How we interact with the brands we buy is getting more sophisticated and interesting. Even the centuries-old tradition of brewing, selling and marketing beer is beginning to showcase a tech side that even small breweries can embrace. Here’s a simple example: The ride-share experts at Lyft recently partnered with Baderbrau Brewing in Chicago on a ride discount beer (an easy drinking helles lager that featured a $5 discount code on the can). Suddenly, drinkers were connecting and identifying with Baderbrau in new, memorable ways while embracing safety and getting some cashola back.
Beer and computers are coalescing more and more. Amazon is another good example. Since last year, Amazon Prime customers have been able to use an Alexa-powered device to order beer, wine and spirits in cities from Seattle to Cincinnati. Large beer companies also use Alexa to market. Michelob Ultra launched a free, dedicated skill on Alexa called Ultra 95, delivering 12 customized fitness workouts to beer drinkers who enjoy staying active and drinking low-calorie Big Beer.
Thinfilm sees similarly innovative technology opportunities for the craft beer industry. The Norwegian company, with offices in San Francisco, offers end-to-end mobile marketing solutions that feature hardware, label/packaging integration services and a powerful cloud-based software platform. Collectively, these components deliver a serious one-to-one digital marketing platform through which brands of all sizes can connect directly with consumers via a smartphone. Wait. What does that mean exactly?
Here’s an example: Last year, Oskar Blues and Thinfilm created cool beer coasters that interacted with smartphones. Celebrating 15 years, Oskar Blues Brewery launched 16-ounce Dale’s Pale Ale Draft Cans sold exclusively through bars and restaurants enhanced by the awesome and odd artwork of avant-garde French illustrator McBess (photo below). By integrating Thinfilm technology into these beer coasters, customers were able to tap a phone to the coaster, which took users to a webpage (www.dalespaleale.com) and then told the Oskar Blues brand story, displaying the cool new McBess artwork featured on the draft cans.
“The conversion of the physical and digital worlds is underway, and Thinfilm’s NFC mobile marketing solution — which is uniquely suited for a large segment of the craft beer target demographic — provides a turnkey way to connect directly with customers,” explained Bill Cummings, SVP of corporate communications with Thinfilm. “A June 2017 report from the Brewers Association states that there were 5,562 breweries operating in the U.S. with an additional 2,700 or so in the planning process. Competition is fierce, and many craft brewers need more effective ways to promote their offering, differentiate their brand, establish direct dialogues with consumers and drive business success.”
How can you be different than the 30 other brands in your surrounding area? Perhaps by interacting, marketing and building relationships with customers via their precious handheld computers they still call phones. To better understand the parameters and potential of Thinfilm technology in the beer industry, we reached out to Cummings to get some insights into how the product works, who’s using it and all the possible benefits. Here goes…
Hey Bill, thanks very much for taking the time. We know you’re a busy man. First off, can you just briefly explain Thinfilm technology? How exactly does it work?
Thinfilm offers a unique, end-to-end NFC [near field communication’ mobile marketing solution]. The complete solution features hardware [NFC SpeedTap and OpenSense tags], a cloud-based software platform [CNECT] and a growing global ecosystem of qualified conversion/application partners that assist with getting the tags on products/packaging. The solution helps brands establish a new digital marketing channel through physical connected products and enables direct brand-to-consumer connections and the delivery of unique digital experiences through the tap of a smartphone.
Ok. Where can Thinfilm technology be placed? Coasters? Cans? Packaging?
Thinfilm NFC tags can be integrated with a range of primary and secondary packaging and are offered in a number of form factors. These form factors include wet inlays, ElastiTags, traditional hang tags, bottle/can neck-collars, drink coasters, magnets, direct mailers, paperboard cartons, gift cards, tobacco cartons, drink carriers and others.
If you can, give us some examples of how Thinfilm has been used in the commercial beer industry. By what customers for what purposes, and can you share any results?
Thinfilm has several customers in the craft beer industry, including Coronado Brewing Co., Oskar Blues Brewery and Amplified Ale Works. Coronado used our solution in the form of smart coasters to support an Earth Day beach-cleanup initiative in conjunction with the Surfrider Foundation and promote a special-edition beer — CoastWise Session IPA — that was launched to commemorate the event.
Oskar Blues distributed over 200,000 smart coasters across the U.S. to promote the introduction of their new 16-ounce Dale’s Pale Ale can. In addition, Amplified Ale Works used connected coasters to enable onsite patrons to tap the coasters and immediately be taken to a landing page on thebeerconnect.com from which they can easily order Amplified beer online for home delivery. The results were compelling for each customer and demonstrated that NFC mobile marketing solutions can be highly effective for a number of use cases.
What are some average statistical results you can share about your technology in general? What kind of internet traffic can you generate? What kind of data can you provide?
Thinfilm published case studies for our customer collaborations with Coronado, Oskar Blues and Amplified. For Coronado, NFC drove website conversions 17.5 times more than the craft brewer’s other marketing channels. For Oskar Blues, NFC drove 66 percent of all campaign traffic and 4.5 times more time on-site than other channels. And for Amplified Ale, the solution substantially extended enjoyment of the brewer’s products from the taproom to the living room.
When looking at the beer industry, what are the major applications for Thinfilm technology with brewers? Great customer interaction? Data gathering? Sales?
Generally speaking, many craft brewers experience challenges with product distribution, shelf space, awareness generation, communication with consumers, etc. Not only are they battling large, established beer companies with massive marketing budgets, but they are competing with thousands of other craft beer companies. Product differentiation, brand story and consumer connections are critical to success.
Thinfilm’s NFC mobile marketing solution enables a direct brewer-to-consumer connection through the simple tap of a smartphone. From there, it’s up to the brewer with respect to what digital experience and content they want to deliver. It could be a video focused on the brand story, a promotional/discount offer, a loyalty or rewards program or an e-commerce application for beer and/or gear. Ultimately, the solution provides a simple and effective way for craft brewers to engage directly with consumers, differentiate their offering from competitors, build loyalty and drive the success of their business.
Is this a relatively cost-effective marketing technique? Can you throw some pricing numbers at us?
While I won’t address specific pricing, I will say that the data highlighted in our case studies demonstrates that Thinfilm’s solution can be quite cost-effective relative to more conventional marketing channels, including display/banner ads and social platforms. Thinfilm is unique in the industry in that we offer a total solution — NFC tags, our CNECT platform and conversion/application services. Brands have a true one-stop shop at their disposal.
Interesting insights, Bill. We thank you for your time. Where can brewers follow up and find more info?
For more information, please visit www.thinfilm.no. We’d love to speak with other craft brewers who are interested in connecting with their consumers and differentiating their brand.