An experiential beer? Yes please!

SingleCut Beersmiths
SingleCut Beersmiths

Making experiences useful and beneficial is how meaningful engagement occurs.

Beer marketers have been pushing creative boundaries lately. 

In Argentina, Corona stocked all of its bottles with the back labels showing to tout the ingredients. Fat Tire released the world’s worst-tasting beer, called Scorched Earth, to show how climate change could impact brewing. Coors Light made a limited-edition beer using the ice from the Stanley Cup Finals rink. And Michelob Ultra Gold won a Titanium Lion at Cannes by promising to buy all of the organic barley it helps farmers plant to combat global warming. 

But just last week, a microbrewery from Queens, New York released what could be the most experiential beer product of all time. With agency Zulu Alpha Kilo, SingleCut Beersmiths made an IPA called Notes, with a can that teaches the beer drinker how to play guitar. 

Each pack includes four cans with  graphics that show the finger positioning of the four major chords that can make a rock god out of anyone holding it. The packaging features raised printing to mimic the feel of strings. 

The top of the beer also features a displaceable guitar pick, so after using it to pop open the IPA, you can strum a guitar. This feature is not only practical, but an amazing mnemonic after the drinking session is over. 

An Instagram AR code printed on each can unlocks a filter that allows people to play the can like a guitar, listen to the sound it makes and learn the chords to shred and create new music. 

A special four-pack holder of the 16-ounce cans comes in the shape of a tube instead of a box to replicate an electric guitar neck. These holders were personalized and sent out to rockers including Jack White, Robbie Robertson and Angus Young. 

This release may seem like an overkill, but actually it presents a number of useful lessons for great experiential marketing. 

Primarily, the packaging engages all five senses, making the experience more memorable and emotional. Research in psychology, neuroscience and linguistics shows that brand loyalty grows with each additional sensory engagement. “Embodied cognition” is a major factor influencing consumer behavior. 

The IPA is a wonderful canvas of physical-to-digital interplay, which is now at the heart of experiential marketing. The pandemic replaced physical interaction with digital, but we’re now entering a hybrid era of experiences. 

The can is the manifestation of that, using real-world graphics to unlock virtual activity. This approach is now the foundation of Snap’s multinational advertising campaign that uses OOH to unlock AR filters for deeper engagement and experience. 

The guitar pick can opener is a wonderful example of baked-in utility that should be at the heart of all experiential marketing. Making experiences useful and beneficial – whether it helps, inspires or slightly transforms people – is how meaningful engagement occurs. 

The coup de grace is the earned media component of sharing the beer with rock and music influencers. After all, beer is meant to be shared. It remains to be seen if the rock gods smile kindly on Notes IPA, but if they do, their combined social media reach will be something that few microbreweries could tap. 

Max Lenderman is CEO of consultancy Mudfarm Ventures.

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