Carlsberg is conducting a pilot program in Danish bars that asks patrons to post Instagram photos in exchange for extended happy hours. The digital agency responsible for the effort says it prolongs beer sales, but at least one digital marketing expert is skeptical of campaigns that attempt to insert brands into user experiences.
Danish brewing company the Carlsberg Group is hosting the "happy hour of the future" in Denmark with HappyBeerTime, an Instagram-based happy hour extension promotion that taps into existing patron behavior.
According to digital agency Konstellation, HappyBeerTime is a "plug and party" offering that uses Instagram to bridge bar patrons' offline socializing with their online social media behaviors to extend happy hours, generate organic bar promotion, and create user-generated content for Carlsberg.
To host the promotion, Konstellation sends participating bars HDMI sticks, which are plugged into HDTVs at the bars. Each venue is then able to display a screen with a happy hour countdown and patrons can extend happy hour by uploading photos to Instagram and tagging them with #HappyBeerTime and the name of the bar.
Konstellation chief creative officer (CCO) Thomas Pries says HappyBeerTime is set for a fluid amount of time. The time added per Instagram photo posted is based on a Konstellation algorithm: At the beginning of HappyBeerTime, each photo adds around five minutes, however, as HappyBeerTime continues, new photos add less and less time.
The concept has been tested in two bars in Denmark, but Konstellation chief executive (CEO) Nicolai Elmqvist says there is "huge interest in rolling it out on a global scale," adding, "I cannot say the time frame exactly at the moment, but it's probably pretty soon."
According to Elmqvist, Carlsberg said it wanted a promotion that could increase retention to venues, as well as loyal customers, and it wanted to join the ranks of beer brands with innovative campaigns.
Konstellation chose Instagram because it's popular, it's easy to upload and tag photos, and it inspires self-moderation because users are less likely to upload inappropriate photos to Instagram than they are to Twitter, Pries says.
The campaign is a success so far because consumers actually participate and there has been a lot of buzz about it in Europe, Elmqvist says. HappyBeerTime also adds value to consumers instantly in the form of cheaper beer for a longer time and it adds value to Carlsberg, which in turn sells more beer.
Pries says in one pilot, small groups at the bar started interacting through the HappyBeerTime screen, which "actually got people to be social in the room. They started to send photos to each other and interact in that way and we thought that was a good sign."
However, not everyone is optimistic about efforts such as this that seek to bridge online and offline behaviors.
"I generally think that any brand's attempt to artificially insert themselves into customers' experiences won't work well or will backfire," writes Augustine Fou, the so-called Digital Consigliere, who advises marketing executives and brands on digital strategy, in an email. "People want to socialize with each other, not with brands. Even if the brand facilitates more social opportunities, like Carlsberg, most people won't care."
With an added benefit like an extended happy hour, Fou notes some online/offline promotions may work, "but the key theme is to assume the consumer is savvy and in control and will decide in each case whether it is worth it to them to do. And anything that is disruptive to the user will be repelled and ridiculed in social media at worst or simply treated with a 'meh' at best."
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In addition to ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, Lisa's work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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