Bud Light Seltzer and Product Orientation Don't Go Hand In Hand...
Welcome to Issue 2 of the newsletter.
How did you enjoy week one with my discussion of discounts, strategy, and, one of my favorite brands, Smythson?
Let me know by replying or leaving a comment.
If you enjoyed it and this one, maybe you’ll share this with folks on your social, in your company Slack channel, or by forwarding it on.
And, this got me to reflect on my time working on one of the projects that helped really break Yellow Tail Wines in the United States. A nationwide party with 36 tailgate parties at 36 American football games.
My experience with Yellow Tail and their ad agency helped me understand how to get a product into a market and what to look for when a brand is likely to face some challenges reaching its goals.
Let me show you three things this morning:
Market Orientation versus Product Orientation:
The first thing that stood out to me in the Bud Light Seltzer piece was the talk about “education” as one of their primary goals in their campaign.
As any trained marketer knows, “education” is a key indicator that a business has taken a Product Oriented stance in its product creation and marketing.
This isn’t always bad, but in most cases leading with a product and hoping to educate your market ends up failing.
There are instances where this approach works like with the Post-It note, but they are few and far between.
In comparing the stance of Bud Light Seltzer here with the way that we approached our work on Yellow Tail, I remember pretty early on in the project that the head of the agency partner called me up and walked me through the research.
He said, “What we’ve uncovered is that there is a significant amount of people in our research that love American football, love tailgating before games, and want a drink but don’t want beer, hard alcohol, and feel that most wine is too pretentious for them. So they are open to finding an alternative.”
Do you see the difference?
If you read the article, you’ll see that Bud Light Seltzer saw the success of hard seltzer in the United States, figured that this would be a great opportunity in the United Kingdom as well, and now wants to educate their audience about why they should drink seltzer and why it should be Bud Light Seltzer.
On the other hand, the brief I received was much different. It focused on knowing the audience, their wants, needs, and desires, and shed a light on the first signs of targeting and positioning.
In other words, a pretty classic example of Market Orientation. Meaning, Yellow Tail went right to the customer to figure out what it was they were missing and then worked out how to give it to them.
Why does this matter?
In most cases, being Market Oriented helps you know your market better, making your product launches more successful, and helps you make more money.
How’s that for a benefit?
Global versus Local:
A challenge that was on display during the Super League era was that American owners and investors were deadset on bringing the Americanization of sports business to the world of European football.
I don’t have to tell you how that went over.
This highlights a challenge that a lot of global brands deal with. They can fall into the trap of trying to use a universal strategy in all of their markets, a top-down approach that seems to say that all markets look and act the same.
While you should definitely use insights from around the world if you have access to them, there is great danger in putting too much weight on them.
In fact, at best, these insights are just clues to help you ask the right questions in your own market.
I’ve written a piece on Backward Market Research for a trade group in the US and the lessons are important to share once more:
Start by figuring out the question you need to answer
Figure out how that best shows up
Design research around the first two points
In using global insights to guide anything besides research, you are in danger of striking out in your efforts to reach a local market because you can apply insights that don’t fit the market, fall into the trap of educating a market on something they may or may not care about, and you probably miss great opportunities that would be right there in front of you if you just got out of your own head and talked to your market.
The challenge here is to fight the desire to plan global and execute global strategy when a plan global and local strategy is a better path.
Because if you don’t know your market, you are really just guessing.
Measure the Meaningful:
One area in the Bud Light Seltzer rollout that I agree with is measuring the idea of Brand Awareness as a meaningful success metric.
Throughout the piece, the brand manager, Elise Dickinson, points to a number of data points that show that brand awareness is a meaningful goal for the brand. As an example:
The size of the market in the UK shows that there is still room to grow awareness.
The size of the drinks and spirits market in the UK is another sign that brand awareness can have a meaningful impact on Bud Light Seltzer’s business.
In my conversations with executives around the world about their marketing departments and marketing teams, one key refrain comes back to me: a lack of trust.
In most instances, it seems that too many marketers today have gotten lost in the fuzzy, in the meaningless, or the nonsense.
I’ll mention no names here, but I will give you a moment to fill in the blank with your favorite marketing numpty.
During the Mini-MBA in Marketing, Mark Ritson lays out a way of setting goals that should be the go-to goal setting method for everyone: SMART.
While there is no mention of Bud Light Seltzer’s goals around the launch of their product and brand awareness, under the circumstances, it does look like they are measuring the meaningful over other options like engagement, impressions, or “fans”.
Measuring the meaningful here is important because it allows the marketing department the opportunity to grab back some of the control of their job in their organization and by having an impact gain the trust of their executive leadership.
Why does this matter?
Going back to the top of the section, I talked about the lack of trust between executives and marketing. In my most recent research, the number of executives that didn’t trust marketing sat at 80%.
Along with that, 73% of businesses were looking to grow this year. But 55% of them weren’t really sure where to start.
The coup de grace?
40% of these businesses also said they didn’t really have a strategy that they felt comfortable talking about or that truly reflected the direction they were going to go in.
And, to push the knife in a bit further…we all know that most strategies aren’t really strategies.
So the lessons here from Bud Light Seltzer’s move in the UK drinks market:
Put the customer first. Get their voice into your organization.
Global brand planning is great, but don’t force actions down from a global level to a local level. Each market is unique.
Measure what matters. The only way you’ll make progress is to do so.
Let me know what you think.
See you next week.