How Leading Beverage Company Brown-Forman Does Social Selling - Insights

How Leading Beverage Company Brown-Forman Does Social Selling


6 minute read

Image Attribution: PauDlDesigns/PauDlDesigns​

NewsCred interviewed Marjorie Dufek, Director of Digital Marketing at Brown-Forman, to discuss the process of developing an effective content marketing strategy. In this blog series, Brown-Forman shares their approach to weaving branded content and social media into the consumer’s buying process.

How has social media made an impact on the storytelling business?

Because of this relentless need to say something every day, it’s very hard for brands to differentiate their voice in the social space.

What mistakes or shortcomings do you think marketers are making in their attempts to engage audiences?

It can be tempting to resort to gimmicks and by that I mean things that aren’t really meaningful or helpful to consumers. It’s easy to be tempted by the latest bright, shiny object. A few years ago, things like QR codes were used to drive people to content. Now similar things like augmented reality applications are used. I’m not yet convinced that consumers are thrilled with the results of these things or that we’re delivering experiences that are helpful to them. I don’t know if they want it. I think the biggest mistakes that companies make is that they try to do things that are new because they’re new and not necessarily because they’re helpful.

The challenge is innovation for innovation’s sake as opposed to business objective sake. The better you understand your consumer’s needs and the consumer journey and are able to rationalize how you can make things faster, easier, cheaper, and more useful for the consumer, that’s what you’ve got to do. You always have to keep the consumer in mind.

Does each brand manager or director create content for their specific brand or does that happen at the overall Brown-Forman level?

Content is created at the brand level and we are very careful, because we want to make sure that our brands are not marketed to people who are not of legal drinking age. We’re careful to make sure that if we want to reuse content that is created by a friend in a social channel, we always have some mechanism for knowing that that person is of legal drinking age before we share that content.

Because Brown-Forman delivers content in so many different channels, how do you ensure that there’s a consistent voice and consumer objective throughout all these channels?

Each of our brands has a global marketing team and they establish all the brand guidelines. Each digital director then boils those guidelines down into a content playbook for their brand. To a large degree, it’s not just digital control but rather making sure that the global marketing director understands what content needs to be created and that it is created at the global level, where it is more controlled. If the global teams aren’t creating the content, sometimes the local teams will do it because they need it, but it may not be as consistent as we would like it to be.

That being said, our company is more controlled by the way that our marketing teams are structured. A progressively local team is held accountable for adhering to brand guidelines, whether they are creating digital or non-digital content. Our digital directors report not only to our VP of Marketing Services but they also report into the brands as well. There’s a matrix within the organization that ensures accountability.

From your perspective, what is the best way to differentiate your voice?

I’m not really at liberty to talk about the way that we do it at Brown-Forman, but I can say that we have a structured approach for doing it that helps us understand what our voice is and what we have the right to talk about and what we don’t. Once we have that defined, it’s pretty easy for us to develop content consistent with our strategy. For example, we know whether we’re going to tweet on September 11 and we know whether that fits with what we’re trying to accomplish or not. We rarely do something ad hoc.

How do you define and measure success?

We start with what the objectives were in the first place. If the content was created with the intention of building relevance, we measure that differently than we would if the content was intended to spark a purchase. It depends on what we’re trying to accomplish. That said, we have a brand dashboard that allows us to say, “okay, here are the things that we’re going to measure in this fiscal year. Here are our targets and here’s what we were seeking to meet.” The brand leader measures at an aggregate level, whereas the digital team looks more specifically at the performance of individuals who view their content.

In that brand dashboard, what specific areas do you measure in a fiscal year?

It depends on the brand. Some brands are more focused on building awareness, while others are focused on building advocacy. In addition to measuring the size of the fan base on Facebook, for example, we’ll also measure the percentage of those fans who are active and we’ll measure things over time so that we can see whether people are responding to the content as well as whether our fan base is growing.

We don’t do a great deal of measuring sentiment. But we do focus on measuring levels of engagement, which could be measuring the percentage of shares on Facebook or the number of tweets on Twitter. For video, it would be the percentage of videos that were viewed all the way through. We try to measure these over time rather than just look at a static number.

What tools do you use currently on your brand dashboard?

We use all sorts of things. The partner that we work with the most to pull together APIs is Blitzmetrics. But we also use Google Analytics, and the APIs from Facebook and Twitter are important to us. We use e-Dialog for our e-mail engine.

How does content marketing help drive sales?

If there’s a sales campaign going on, we’ll definitely provide e-mail support; we usually have webpage support and sometimes a Facebook post to support that as well. For most of our brands, we have a global editorial calendar. Sales campaigns typically fall at a national or regional level and then get layered into our editorial calendar.

Do you feel that you’ll be held more accountable down the road to tying engagement to actual sales or is that less of a priority for most of your brands?

It’s virtually impossible for our industry to do that. Although we would love to be able to do that, and we as a digital team will continue to try to explore ways to do that, it’s very difficult for any of our marketing activities, digital or otherwise, to be structured that way. It’s going to be more important in the future than it is now.

Can you share any examples of an integrated marketing strategy, where you essentially used content to push people through the purchase cycle?

I wouldn’t say so much the purchase cycle, but we usually sponsor a lot of contests. For example, the month of September is Jack Daniel’s birthday, so we do a lot of promotions in September celebrating Jack Daniel’s birthday. We sent an e-mail promoting the idea that people have 30 days to celebrate that birthday and we offer prizes throughout the month.

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