Anheuser-Busch Vaccination Campaign Is Brilliant, or Is It?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on July 27, 2021

Anheuser-Busch recently teamed up with the White House to support the goal of getting 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4th. As summer nears and temperatures rise, what better way to get attention for a big campaign than to offer, wait for it, free beer.

In its press release, Anheuser Busch shared key details as it announced the promo to encourage vaccinations.

The campaign is tied into Anheuser-Busch's “Let's Grab A Beer” initiative, aimed at playing an active role in the country's recovery and “making the moments that we come together over a beer even better”. As a carrot to get people to partially or fully vaccinate, the brewer said it would buy America's next round of beer, seltzer, non-alcoholic beverage, or other A-B product — inclusive of over 100 brands — to enjoy with family and friends. Adults 21+ only need to upload a picture of themselves in their favorite place to grab a beer, whether with friends at their favorite local bar and restaurant or with family in their very own backyard at MyCooler.com/Beer to enter to receive a beer on A-B.

Upon first reading, we thought this might be the most creative and fun campaign of the summer. Was it the ultimate customer acquisition campaign while also supporting a solid social cause? Some analysis noted that the steps required for consumers to comply with the criteria to be included were a bit too clumsy. This article explains the Loyalty Asteriks™ abounding in the promo structure.

To go a little deeper and build an unbiased view on this promotion, we decided to seek out the opinions of customer loyalty and CRM experts. The question to the experts was to help us decide if this was a bar-setting example of a customer acquisition campaign or something better described as a high profile, high impact, high breakage promo.

Here’s what we heard from our expert panel.

Phil​ Rubin, Executive Vice President, Strategic Partnerships, Bond Brand Loyalty:

AB is clearly working to score a hat trick and do three things: 1) position itself as a socially responsible company and set of brands by integrating its “Let’s Grab a Beer” campaign with 2) a compelling offer of a free beer for proof of a vaccine and 3) drive acquisition for its MyCooler program. While it might seem like a catch, the MyCooler platform is the enabler to leverage and fulfill the offer and collect data on its customers. When you contrast this with McDonald’s new program and “free fries day” on July 13th, or what a brand like Krispy Kreme did with free donuts, AB deserves credit for its strategy of threading CSR (corporate social responsibility) with an integrated campaign including its loyalty program. Given the indirect distribution model AB has, it’s a great example for other brands who sell indirect of how to leverage a loyalty platform to capture end customers, and both serve the broader community and its consumers.

This is also part of a much larger CSR strategy that supports the notion of Stakeholder Capitalism while also obviously being a promotional way to engage consumers and sell more product. With companies like AB committed to these issues and others, it reinforces that making money and doing good are not mutually exclusive. That resonates with younger consumers and affluents, and it’s obvious that we’ll see more of this as more companies follow the lead of the ABs of the world.

Nick Chambers, CEO Mobile Loyalty Technologies LTD:

As a loyalty marketer, constantly striving to create frictionless consumer experiences, aligning ‘in-moment’ rewards to the payment process, sales promotions represent an outlier within our industry. Placing any additional barriers in-front of consumers as part of the value exchange appears to me as counterintuitive.

However, when viewed through the lens of Brand marketing, a well-conceived and executed sales promotion is a great way to achieve not only ‘cut through’ in consumer awareness but must importantly ‘viral uptake’. Just make sure you have a good actuary involved in the redemption risk assessment!’  

From a UK perspective, it is amazing how many people remember, or have heard about, the Hoover sales promotion... even now people still refer to it when they see a sales promotion that looks ‘too good to be true

Jenn McMillen, Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio:

I love the altruism angle (and I want everyone to be vaccinated), but let's be honest. This is the biggest acquisition opportunity that has presented itself in the last decade for Anheuser-Busch. How much do you think Budweiser spends per-person in annual advertising? Let me tell you, the $5 digital gift card is the cheapest cost-per-acquisition strategy going in this category. 

This may be the largest one-time data-gathering opportunity that Anheuser-Busch has, so, of course, there will be hurdles to get the prize. This is the classic quid pro quo. You tell me something about yourself (in this case, you want a free beer), and in return, I will give you something of value (so how about that free Bud?). With cookies being phased out by Google, more brands are going to have to get creative to capture customer information so that they can communicate with them directly.

John Bartold, Co-Founder PIVOTL cx:

Skepticism is high, eroding our trust in many institutions. In January, the Edelman Trust Barometer Survey found people trusted businesses more than the government or media. With business leading in the trust department, it makes sense for a business to take a position on a public issue that poses such a financial threat to the business’s success.

We can certainly banter about the marketing wisdom, breakage benefit, brand awareness, or building a customer marketing file for companies such as AB, CVS, or Shake Shack due to their vaccination incentive. (See here and here for examples of other companies and incentives.) I believe companies are less concerned about the marketing cost. The real concern is financial havoc of another significant Covid wave. Vaccination offers a way to reduce the risk.

Businesses are being more vocal in societal, cultural, and environmental causes. These efforts define the brand in support of a social movement and specific consumer segment. This is an area to watch because it indicates a shift from the more transactional, purely data driven conversion efforts. Over the last couple of decades, the focus has been to harvest data to manage a purchase path to conversion rather than to develop a relationship with a consumer segment. Brand purpose and personality are about relationships. Of course, not all consumers are aligned taking the same position or stance on every issue. The choices brands make and the stands they take will certainly define the brand and potentially their financial future.

David Slavick, Co-Founder and Partner, Ascendant Loyalty:

What is more American than celebrating with your friends and family over a beer or other refreshment even choosing from over 100 options from Anheuser-Busch? Likewise, what is more obvious about using a moment in our history to help gain first party data than giving away a $5.00 virtual gift card simply in return for proving you’ve had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and taking a selfie? 

I doubt $5.00 is going to motivate someone who is on the fence about getting the vaccine to then decide to do so before America reaches the 70% threshold. Anheuser Busch toasting this milestone provides a feel good moment which we all seek to experience — celebrating good times and putting the dark days of the past behind us. 

Note that there is a 7 day window post 70% achievement, or once all prizes are awarded. Can safely assume that with over 174M aged 18+ having at least one dose the campaign may be more about generating awareness through borrowed interest, an advertising method as old as time. In this case, aligning with the White House campaign to reach herd immunity and contribute to a healthy American way of life including having a beverage at your favorite bar, pub or restaurant is a noteworthy investment of resources on a grand scale.

Read also: Vax-a-Million Demonstrates Moving the Middle