporate offices. In this situation, this would be ATL because of mass media. If managed locally, than perhaps you would consider it to be BTL marketing. Or is all digital mass media ATL? Would Twitter be considered BTL marketing?
It is clear that traditional ATL marketing will continue focusing on professional and college sports, supported by digital marketing. It all boils down to the fact that if you change the way you look at things, then things you look at change!