Once upon a time….

I’m going to tell you a story. Actually, I’m going to paraphrase a story that none other than our favorite Rob Walker tells in his book, Buying In. He does a wonderful, detailed job telling you this story, but quite frankly I don’t have that time and you would probably get bored, so I will give you the highlights.

Once upon a time, there was a beer company called Pabst Brewing Company. They made a nice, cheap beer called Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). PBR wasn’t doing too well in terms of sales. The company wasn’t doing very well either. However, for some reason, despite the fact that they were not marketing the beer at all, they saw sales starting to pick up. And grow. And grow some more. When they investigated the growing popularity of the beer, they found that it was becoming a favorite among individuals in “alternative” people- especially in Portland. You know what kind of people I’m talking about. The hipster, grunge, Indie, underground type people. This included subculture groups like bike messengers. These people liked PBR because, quite frankly, there was no marketing around it. They saw it as a sort of underdog and adopted it into their culture. They were able to do this because there was a lack of brand meaning associated with PBR, which let the drinkers create their own meaning around PBR- a phenomena called projectability. This was also a bottom up approach to marketing.

The interesting thing about PBR is that even once its foundering sales picked up- it still abstained from basically any marketing. Aside from the occasional low-key sponsorship of a bike messenger tournament, it shunned advertising, including a possible endorsement deal with Kid Rock. However, I refuse to believe that PBR uses no marketing. Instead, I think it is very murky. Here is an example I found of one way the brand seems to be marketing itself- without seeming like it is coming directly from the company.

 

As you can tell by the picture, this campaign is spearheaded by Union Binding Company (a snowboard binding retailer) which offered this pretty cool looking pair of PBR bindings in a contest. In order to enter the contest, one simply had to share the image on their Facebook page. There are a few things about this that interest me.

1) PBR is very smart to team up and “co-brand” with Union Binding Company. It makes the source of this promotion more murky and makes consumers feel less like Pabst is hitting them with an ad directly.

2) Note that the product they are branding is snowboard bindings. Remember how I told you the brand was embraced by alternative subculture types? Snowboarders seem to fit that category to me.

3) People actually want to win these (as you can tell by the number of people who commented on the photo or entered the contest). This reinforces the idea that people see PBR as more of a cultural symbol and less of a brand.

4) This is yet another example of a company who uses Facebook advertising to their advantage. By making sharing the photo a term of the contest, they are getting free, word of mouth advertising.

 

Will Pabst live happily ever after using this type of murketing strategy? I don’t know. What do you think?

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Facebook’s decision to sell you

Notice something new in your newsfeed? Maybe its a band you’ve put in the favorite music section of your profile. Suddenly they are showing up in your newsfeed even though you haven’t officially “liked” them.You are suddenly getting updates from their new tour, a show is in your area and a new limited edition album is coming out next week. Sure, it sounds pretty good to you. You like the band and maybe you’re interested in what’s showing up.

Guess what? That’s exactly what Facebook and advertisers want.

Facebook is a treasure trove of personal information on you, the consumer, providing the most in-depth access to the things you are likely to buy and be interested in. This information does not just come from the way you’ve set up your profile. .

The valuable information that advertisers covet is the information that you post, the links you share with friends, and now, with Facebook Places, the restaurants and bars that you frequent. Never before has so much individual knowledge been housed in one distinct space (except maybe at Google) and that’s what Facebook is betting on.

This year, Facebook launched “Sponsored Stories,” a service for advertisers that picks up when you mention say Starbucks or Urban Outfitters in a post. These “stories” then become featured more prominently on a sidebar or in your friend’s newsfeeds. Every time you “check in” to a restaurant or a store, that check-in can then be picked up by Facebook and broadcast to your friends.

These stories often appear as innocuously as any other newsfeed story, yet they show up more often, reinforcing the idea in your head that X company is good and referred by someone you trust (a friend), which is better than any commercial that company could run.

According to Readwritebiz,” sponsored stories” have a 46% higher click-through rate than regular ads on Facebook.

What to know the kicker?

You can’t opt out of these sponsored stories. As soon as you start using Places or writing about a particular company, if that company has paid for it, your story gets sponsored. So add that to your list of ways Facebook is turning into an Advertising Big Brother.

It’s like I always say. The difference between movies and real life is that the evil villain in real life doesn’t want to rule the world, he just wants more money.  Cue Mark Zuckerberg doing one of these:

If you want to learn more check out this article at eweek.

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