What Red Stripe Taught Us About Good Marketing
The Jamaican bobsled team and Red Stripe beer just schooled us all in great marketing at the Winter Olympics. Call it doing good by doing right. I call it Seize the Moment Marketing. Or maybe “Chutzpah with Smarts.” Whatever you call it, it worked. For the Jamaican bobsled team and for Red Stripe.
In case you missed one of the top feel-good stories of the Winter Games, here’s a review:
The coach of the women’s Jamaican bobsled team had a falling out with the team right before their first-ever Olympic competition. She left the games taking the bobsled with her. Her reasoning was that she had rented the bobsled so she felt financially responsible for it. No bobsled. No competition for a team whose existence was as unlikely as snow in Jamaica.
Enter Red Stripe, Jamaica’s signature beer. Their marketing team gave us all a lesson in Seize the Moment Marketing with this tweet:
No bobsled, no problem. If you need a new ride @Jambobsled, put it on @RedStripe’s tab. DM us and we’ll be in touch
— Red Stripe USA (@RedStripeUSA) February 15, 2018
This outrageous claim kicked off a twitter flurry as folks congratulated Red Stripe for saving the day. I love the quote by Red Stripe’s company spokesman Bjorn Trowery in response to the avalanche of attention: “Some of the best ideas start out as a crazy ‘what if?’ ” and added, “My expense report this month will include a bobsleigh on it!”
Bobsleds, by the way, are not cheap. This one cost 40,000 euros (almost $50,000). Think that was a lot to invest in a team that had no chance at bringing home a gold medal (they finished in 19th place, by the way)? Think again. That one brilliant act of Seize the Moment Marketing had quite the ROI. The twitter blizzard was only the beginning. Traditional media couldn’t get enough of this “Beer Saves the Day” story. The move generated stories on CNN, NPR, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, USA TODAY, HuffPost and Mashable. Even NBC’s Olympic channel, which own exclusive rights to The Olympics, covered the news. This despite the fact that Olympic policy forbids the mention of any company that is not an official sponsor of the games. Neither Red Stripe, nor its parent company, Heineken, was a sponsor of the games so the fact that even NBC mentioned Red Stripe’s gesture is quite the coup.
Here are the Seize the Moment Marketing lessons as taught by Red Stripe:
- Make everyone in your company a marketer. It was actually the company’s human resources director who saw the story about the Jamaican Women’s Bobsled Team’s heartbreak. He gave the head’s up to Red Stripe’s marketing team. The company spokesman Bjorn Trowery then drafted the tweet heard ‘round the world – on both social and traditional media.
- Know your brand’s personality and look for opportunities that live it. Red Stripe loves to play up both its Jamaican roots (“We are Jamaica” proclaims their website) and not taking itself too seriously. Some of its earliest commercials feature a man in a Red Stripe sash over a formal morning suit proclaiming “Red Stripe is the beer in the ugly bottle. If ugly people stand next to a Red Stripe they look beautiful.” So their quirky gesture made perfect (quirky) sense.
- Be nimble and take risks. Seize the Moment Marketing moments come and go in a flash. Think the Oreo’s tweet during the Super Bowl blackout. Many a grand idea is still sitting on a manger’s desk waiting for approval. If your organization doesn’t have a way to accelerate a good idea before it’s time has come and gone, this kind of marketing is not for you. What looked spontaneous for Red Stripe clearly wasn’t. Someone in authority had to okay the cost. And another someone in legal had to bless the gesture. Here’s the quote from Bjorn Trowery that speaks to this: “Once we felt comfortable with the cost and were assured we were staying legally OK given Rule 40 guidelines (the Olympic rule that prohibits athletes from marketing during the Games), I drafted the tweet, we hit send and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.” Many people had to move quickly to make that whirlwind spin, but somehow they all got on board and look what happened.
- Keep your messaging authentic to your brand and not self-serving. These moments work because they focus on a genuine connection between what companies do and how they can help. Companies considering this type of marketing should have the following conversation with their team: “Here is an opportunity to use what we’re known for to make something better. Can we make it happen?” All messaging should be about the issue and the problem you’re trying to solve; not your company. If anything you do comes across as self-serving, the media (and everyone else) will see through it and roast you publicly for trying to horn on someone else’s misfortune. Red Stripe had a very natural tie-in – a Jamaican beer helping out Jamaica’s first ever women’s bobsled team. You’ll notice their messaging was all about the team; not about themselves. And they kept the tweet in an authentic Red Stripe “voice” to cement the connection.
- Harness the right media for the moment. I love that Red Stripe used twitter to make their offer. No press release, no press conference, no pitching the story. Just one well-timed tweet and the rest of the media followed. This speaks not only to the power of seizing the moment but to harnessing the unique qualities of the right media. Social isn’t always THE answer; it’s one answer. It’s one tool in the toolkit. Today, smart brands know how to pick the right tools and how to make them work together to tell their story. I think Red Stripe picked the right tool here. If they had sent out press releases or held a news conference the gesture would have looked so self-serving that it wouldn’t have generated the coverage and goodwill that it did.
I think the biggest lessons from Red Stripe are these: Start with the right reasons in mind; look for a logical connection to your brand; seize the marketing moment and bask in the goodwill! That’s worth a whole lot more than $50,000!