Beer Marketing – The Flying Dog Example
Flying Dog is my favorite American beer after my hometown favorites Surly and Summit. But I am just as impressed with their online marketing as I am their actual brews.
I am always citing Flying Dog as the best example I’ve seen of a company creating a unified online voice. They wisely take a multi-channel approach that includes a company web site, an email newsletter, a handful of very narrowly focused blogs, an online store, a Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube presence, as well as sponsored web sites.
The Flying Dog Voice
It may just be that the combination of the personalities behind the company are so distinct and that the leadership of the owner is so strong, that a the unified voice that results is inevitable. If the voice is the deliberate result of an integrated marketing plan, then it is brilliantly conceived and executed with great discipline.
Flying Dog starts with a story–a legend, they call it–of the conception of the company by founder George Stranahan, who they say saw a flying dog on a camping trip in the Himalayas. A friend of Hunter S. Thompson, Stranahan asks the gonzo journalist to refer an artist who would be up to the task of creating the Flying Dog look. That artist turned out to be Ralph Steadman, who creates the Flying Dog look to this day:
The Flying Dog Web Site
From the Flying Dog story page on the company web site:
Purposeful, provocative irreverence. These words echo through the
brewery corridors. Purposeful in the pursuit of making bold, yet highly
drinkable craft beers and provocative and irreverent in the way we view and communicate with the world around us.
Thus, the tone is set.
That irreverence can be seen on their employees page (called Flying Dog Mutts); management falls under a headline of Bourgeoise, and accounting and sales/marketing people fall under a headline of Proletariat.
Site visitors are asked to give their feedback using the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
The Flying Dog voice can be heard loud and clear through all of their channels.
Flying Dog Email Newsletter
Flying Dog’s e-mail newsletter is written in a conversational, "just you and me" style and is signed by Chris; the update is coming from a human, not a company. The newsletter is titled "News for the People’s Republic of Flying Dog," and includes a calendar of upcoming events, links to video clips, and announcements of new beer introductions. Each newsletter closes, smartly, with "Art of the Week," an illustration usually by George Steadman; placed strategically at the bottom of the newsletter, it encourages readers to at least scroll through the entire update to get to the art.
The Flying Dog voice is maintained even down to the unsubscribe link, which reads "We’re not saying karma will catch up to you and ruin your life if you unsubscribe by clicking here, but don’t come crying to us when it does."
The Flying Dog Blogs
From fundraising appeals for an employee stricken with cancer, to an announcement of a new CEO, to reviews, the Flying Dog Blog addresses all things related to the brewery.
But then, Flying Dog gets specific. One of the most impressive things about their online marketing is they always know exactly who they are communicating with. The Flying Dog News blog is devoted to company press releases and as such, targets journalists.
They know their customers support the arts, so they’ve got a Flying Dog Arts and a Flying Dog Records site to support art and music. And since Flying Dog customers are open source enthusiasts, it makes eminent sense for the company to have an Open Source Beer Project.
And, of course, they have the Flying Dog store where you can buy items that reinforce the company brand and voice.
Flying Dog Social Media Sites
While I think that Flying Dog should devote more time to each of their social media accounts as mediums in and of themselves, they do maintain the Flying Dog voice within each channel.
Flying Dog’s Facebook Presence
Flying Dog’s Facebook presence is a bit more robust, boasting 276 fans of the Flying Dog page and 235 members of a fan-created Flying Dog Facebook Group. The official Facebook page features blog posts fed from an RSS feed, events, video and some wall posts.
Of the 22 posts on their Facebook wall, a few are from people promoting their own Web sites or blogs but most of the posts are from Flying Dog fans, some of whom are asking direct questions. Oddly, though, the only use of the wall by Flying Dog itself is to announce things rather than interacting with the most dedicated of their Facebook fans, the ones who have posted a message to their wall. Though several questions were posed directly to Flying Dog, the company fails to take advantage of the chance of connecting directly with customers by answering their queries.
The vast number of Facebook groups are of the Join and Forget variety with precious little activity on them and the Flying Dog Facebook group appears to be no different. Still with 235 members and 22 wall posts, you’d think that Flying Dog would make their presence known by posting a message to the group’s wall.
Flying Dog’s MySpace Presence
Someone at Flying Dog went to the trouble of accumulating 9535 friends at MySpace and they’re making use of some of the social network’s features, uploading pictures and posting blog entries (and I’m hoping the Beat It profile song is intended to be ironic). They have 670 comments on their page and while most are of the Thanks For The Ad variety those are usually accompanied by an enthusiastic endorsement of their beer.
The MySpace Groups to which Flying Dog subscribes, not surprisingly, include a lot of beer- and drinking-related topics but some of the pop culture groups (such as The Family Guy or The Onion) perfectly reflect Flying Dog’s target audience.
Flying Dog’s Flickr Presence
At Flickr, Flying Dog has created sets of photos that include Ralph Steaman art, Flying Dog advertising and packaging, as well as photos of events and beer dinners. They are uploading press coverage of the company and they’re using Flickr to help raise money for their employee who was stricken with cancer.
The Flickr Groups to which Flying Dog has subscribed include Beer, One Bottle, and Beers Around the World and they recently created their own Flying Dog Brewery group, to which they have 77 subscribers.
Flickr appears to the the social media channel in which Flying Dog is most active. They have uploaded many photos, have taken care to optimize their Flickr account with collections and sets of photos, and the company seems to be deliberately engaging the Flickr community. With 1.2 million photos related to beer, there’s plenty of opportunity.
An indication that Flying Dog knew exactly what they were doing online came to me shortly after I uploaded a screen shot of one of their blogs to my Flickr account: I soon got an Flickr mail from one of their employees inquiring what I was up to and offering any help they could provide.
Flying Dog’s YouTube Presence
Flying Dog has posted 36 videos at their YouTube channel yet have accumulated only 59 subscribers Though the video is compelling enough, featuring the Flying Dog Drinker’s Marathon, clips of resident artist Ralph Steadman, and video of a Flying Dog Tour, they are not participating in the YouTube community nearly as much as they could. Establishing that presence as a community member could help them build a following within YouTube itself.
Flying Dog’s Twitter Presence
Flying Dog is also active on the popular microblogging service, Twitter, with more than 300 followers. They primarily use the medium to push their own content while only occasionally engaging their followers and as a result, I think they’re missing out on a prime opportunity to engage their most-engaged fans.
Twitter users are most likely to be content creators themselves and often have multiple social media accounts through which the publish their content. Their word of mouth buzz, is, as a result, extremely valuable.
But they won’t react to a company pushing content. They want to talk to a person. Were Flying Dog to engage their followers more rather than simply pushing content, I think they’d get a lot more mileage out of the medium.
As an athlete, I can deeply appreciate superb athletic performances in others, so too can I admire smart and well execute Internet marketing when I see it. So I can say with enthusiasm that I’m a big fan of both Flying Dog’s product and their communications strategy.