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Great Lakes Brewing Company brews “Quitness Ale” to capitalize, sympathize with Cleveland’s loss of James

July 15, 2010

Great Lakes Brewing Company's BrewpubGreat Lakes Brewing Company always names its  beer after Cleveland and Northeast Ohio events, history and people. This time around, it’s releasing LeBron James’ own ale, aptly titled “Quitness Ale.”

The craft brewery is also a brewpub and it had two plans in place. One plan, if James were to stay, would’ve been the sale of all of its award-winning hamburgers at only $6 each and release a “Witness Ale.” The second plan, in the light of his choice to move to another team, was to sell a special brew called “Quitness Ale” exclusively at the Cleveland, Ohio brewpub.

The first plan probably would’ve been more of a “nice treat” to guests and not gained much coverage in the hype of LeBron’s staying. The second? Well, it became a national media blitz and a huge public relations opportunity for the number 23 craft brewery in the nation.

That’s right, Great Lakes Brewing Company found out in April that it  jumped up to the number 23 spot in the Brewers Association Top 50 Breweries list for 2009. It’s up from the number 26 spot in 2008. The numbers are calculated based on beer sales volume.

But that Cleveland victory is likely overshadowed by the recent “bitter” break-up with LeBron James. And that’s exactly where Great Lakes got its inspiration. It said the brew was a dry, hopped India Pale Ale that left a very bitter aftertaste, much like LeBron’s “decision.”

Great Lakes Brewing Company only brewed 30 gallons of it, released it last night on July 14 and expected the brew to last until Saturday, July 17. But it didn’t. It sold out in just THREE hours.

“Connecting to our city, our fans and our community has made Great Lakes Brewing Company what it is today,” the brewery’s co-owner Patrick Conway said in a release on the company’s website. “Making lemonade out of lemons comes naturally as evidenced by some of our other beers like the Burning River Pale Ale and Blackout Stout. Rest assured Cleveland – GLBC isn’t going anywhere and we will continue to win world championships.”

(*Note* That release, posted just last night, is already missing from the News section. In its stead is a “Quitness has left the building” release explaining that the brew is already sold out and thanking the fans for their support. This is a missed opportunity to further the media attention it could be getting from new media. No press releases should ever be removed from the news section of a site unless they are too old to be relevant anymore. But I don’t blame Great Lakes Brewing Company, it only has a marketing department, not a public relations department.)

Of course, the company isn’t talking about NBA championships, it’s talking about its Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Championships and World Beer Cup awards and medals.

For a short interview with c0-owner Patrick Conway, check out this ideastream article. Or, just listen to: The Quitness Ale Interview.

So what do you think? Is this a missed public relations opportunity or do you think the coverage the ale has already gotten is enough? Did anyone get to try the ale? Oh, and is anyone else going to Burning River Fest next weekend? I’ll definitely be there!!!


Dunkin’ Donuts mixes up its Coolatta

July 8, 2010

Dunkin’ Donuts is mixing it up and adding the option to take two of its Coolatta flavors and mix them together. While the option has technically always been there, it’s never been displayed on the menu. Dunkin’ Donuts is taking its top “most mixed” Coolattas, pairing them together and adding them to its menu.

Meet the mixes:

Dunkin' Donuts Coolattas

From left: Tropicana, Strawberry, Coffee, Watermelon, Blue Raspberry and Vanilla Bean Coolattas

1. Coffee and Vanilla Bean

2. Watermelon and Strawberry

3. Tropicana Orange and Vanilla Bean

What’s cool about the Coolatta?

Why, the public relations strategy, of course!

Anyone who submits a cool name idea via Twitter for any of the three mixes above is eligible for a $60 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. If you’ve got a great idea, don’t forget to add the hashtag #DDMIX. After looking at the hashtags so far, I’m thinking Dunkin’ Donuts is going to do three separate giveaways, one for each mix. Still, hurry on over if you’ve got a good one, because Monday they’ll announce the winner for the Coffee and Vanilla Bean mix.

My top favorites so far are:

1. Javanilla

2. Creamy Dreamy Coffee Vanilla Beany Swirl

3. Love You A JavaLatta

Dunkin Donuts isn’t just a Twitter genius, its a Facebook genius and its even expanding into new platform, Pandora. The DD Coolatta Mix features songs like  Otis Redding’s ” (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” and Justin Timberlake’s “Summer Love/Set The Mood (Prelude).”

The Facebook page features a fan of the week and an outlet to explain all of the personalized features and offerings Dunkin Donut has for each of its fans. Things like reminders via text message, videos and contests are all a prominent part of this integrated strategy.

Another aspect to consider is certainly Starbucks’ recent strategy to do the exact same plan with its frappuccinos. The always customizable drinks were finally advertised as “However You Want It” and it made a killing.

What was cool about the Starbucks campaign was that it tied its social media components to a “Happy Hour” event  in May 2010 in which all frappuccinos were half off between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The campaign stayed strong with TV ads and in-store promotions to keep the frappuccino buzz going. Starbucks also added new flavors  in preparation for the customizable blends by adding a new soy base option.

All in all, I like that both brands are informing its customers about the customization options available to them. I used to work at Starbucks and I feel that many people aren’t aware that customization is available for them. By emphasizing this with strong campaigns and social media components, both of these corporate titans are working on letting YOU pick the perfect recipe!

Try Arby’s new social media meal… for FREE!

July 5, 2010

Not only is Facebook a free advertisement, but so is the new Jr. Deluxe if you buy a regular drink at Arby’s today. For the first ever social media plan unleashed by Arby’s, I’m calling this one a PeRfect recipe and a great conversational point for its fans.

Arby's free Jr. Deluxe social media plan

Arby’s has been holding out on creating a dollar menu – a trend competitor McDonald’s implemented back in 2002. The dollar menu trend is a huge money maker and a great investment opportunity… if you’re into that kind of thing. Arby’s just implemented its dollar menu in April 2010 and decided to introduce its latest “limited time offer” item with a social media plan.

The social media plan was integrated with a full-on campaign that included television, radio and in-store advertising. The genius is that the sandwich was a “preview.” Customers weren’t simply allowed to purchase the $1 sandwich, they had to purchase any size soft drink separately in order to get a “free” sandwich.

Why is that genius, you ask?

Because an Arby’s small soft drink costs $1.49. Soft drinks are money makers on their own because the soft drink syrup is relatively cheap.  And Arby’s gets a nice cut on the price anyway for buying it in bulk. Essentially, Arby’s just made money off of every single customer willing to try the new menu item.

The excitement over the event has generated millions of hits to Arby’s Facebook account and thousands of comments. However, the most difficult part of an event is certainly how to maintain that same type of fire after the event is over. *Update – July 6* Only one comment today mentions the free deal and thanks Arby’s for the sandwich. Also, Arby’s hasn’t yet released its sales figures for the sandwich from yesterday. I’ll update this with a news release link as soon as it shows up.

The fast food giant also recently launched a Twitter handle: @Arbys on June 9. It’s talking, but nobody is paying attention. It has 282 followers, but its talking at people, not with people.

Arby’s should take a hint from its Richmond, Virginia, location @ArbysRVA. Its creating conversations and engagement via contests from Twitter followers who tweet about Arby’s. Recent contests include coming up with a new Arby’s tagline, telling Arby’s what your favorite lunch menu item is and what your favorite dessert menu item is. It has 958 followers, it keeps them engaged and it converses with them.

Another viewfinder to look through is that of the McDonald’s Twitter page.  If you go to its Twitter page @McDonalds, you see a massive list of posts beginning with @…. Why? Because it is conversing with literally anyone who wants to talk. Not only that, but it keeps tabs on these people and gets back to them. One post even asks a customer to send them his address as a “thank you for the laugh” gesture. Nice, right?

So while the first steps of Arbys’ into the social media realm turn from a wobble, to a walk and then to a run, it must continually try to create a conversation with its audience. Wouldn’t you agree?

PeRfect recipe or recipe for disaster? Taco Bell is petitioning for more circulation of the $2 bill

June 24, 2010

On June 9, 2010, Taco Bell took out the full-page ad below in USA Today. The ad is a public relations tactic for its recent introduction of the “$2 Meal Deal” in which guests can buy three items for $2. In addition to drumming up attention to the value meal on TV ads, it is also using guerilla tactics to amuse its audience by asking The Federal Reserve to circulate more $2 bills… at least… I think Taco Bell’s joking…

Taco Bell asks the Federal Reserve to circulate more $2 bills in this full-page USA Today article. Is it perfect? Or is it a recipe for disaster?

According to The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, currency only gets into  circulation if:

There’s an increase in demand for the currency from financial institutions because there’s an increase in demand from customer requests.

This means, in order to bring the $2 bill into strong circulation a few factors must occur:

  • People would have to request $2 bills from their banks AND use them.
  • Taco Bell (and other businesses) would have to regularly get $2 bills as tender and regularly give the bills back as change.
  • Those getting the bills back as change would still have to continually use them for normal transactions.

If successful in those logical endeavors, Taco Bell and its loyal $2 bill campaign supporters would increase enough demand for the bill to cause The Federal Reserve to circulate more bills.

Instead, Taco Bell is taking an interesting approach that is so quirky and illogical, it has to be a guerilla public relations tactic. It’s employing the use of giant social media platform Facebook and asking its followers to sign a petition asking The Federal Reserve for more $2 bill circulation.  As of today, it has 4,387 signatures of folks who likely don’t understand The Federal Reserve’s circulation policy.

I’m wondering if Taco Bell is doing this out of a brilliant attempt to drum up awareness and sales for its “$2 Dollar Meal Deal” or if its seriously seeking to increase $2 bill circulation? My gut instinct says it has to be the former. (If Taco Bell is serious, it didn’t do very much research on how a bill goes into circulation and I have too much faith in its ability to research such an essential building block of this strategy.)

Taco Bell doesn’t necessarily benefit from an increase in $2 bill circulation, either. It only benefits because it drums up more awareness and business for itself and its value meal. And besides, we’re familiar with quirkiness from Taco Bell. The company’s ads have included a fake diet, a Charles Barkley rap (twice) and a talking chihauhau.

As a matter of fact, I’m going to say that this is a PeRfect guerilla strategy, executed beautifully. People may question Taco Bell’s positioning based on the logical circulation of bills, but Taco Bell doesn’t care if it sees an increase in the use of $2 bills. Taco Bell isn’t stupid. It knows full well how the circulation of bills occurs and it also knows its target audience “to a t.”

Were you ever going to go to the bank and request a $2 bill from the teller so you can look cool at the Taco Bell drive-thru window?

Liar. You weren’t.

But it’s cool, because nobody else was either. So Taco Bell had to come up with a public relations strategy to get its audience to participate in the campaign. With 1,152,467 fans on Facebook, what better way to engage its audience than to ask them to support its endeavor. Granted, it only has a 38% response at the moment, but the campaign just got underway 15 days ago, so I validate it as successful. (Especially since there’s only been one full-page ad taken out so far.) And besides, I’m not the only one calling it a PR stunt, just ask U.S. News.

So what do you think? Is Taco Bell brilliant or did it forget to do its research on how U.S. currency works? And most importantly, are you going to sign the petition?

Cooking Channel says, “Stay hungry.” I say, “Full already, thanks.”

June 21, 2010

In an effort to appeal to a younger, hipper audience, Scripps Network Digital (The Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel) launched Cooking Channel on Memorial Day. A full four weeks later, viewers are… well… bored.

Cooking Channel’s website offers this in the “About Us” section:

We throw open the doors for this audience on TV and online, sparking the conversations that fuel people’s passion for food and cooking.

Instead of sparking a conversation about people’s passion for food and cooking, it seems the channel is sparking the people’s frustrations over a lack of proper planning. The launch of the network is consisting of import shows, six-episode show orders and recycled syndication from The Food Network.

On Repeats

According to a recent Washington Post article, General Manager, Michael Smith acknowledges there’s a catch in running shorter-season shows; it will be tough to tell which ones have staying power.

But what he doesn’t mention is by not starting out with full-orders of brand new shows, the same six episodes end up seeing a lot of airtime amongst a sea of old Food Network and import shows. Below, a graph represents how often the new shows are repeating in comparison to how often veteran shows are repeating. Repeating is defined as any number of episodes aired above and beyond the first airing of an episode for the Cooking Channel lineup from Sunday, June 20, 2010 to Saturday, June 26, 2010.

A depiction of repeats in terms of new shows, import shows and recycled Food Network shows. Repeats is defined as any number of episodes aired above and beyond the first airing of an episode for the Cooking Channel lineup from Sunday, June 20, 2010 to Saturday, June 26, 2010. It should be noted that the only veteran show with repeat episodes was the import "Food Jammers."

Cooking Channel may not have started with a huge line-up, but it did start out with a huge Facebook following. At 39,806 fans as of today,  feedback is mounting quickly. Two topics stuck out to me: “SUCKS” and “ok ENOUGH reruns.” Here are some things two fans had to say:


Dean Harrington: No it does suck, mostly boring re-runs of Food Network shows from the US and Canada mixed in with a few shows from the UK and OZ. What a drag! Plus they are recycling the old crap cooking shows from Fine Living.  …And if I have to hear Emeril’s grating accent anymore and his audience clapping over garlic I might have to put a screwdriver in my ear…

On “ok ENOUGH reruns”-

John Salinas: They have showed the same 2 episodes of Chinese Food Made Easy. You see the commercial for it and you see the host cooking many different kinds of food, but you just see the same 2 episodes.

They have showed the same episode of Everyday Exotic where the host uses papaya, more than 10 times. They have showed 2 other episodes but none have been repeated more than the Papaya episode.

Also they have shown the same couple episodes of Food Jammers and the one hosted by Aida.

There are too many back to back Bobby Flay shows. Granted I like him alot, but we have enough of him on the Food Network. The same goes with Giada…

On Dissatisfaction

In public relations, it’s an ultimate goal to ensure your client is viewed positively by your target audience. If the channel doesn’t respond to the dissatisfaction of its viewers, it risks a drop in viewership. A drop in viewership means that nobody will drop ad dollars. Ad dollars equate to revenue.

On what the Cooking Channel can do

It needs to create a much more specific plan. It seems to be using the “shot in the dark” method  to see if it hits its target. Instead, it needs to do its research on what the target audience really wants.

Once it obtains that information, Cooking Channel should set its sights on programming. Upon determining its best options for said programming, it should purchase full-order shows to remove the stagnancy that  six-show orders created.

What other things do you think Cooking Channel should do to win its audience back?

(P.S. For other first impressions spotted early on, check out this TV Squad blogpost.)