There’s no denying that the lager market is huge. The on-trade
demand alone was estimated to be worth pounds 6.6bn last year, according
But it is also very fragmented and competitive. Of the many brands
available, some originated here, others are brewed under licence, or are
imported from countries as diverse as the Czech Republic, the US,
Mexico, Japan and Australia. And, of course, Germany.
As if the cold shelf wasn’t crowded enough, there are now new
competitors elbowing in: the ice beers and so-called new Irish
Holsten Export’s problem is that, until recently, it hadn’t been
consistently marketed for several years. The result, when Scottish
Courage took stock early in 1996, was alarming. Awareness of the product
was low, identity was poor, listings were being lost, and there was a
lack of saliency in the minds of the target audience.
Given the size of the Scottish Courage portfolio, and the acknowledged
need to rationalise, this could have been a brand for the chop. At the
very least it could have been left to find its own level. Instead, the
task of rallying the brand went to Momentum Integrated Communications,
part of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
The promotional aims were straightforward enough. Get Holsten Export
back into the regular repertoire of lager drinkers who were familiar
with it, and introduce it to those who were not.
There are, of course, several routine ways of tackling this kind of
problem, from door drops to ’extra product free’ packaging. But Scottish
Courage made it clear it was looking for a ’big idea’. Specifically, a
big German Idea.
The key strategic decision, according to agency deputy chairman Ed
Downey was to ’bring to life the brand’s core strengths’, which lay in
its German heritage.
The concept was to tie the brand to a piece of unique and authentically
Germanic culture. It was to have its own Bier Fest, complete with
foaming steins, oompah band, and waiters and waitresses in lederhosen
An extravagant big idea for the relatively simple task of putting
samples in punters’ hands, you might think. But the other side of the
coin was that this should be essentially a self-liquidating promotion.
Customers would pay to get in, pay for their beer and pay for their
food. The aim was to break even, more or less.
The first of these Bier Fests was held in October last year, in London’s
Battersea Park. A custom-built, tented Bavarian bier halle was erected,
able to hold 2500 people. Over two and a half weeks, more than 30,000
attended (see panel).
Now, let’s be blunt. This is potentially a laddish event. The fact that
the 30,000-plus who attended got through 88,000 two-pint steins of
Holsten Export is testimony to that.
That would tie in with perceptions of the target audience, described by
Momentum as ’typical lads who like a night out and enjoy stereotypical
male interests. They put fun before fashion’. The Fest is aimed
primarily at 18- to 34-year-old males, with 18- to 44-year-old lager
drinkers of either sex a secondary target.
The surprise, perhaps, is that attendances are not at all
It is claimed that the audiences are split equally between men and
Underlining the party atmosphere, some 45% attend in groups of between
ten and 20.
The first Fest was a one-off, but with the expectation that it would be
rolled out wider if the intensive research which ran alongside gave a
thumbs up. With 98% of attendees - ’celebrants’ the brewer client
prefers to call them - saying that they would recommend the event to
their friends, that seemed a good enough endorsement.
Holsten returned to Battersea in April. A quarter of those who bought
tickets had attended the first event six months earlier. Since then, the
Fest has been on national tour: Newcastle in May; Cardiff in June and
July; Manchester in August; and Leeds in October. Most of these events
have been considered very successful. Only Tyneside seemed to have
difficulty coming to terms with the informal party culture which
positively encourages celebrants to dance on the tables.
Last week, the Bier Fest re-opened in London, this time at Finsbury
Marketing Technique was there to sample the sauerkraut and sip a stein
Given that the event lasts for the best part of three weeks at each
location, plus a week each side for erecting and removing the marquee,
it has become a full-time programme. Certainly, the two individuals who
have lived and breathed the Holsten Bier Fest for the past year - brand
manager Fiona Reid and Momentum account director Sally Davies - have
hardly seen their offices in that time.
But they also claim to have enjoyed the experience immensely. ’It’s like
no other job in marketing,’ says Reid. ’You get a great kick from seeing
the enjoyment on the faces of your consumers.’
The roadshow programme, it is claimed, has raised brand recognition and
led to increased distribution outside its traditional South-East
It is estimated that, by the end of the year, the Bier Fest will have
attracted a total of more than 150,000 consumers nationwide, and given
them the chance to sample 300,000 two-pint steins of the product.
Staging the Bier Fest, including the entertainment, is, of course,
expensive, although the cost is largely defrayed by ticket prices
ranging from pounds 3 to pounds 7, depending on day and time, and by the
charges for food and drink.
However, there is much more to the programme than serving up steins to
20,000 to 30,000 thirsty lager drinkers at each location. Momentum
stresses that it is an integrated programme, which has called for
extensive promotional support, reaching a far wider audience than young
lads in the immediate vicinity of the venues.
For instance, in the run-up the current Finsbury Fest, there have been
ads on local radio, a four-page insert in the Evening Standard’s Hot
Tickets supplement, and posters on the tube. A public relations blitz
included getting The Holsteiners band on breakfast TV. The effect is to
put the Holsten Export brand name, in the full ’German heritage’
context, before several million people.
’Advertising is so important in the beer market,’ says Momentum’s
’The problem is that so much of it promises but fails to deliver. Our
advertising does deliver. It is all about celebration and having a good
time. Now that the Bier Fest is established, you can see how the theme
can be extended into all sorts of activities. Holsten has made the Bier
Fest its own.’
Alastair Gronbach, marketing manager for Scottish Courage’s premium
draught lagers, agrees. ’The Bier Fest is the big idea we challenged the
agency to come up with,’ he says. ’It reflects everything about the
brand that we want to get over. The research has been so positive, you
would think we had written it ourselves.
’We are definitely continuing next year. We see this as a long-term
NO SMALL BEER
- More than 30,000 people attended the first Bier Fest in Battersea
Park, and consumed more than 20,000 gallons of Holsten Export.
- 12,000 specially manufactured Holsten Export steins were used.
- Two and a half tonnes of sauerkraut, half a tonne of gherkins, 9000
frankfurters and 22,000 portions of chips were served.
- The waiting staff are trained to carry up to six steins at a time, and
walk approximately 3.5 kilometres every evening.
- There are 60 waiting staff on duty each night, with 40 behind the bar,
and 25 clearing and washing steins.
- The bier halle has a floor area equivalent to five tennis courts and
takes a week to erect. It contains 275 tables and 550 long benches.
Client: Scottish Courage
Agency: Momentum Integrated Communications
Task: Increase awareness of Holsten Export
This article was first published on Marketing