Molson Gives A Crash Course In Relationship-Building

Every so often you see something that makes you sit up and think, “wow, these guys are on the ball.” I saw that from the folks over at Molson this week.

Brew 2.0

Brew 2.0 A few weeks ago I received a pitch from Molson’s PR firm inviting me to an event called “Brew 2.0.” As the pitch put it, “[…] to introduce their new breed of brew, [Molson] lined up Brewers Ian Douglass & Bryan Eagan, booked a badass room in the ACC & organized a tasting for the awesomest geeks in Toronto.”

This wasn’t the “wow” moment. To be honest I was originally more than a little confused as to why they invited me, a PR blogger who’s about as likely to write about a new beer as I am to brew it (or so I thought!). Still, it was free beer and I had a free evening so I thought “sure, why not” and agreed to attend.

I approached Molson communications rep Tonia Hammer at the event and asked her that same question. Her response was essentially that they wanted to start to get to know a few folks in the space. Fair enough – I’m open to that.

The rest of the evening was good – you can read more in Tonia’s write-up or Eden Spodek’s post – as expected, beer flowed freely, the people were great and I came away planning to write precisely nothing about the event.

The follow-up

Fast-forward to last week. I was a few days from hosting a barbecue at my house and had invited a bunch of social media types to come on out. Imagine my surprise when I got a direct message on Twitter from Tonia:

“Heard you’re having a bbq this weekend – want to drop off some ‘samples’ for the party!! Let me know when you’re avail. for a beer drop”

I let her know where and when I was free and sure enough, the next day a whole lot of beer arrived at my door. What’s more, Tonia remembered what I was drinking at the Brew 2.0 event and included some of that in the mix.

Would this have worked if Tonia (and Molson) hadn’t already established a relationship with me before hearing about the barbecue? I doubt it. In fact, I probably would have thought it was a little creepy that they found out I was hosting a barbecue.

In reality, Molson’s approach did work – for several reasons:

  • They pre-established a relationship with me
  • They communicated casually with me (not in bureaubabble)
  • They proactively reached out when they saw an opportunity that would genuinely benefit both sides
  • They contacted me through the tools that I choose to use
  • They didn’t ask me to write anything about their products in return
    • In fact, they went to pains to say we weren’t expected to write anything about Brew 2.0 and when it came to the barbecue they didn’t even mention my site.

It was still a risky ploy – I’m sure some people might not have reacted well to being approached like this – but it worked for me. That’s the benefit you get from connecting with people early-on – you learn what works for them and what doesn’t.

The results

  1. Me, writing this post about their blogger outreach
  2. Twenty or so people who drank free beer all night and will likely tell their friends all about it
  3. Photographs like these:

Eden Spodek, David Spodek and Rick Weiss

What do you think about this kind of outreach? Would it have worked for you? What would you have done differently?

(Image credits: Tonia Hammer, Dave Fleet)

  • My initial reaction to the Brew 2.0 invitation was similar to yours and I don’t even really drink beer but I accepted the event invitation.

    Despite being told there was no pressure to blog about the event, I think enough of us were significantly impressed to spread the word. When we got home from Brew 2.0, there was quite a bit of buzz on twitter too. Joey deVilla wrote an incredible account of the evening: http://www.joeydevilla.com/2008/07/02/brew-20-a-beer-tasting-at-the-air-canada-centre/

    Molson’s gift to you showed they are investing in a long-term relationship and fortunately, they have a team who understands how to connect with bloggers like us.

    Tonia connected with me on twitter a few weeks ago and connected with me on Facebook after Brew 2.0. Adam Moffat commented on my blog post on a Saturday evening! Plus, both of them interact with us like real people, in an authentic way. They aren’t using “company speak”. I wish more companies would participate in our communities. They almost make me want to start enjoying beer. Adding lime to Corona or orange slices to Rickard’s white is a start. Guess it’s time for me to plan another party.

    Had I known Caralin’s pic was going to be used for your blog, I would have held up that Canadian bottle she suggested. ☺

  • Dave:

    If there are bloggers who would react poorly to the kind of outreach Molson excuted here, then screw those bloggers.

    In my opinion there execution as described here was effective and offered the perfect tone. Great customer service, great follow up, sincere effort should ALWAYS be rewarded because those traits are so rarely seen anywhere in business.

    I’m impressed as a marketer and I don’t even drink.

    Best always,
    – Peter

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  • Nice pic!
    Molson did well in my books. They almost made me feel bad for buying Labatt products lately. Maybe I’ll switch back to Molson for a while. 🙂

  • Dave,

    I first heard about the Molson event on Twitter, which then took me to the GreenBananas blog. It’s good to hear your side of the story too.

    The other blog hit more on the marketing perspective vs. your blog being from the PR perspective. Very interesting contrast. The marketers didn’t seem to see the benefits and questioned if the event was even necessary. As a PR person, you can see the hidden benefits in this type of event. It’s all about the blog posts and cross publications in Twitter and the like.

    The event may not have bade money up front, but it has resulted in a lot of blog posts and impressions.

    Good work Molson!

  • Brett – I am the author of the Greenbanana blog and just to set the record straight, I am not a marketer, but a PR specialist.

    However, this initiative, involving a product-led brand, put the focus squarely on beer rather than wider issues management or the company’s reputation. Hence, we can consider it as a marketing PR outreach programme.

    If we only focus on bloggers as a communications medium for promotional purposes – as you seem to indicate with references to blog posts, Twitter etc to generate word of mouth – the question remains, to what end?

    From a PR perspective, bloggers may be seen more strategically as influencers on the perceptions of a company and as the Molson team commented at my blog, they saw the event as valuable for building relationships. Again, the question remains, to what end?

  • I must admit that I was a bit baffled when I saw the photos of the event. I know a good number of the bloggers who were invited and several don’t even really drink beer. But they included a prominent photographer (bound to take lots of photos) and several PR folks (you included). I’m disappointed they didn’t specifically target beer-lovers, but my cynical side suggests that if they had better products, they wouldn’t have hesitated to get in touch with, for instance, the folks at BarTowel (www.bartowel.com), a Toronto online community for beer geeks (self-disclosure: I’m a member, though not very active). The oft-mocked and now-defunct Steelback brewery actually invited Bartowellers to a tour and tasting some time ago and it helped generate some goodwill from a knowledgeable crowd.

    Molson’s target demographic is, pardon the expression, Joe Six-Pack, and so I suspect they’re looking for positive buzz on the event/gesture itself rather than on the quality of their products. I mean no disparagement to the folks invited, but how many of you would consider yourselves beer aficionados?

  • Hi James – thanks for commenting.

    A quick clarification – I spoke to one of the guys behind the event yesterday and they clarified that they did invite some food/drink bloggers.

    As for their objectives, I’ll let their people speak to those.

    Cheers

  • I’m no beer drinker, but if I were, these kinds of efforts would definitely make me inclined to buy Molson. More companies should endeavor to create these meaningful connections with people in variety of domains, rather than just market to the audiences they know best.

    Thanks for sharing Dave.

  • A great story, Dave. The execution of this sounded pretty much perfect. I’d have to agree with Peter O’Connell that any blogger who can’t appreciate this is not worth listening to. It makes me think that if brands I don’t use were to treat me like this, I would buy their product regularly. If the brands that I enjoy currently were to do this, it would make me an advocate of them.

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  • Just one question Dave… (and you know I am a fan of your site; so it’s not meant to be cheeky)… but did you disclose to your guests that the beer was a promotional gift from Molson for marketing purposes? (Implicit in this question is whether you think that matters… why or why not?) To me, it’s too close to word-of-mouth marketing, which feels “creepy”… to use your word. Is there no aspect of my private life that cannot be accessed by marketers?… especially stealthy ones who don’t want me to know I am being marketed too? (And just because I react poorly doesn’t mean I don’t have valid concerns… and that I should be screwed… can we dial that back a bit?)

    thanks
    Martin

  • Martin – yes, I disclosed it to everyone at the party… and I do think it matters.

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  • Great write up of a good way to pitch bloggers and build relationships. I’m always looking for stories like this to pass around and point to while writing daily for our blog.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks Chel!

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  • I love any relationship with beer, and if it was free it is even better lol