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eCommerce Case Studies

Do 'Likes' Equal Sales?: A Newcastle Brown Ale Case Study

Do 'Likes' Equal Sales?: A Newcastle Brown Ale Case Study

by John Larkin

John runs the blog here at eCommerceLift and is a verified Shopify Expert. Interested in an initial growth consultation? Click here

8 years ago

Do 'Likes' Equal Sales?: A Newcastle Brown Ale Case Study

Likes, follows and retweets are all well and good but they just don’t put bread on the table at the end of the day. The key question for any eCommerce store has to “how do I convert ‘likes’ into sales?”

Even the phrasing of the question is important. To many people – an eCommerce strategy means simply chasing as many ‘likes’ as possible. That is not an end in itself. ‘Likes’ (and ‘follows’ or ‘retweets’) are a great way to introduce yourself to a potential customer. But that’s all they are – an introduction. It’s up to you to then convert them into sales – from looks to bucks as it were.

It is what companies do with fans that create value, not merely that a brand has fans that create value for the company

There are conflicting reports out there on how valuable a ‘like’ is to your business. A recent report by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, an Australia-based marketing think tank backed by Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola amongst others showed that less than a half of one percent of the people who ‘like’ a page on Facebook subsequently interact with the page.

Indeed that half a percent is a fairly optimistic target for most retailers – the figures skew higher for ‘passion brands’ like Harley-Davidson, Porsche and Tiffany. Overall, the study found that found that the highest engagement was in alcohol, cars, cosmetics and electronics.

The lowest was in confectionery, fast-moving consumer goods (such as detergent and shampoo), retailers, and software, social platforms and apps. This makes sense really – a person is more likely to be more excited about their new Harley than about something to help them do their laundry.

In general terms, what you want to do is drive people from your social media profiles to your store’s homepage. Social media interaction is great – it’s the best way to engage your customers, get your name out there and even grow your brand awareness. But people just aren’t using Facebook to buy directly yet (although there are some stories out there that suggest that this is changing.

Once a customer ‘likes’ your page – you have a limited time to get their attention. For a while, your posts show up more regularly on their news feed as the algorithm says that they are interested in your posts. This is your chance to impress.

As your mother used to tell you – you don’t get a second chance to make a second impression. This is where you have to make sure that you have a ready “call to action” – be it a competition, giveaway or discount – to move from someone who likes your eCommerce store to someone who buys from it.

Maybe the best and most innovative social media campaign we have noticed recently is that of Newcastle Brown Ale. It has turned around the company’s once staid image, but has it actually changed the fortunes of the beer in actual, bottom-line sales?

Until relatively recently, Newcastle Brown Ale was seen by most people as a fairly unglamorous product from the north of England (and was described on Wikipedia as being perceived as “a working man's beer, with a long association with heavy industry”). But that has all changed recently and the product that is now looked at (in the US at least) as a cool, even hipster-endorsed beer. (The hipster endorsement came when the beer was drank by Leonard in the uber-popular Big Bang Theory.)

Newcastle Brown Ale first came to our attention with a viral video that had the tagline “Great times guaranteed. Unless you are having a crap time. Then we can’t guarantee much at all.”
Another video showed old footage from the 1930s of Newcastle’s miners having a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale after another gruelling day down the pits. The tagline on that video was “nothing sells beer better than old footage of people who had it way worse than you do.”

These adverts showed a company that was comfortable with their brand. They exploded with their fantastic “not-quite-a-SuperBowl-ad” video that garnered over 10 million views earlier this year. The basic premise behind the ad was that if Newcastle Brown Ale had the money – they would have made a pyrotechnic-filled extravaganza that would have rocked everybody’s world.

Instead, because a 30-second ad for the SuperBowl would cost $4 million, they couldn’t do it. So they released a video of the movie star Anna Kendrick, ranting about the company’s last-minute cancellation of an advert she was booked to star in. “I was really excited to make a Super Bowl commercial with Newcastle but it turns out they don’t even have the money or the permission to make a Super Bowl commercial. They can’t even say the word Super Bowl," says Kendrick in the video.

“I was surprised that I even got offered the part. Because I don’t think of myself as beer commercial babe, you know? I mean, I’m hot, but like, approachable hot, like the hottest girl in your improv class hot. Like hot to the kind of guys that feel bad for calling a girl hot. Like beer commercial hot, am I beer commercial hot?"

“We were like days away from the shooting and they called me to say they didn't have any money. It’s disappointing, you know, I was really looking forward to the paycheck."

But that video with Kendrick was only a precursor to the advert that dropped only a few days ago. This new campaign implores people to follow the beer on Twitter. “Why should you endure the unsolicited marketing of other beer brands for free when you can endure Newcastle's unsolicited marketing and get paid?" the video asks. 

The video fantastically skewers the tentpoles of a modern “social media campaign”. The voiceover artist says; “Sure, we could come up with a fan contest, create exclusive content or create a unique hashtag (which is accompanied on screen with the hashtag #hastagnobodywilleveruse) but that takes a lot of work. And it’s summer. And we’d rather get out of here.”
In an interview with Rae Ann Fera at Fast Company, the creator of the ad, Tom Naughton, (who works with ad agency Droga5) says that when he was researching beer advertisements the most common complaint he heard was that standard beer ads were ridiculous. “Guys would say, we know why cans that turn blue exist. They exist to sell beer. So why don’t you just cut to the chase? So we said, let’s pull back the veil on stupid, deceitful, and deceptive tactics, and let people know exactly what we want. We want to entertain you, but we also want your money.”

“It also gave us a nice space to separate ourselves from the category, which is completely full of [rubbish], like ads that promise you a good time.  As if a beer can promise you a good time. We thought we’d be the brand to call it out and make fun of it."

The results are so far unclear – the company’s Facebook has seen growth of over 684 percent in the last 12 months – but sales volumes are yet only up five percent. They are getting the looks – but where are the bucks?

Here at PropelAd, that’s what we do. We target Facebook ads to discover the people on Facebook who are most similar to your current customers and likely to make a purchase. Use our on-demand retargeting to reach out to people who have recently admired your products and drive them back into your store to make the purchase.


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