Building the Beer Buzz – Six Questions for FriendsofBigRock.com

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Big Rock Beer, located in Calgary, just launched a word of mouth (WOM) marketing campaign in Toronto to try to get local buzz going for a Western brand that has already captured the minds and hearts of Albertans. The core of that campaign is the FriendsOfBigRock.com site – a hub for social activities around the Big Rock brand. This site hooks into a number of social media tools, from Facebook to Twitter, with varying degrees of depth and commitment.  One Degree sat down with Jim Button, VP Marketing for Big Rock Beer, to discuss this campaign and the evolution of Big Rock’s online marketing programmes.

One Degree: As part of your Friends of Big Rock campaign, you are using a number of social networking tools. Are there specific target markets and strategies behind each – or is it more of a scatter-shot approach?

We recognize that there are a broad spectrum of fans of Big Rock – it is no longer a specific demographic but rather a lifestyle – and interest – we appeal to (great beer, great music, genuine friends, expat Albertans). We are simply using the online tools (Flickr for photos, blogs for the opinionated, youtube for entertainment, Digg for cool stuff and Facebook for socializers) and marrying these to offline locations where these people already go and we are trying to create a better experience for them.

OD:  What are your expectations for the Friends of Big Rock community and how will you measure its success?

We recognize that, as a grassroots brand, we need to start conversations and contribute our opinion in a way that people notice, talk about us and get involved in our cause. Although we obviously have specific targets for membership, traffic, attendance, account sales and publicity – we would like the impact to create a highly passionate group of real fans and influencers who will rally around our brand long term.

OD: Big Rock currently has three distinct web properties: bigrockbeer.com, friendsofbigrock.com and bigrockuntapped.com?  Currently there isn’t a lot cross-promotion between them.  Will they remain distinct or evolve into a single site?  Do you ever see the main Big Rock site becoming primarily social?

Big Rock Untapped was created as a music-based community, which will always exist on its own and be
populated by user-generated content. In terms of our Big Rock site, we would like to merge all traffic back to bigrockbeer.com – eventually. We are currently in the process of reevaluating what that could and should be. You can be sure that we will do something more creative overall – and have a subtle, but meaningful, presence online. Right now each site has a purpose and we are operating them separately until we can get our corporate site redesigned.

OD: As part of the FoBR site, you’ve created a “community manager” position.  What role does your community manager, Cara, play in terms of both online and offline activities and why was the creation of this role important?

Our Community Manager, Cara, works intimately with our sales team in Ontario to build Untapped events and initiate promotions around each one of them. She is our local expert on up and coming Ontario bands. She really is a liaison between Big Rock and the community, including consumers and musicians. We want to create events to give these artists exposure and to showcase our products – but we also want long terms relationships with the music community so we can ensure our investments are going to the right places and that we are building the Canadian music industry one artist at at time. Once you meet Cara and see how energetic, creative and connected she is you will quickly understand how instrumental she is to the success of the overall program.

OD: One of the hallmarks of blogging and other social media activities is transparency; however, your blog posts are currently not “signed” by a specific person and other activities are conducted under the generic “Friends of Big Rock” name. What drove the decision to keep the content more brand-focused rather than personality-focused?  Do you see this changing over time?

We have so many opportunities to tie our blogs to some of the key personalities here at Big Rock and, as we evolve our website and online presence, you will likely see these personalities attached to more of our social media activities.

We are quite transparent in our communication that Cara, the team from Agent Wildfire who helped build our community program, and our own staff in Calgary and Toronto have collective responsibility for hosting the program.

OD: What advice do you have for other marketers who want to tap into their communities or expand their markets, particularly in regard to social media?

Working in a company that prides itself on being close to its customers I’m struck by how important they are to the success of our business. They attend our events, ask for our beers, advocate us to others, produce our ads, give us their wisdom, provide us great content to inspire us and make us better.

Social media has now simply expanded the arena where these conversations can and do take place and have allowed a brewery – with small independent roots in Calgary – to talk more easily to fans from across Canada.

If you ask our founder, Ed McNally, he will quickly tell you that the Big Rock Eddies were created by our beer drinkers. While he came up with the idea of getting others to create Big Rock beer commercials, it was the drinkers that really brought it to life. He tells a great story of being in a tux, waiting for the inaugural Eddies to start and thinking it was a going to be a failure. Quickly his mind was changed when 300 people showed up in limousines wearing crazy outfits, drinking Big Rock beers and having a great time. He didn’t put the life into the event, the consumers did.

Moral of the story is to trust your gut and trust your most loyal consumers. They know the brand and will play along as long as you are honest with them. And of course, they will be your best ambassadors.

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