Sep 22 2023
Eric Nelson

What Oktoberfest Can Teach Advertisers About Crafting a Standout Digital Campaign


Willkommen, beer lovers! It’s time for Oktoberfest, Munich’s extravaganza of carnival rides, parades, German foods… oh, and did we mention beer?

At the official Oktoberfest, only six Munich-based breweries are allowed to serve beers that, by 500-plus-year-old purity laws, must be composed of just six ingredients: water, barley, hops, yeast, wheat malt, and/or cane sugar. For brewers, the process of crafting a beer that both adheres to these standards and stands out from the competition requires careful planning and attention to detail—sound familiar, digital marketers?  

Tradition looms large at Oktoberfest, but at the same time, change is a constant (again: Sound familiar, digital marketers?). While millions of people flock to Munich for that traditional six-ingredient Oktoberfest beer, brewers around the world honor the event by crafting brews that experiment with unique but inspired ingredients. Coriander, sage, grapefruit…pickle? Hey, where there’s a taste bud, there’s a beer.

Digital marketers can learn a lot from these Oktoberfest-inspired brewers: Just like crafting an award-winning beer, crafting a standout digital marketing campaign takes quality “ingredients,” tons of creativity, and a test-and-learn approach. So, let’s lift the lid on how marketers can stand out from the pack with a gold-medal digital advertising campaign.

Brewing With Great Ingredients

Knowing that all beer essentially starts with water, malt, hops, and yeast, what makes some beers rise above the rest? A well-defined recipe using premium ingredients like roasted malts that affect color and sweetness profiles, aromatic hops that range from piney to citrusy, imported yeasts, and even high quality water can turn a standard beer into a standout for the discerning drinker, which leads, in turn, to big benefits for brewers.

Similarly, marketers with a well-defined audience can crack open premium inventory through private marketplaces (PMPs) and buying tactics like programmatic guaranteed to advertise where their ideal customers reside online. PMPs offer many benefits, including limited competition, high-quality audiences, and premium, privacy-friendly inventory. Programmatic guaranteed raises those stakes with an added layer of predictability—the chance to lock in the cost and number of impressions upfront—and, thus, streamlined efficiency. These sorts of exclusive, customizable inventory opportunities can increase the relevance of, and customers’ response to, an ad campaign.

Tapping into Trends

Premium ingredients result in premium beers, but brewers often raise the bar by tapping into trends to create new flavors, gain more attention and, better yet, increase share of wallet. For example, beer brands follow seasonal flavor trends, from shandies in the summer to pumpkin spice in the fall. They also monitor consumer health and lifestyle issues, with some brewers developing low-calorie and non-alcoholic beer options to appeal to wider audiences; and broader cultural issues like environmental responsibility, resulting in operational initiatives for breweries to lower their carbon footprints.

Advertisers can also leverage trends to better connect with their audiences. For example, how about this spec ad for Heineken that leveraged this summer’s “Barbie” fever? It went viral because it capitalized so well on the cultural moment the movie created. While some trends bubble up from popular culture, others are specific to certain industries, or stem from consumer behaviors, such as digital audio listenership growing, or time spent watching connected TVs increasing. Changing consumer values also count as trends—even the digital advertising industry is acting on the public’s environmental concerns, for instance.

So to really quench your target audiences’ thirsts, think outside the cooler: hop on cultural trends, consider alternate or emerging media options, and invest in understanding your consumer well enough to surprise and delight them.

Fermenting and Testing Over Time

What would a frosty stein of beer at Oktoberfest be without the alcohol and carbonation? Well, you can’t have either without an important step in the brewing process called fermentation, when the glucose in the wort turns into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. Fermentation takes place after preparation and brewing, but before bottling or canning, and is the step that takes the longest but is necessary for a brewer to get optimal yield.

Just like the time it takes for a brew to ferment, the first stretch of a digital ad campaign can yield results that lead to subsequent real-time optimizations, such as altering media choices, targeting, and creative. In fact, the earlier a campaign begins—even just a month earlier—the more learnings there are to be gleaned, the further costs can be driven down, and the more efficiently a campaign can run.

Think about a time you went to a new brewery, saw the array of drink options on the menu, and ordered a flight to try a few brews before settling on a pint of your new favorite flavor. You turned lots of information into a data set from which you made an informed (and tasty) decision. ­­­­­Similarly, utilizing automated reporting tools that merge disparate data sources into one unified area can drive better optimization decisions and create more efficiency for your team.

Last Call: Tapping into Your Digital Marketing Expertise

As the festivities of Oktoberfest bring people together in celebration of a centuries-old tradition, and beer often, well, just brings people together, a full-bodied digital marketing campaign can also unite your target audience with your brand. With premium “ingredients,” abundant creativity, and experimentation with intent to improve, advertisers can brew a successful digital advertising campaign that stands out from the pack. Prost!

The movement towards privacy in digital advertising is as complex as a Belgian sour (if not more so!). For guidance on managing that complexity, check out our guide to privacy-friendly advertising: It’s your one-stop shop for everything advertisers need to know about the cookieless future.

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