In a first for Gallo, the company is launching its Camarena Tequila this summer with a product sampling tour fueled by Facebook and Twitter.
The top seller of wine to the U.S. market, E. & J. Gallo Winery, is handling U.S. distribution of the tequila, which is made in a Mexican distillery. The rollout begins in California and Nevada. Since California law doesn't allow free sampling of alcoholic beverages, Gallo's emerging spirits division (other brands are E&J Brandy and New Amsterdam Gin) opted to deck out a food truck with the brand logo and hand out tacos made with meat marinated in the blue agave tequila.
The tour went live in Los Angeles June 1. Working with marketing agency Rebel Industries, Los Angeles and Calhoun & Co. Communications in San Francisco, the launch effort will cover 120 stops in L.A. over about 10 weeks. Based on online brand impressions, media coverage and other metrics, the initiative is expected to be adapted for other cities, says Gerard Thoukis, Gallo Spirits marketing director. If deemed successful, the approach will also be shared with other Gallo spirit and wine brands, say insiders.
With a limited budget, the company is seeking to give its target of 30-and-older spirits drinkers a "creative" way to touch and feel the tequila brand "and to encourage them to share and follow the new product with friends," says Thoukis. Research showed the target already has an affinity to Twitter and Facebook, so social media tools are being tapped to tell people about the truck's schedule, share pictures of the tour, answer questions and solicit feedback.
A few weeks into the tour, the truck was outfitted with an iPad so visitors could follow the comments on Twitter as they munched their tacos. Ironically, "the new iPad has proven as much of a draw to passersby as the free tacos," said Josh Levine, CEO of Rebel Industries. Plans are also in the works to arrange the truck's route based on locations suggested by users, Thoukis says. By early July, the truck had made about 60 stops and 100-300 people had been given tacos at each stop. The tour had, as of Friday, attracted 894 fans on Facebook and 318 followers on Twitter.
An equally important goal of the campaign is to convince local liquor retailers to put the new brand on their shelves. As it turns out, "retailers like that the company is active in their local area with the taco truck and that we support local markets by encouraging people to buy the brand in nearby stores. That's very different than a [traditional] print or billboard launch," says Thoukis.
Gallo's campaign is the latest example of a large marketer using branded tours and similar events in conjunction with social media to pack a powerful marketing punch. In another effort, Food Network Magazine parked a truck covered with Food Network logos at locations throughout New York City last April. Visitors to the truck could win a variety of prizes, and Food Network's Twitter account broadcasted the location of the truck and reminded followers that they needed a password to participate.
Done well, online social interaction can serve to bookend a physical event, say marketing experts. "Social media is the first step to the event, providing logistical details and the call to participate," says Levine. After the physical experience, the online component then keeps the interaction going between brand "fans" and the marketer, he says.
"Keep in mind that the idea of 'social' has expanded among 25- to 35-year-olds," he says. "Social parties and social media now go hand in hand; the lines are blurred."
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Joan Voight is a Contributing Editor to ClickZ. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has covered online and offline media, marketing and advertising since the mid-1990s for several business publications. She spent nine years at Adweek magazine, where she was San Francisco bureau chief, national senior writer and contributing reporter.
March 19, 2014