Thursday, February 24, 2011

Short's Brewery: Using Social Media to Write the Next Chapter in a Great Story

This post was originally created as class assignment #9 for MSU's New Media Driver's License course, and posted to the course website on November 22, 2010.

Short’s Brewery is a great Michigan success story – right when our state really needs one. The goal of this marketing plan is to leverage the power of social media to take this promising brand to the next level.

Below I describe the thought process behind the plan, and outline a 10-slide presentation that will serve as a roadmap for getting there.

A little bit about Short’s
In 2004, after honing his skills as a brewmaster with several downstate microbreweries, WMU grad Joseph Short returned home to the shores of Torch Lake, MI (northeast of Traverse City) to transform a former hardware store in the small community of Bellaire into a microbrewery and restaurant so that he could feed his obsession with making great beer while feeding his soul with the beauty and laid-back energy of northern Michigan.

Since then, Short’s Brewery has experienced impressive growth in production capacity, product portfolio, and statewide distribution in restaurants, bars and retail. They recently announced a significant investment to nearly triple their production capacity, to be completed in March 2011. Clearly, now is the time to get the word out about Short’s!

The ingredients in Short’s recipe for success
  • Passion -- for the craft of brewing beer, and for the northern Michigan lifestyle
  • Personality – a unique voice that begins with founder Joe Short, but doesn’t stop there. The Short’s brand personifies friendship, family, community and fun.
  • Product – In just six years, Short’s has developed a portfolio of craft brewed beers, including both annual beers and seasonal specials

Short’s is on the threshold of establishing an enduring brand; theirs is a story that draws you in – after spending just a few minutes on their website , their Facebook or their YouTube channel , and certainly after sampling one of their very unique beers, consumers will want to be a part of the action.

The marketing objective
Energize people all over the state to not only taste, but feel and be part of this lifestyle brand, resulting in a larger, more loyal customer base for Short’s.

Short’s has the recipe right, yet something is missing: the voice of the customer. In order to create the kind of community of loyalists needed to succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, consumers who will repeatedly choose their brand (which at $10+ for a six-pack, is not a “given”) and, more importantly, recommend it to their friends, we recommend harnessing the power of social media.

The good news is that Short’s is already using most of the main social media tools (blogging, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr). The challenge is to evolve their social media presence from “me” -- telling a one-way story about what’s going on with Short’s to “we” – incorporating their buyer’s voices to enrich the story.

An Integrated Marketing Theme: Short’s Stories
Encourage customers from every corner of the state to create and share their own Short’s Stories, through a unique social media contest involving consumer-generated video content.

The contest will be promoted through a robust social media conversation involving Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogger outreach. Budget and timeline specifics will drive implementation, and ongoing analytics will gauge how the program is contributing to building the Short’s brand.

Presentation Outline
  1. Slide #1 Meet Joe Short: An introduction to the man and the brand
  2. Slide #2 Beyond Living the Dream: A business overview detailing the vision that launched the business, and their driving principle: “Life is Short’s. Drink it while you’re here.
  3. Slide #3: Beyond Living the Dream (continued): more background on the business, including a huge planned expansion, and why that should drive a more aggressive marketing push
  4. Slide #4 Short’s Stories: Introducing the “big idea” of using consumer-generated video as the core of a program to foster a larger, statewide “community” that connects with Michigan’s current zeitgeist and celebrates Michigan’s unique places and people, with Short’s beer at the center of the action!
  5. Slide #5 Short’s Stories (continued): The Who/What/Where/When/How and Why of the video contest
  6. Slide #6: Getting the word out: blogger outreach (including a novel way to get influential bloggers invested in the idea), Facebook, Twitter, Short’s own YouTube uploads and more
  7. Slide #7: Time is money, and they have neither: outlining the budget (which will be tight as their cash is tied up in the expansion)
  8. Slide #8: Time is money, and they have neither (continued): Recommending a timeline/project plan to help Short’s small staff budget their human resources to execute the plan. (Even though the heart of the program is customer-generated content, there’s still a ton of legwork to make it a success.)
  9. Slide #9: Getting the recipe right: establishing the metrics and analytics tools that will be utilized to measure success
  10. Slide #10: Bottle it and sell it: Summary/closing comments

 The Who/What/Where/When/How/Why of the Short's Stories Competition:
  • Who: consumers (age 21+) from Michigan
  • What: consumer-generated content in the form of short (no pun intended – 3 minutes or less) videos that tell the story of how they enjoy Short’s in their special corner of the state.
  • Where: their videos can be uploaded to a special “Short’s Stories” channel on YouTube, where viewers can vote for their favorites
  • When: during a 4-month promotional period beginning in March, 2011 (coinciding with Short’s increased production capacity)
  • How: Viewers can vote for their favorite videos, and the top vote-getters will advance to be judged by a panel of “experts” (combining audience and professional opinions a la American Idol)
  • Why: for great prizes, and the chance to go viral!

photo credits:  closeup of bottles by d. magette; joe in the plant by short's brewing company

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