Most consumers might not associate Stella Artois with a wild garden, or with acrobats. But Le Savoir, an “unexpected dining experience” organized by the brand last week in New York City, set out to challenge those preconceptions.
Attendees paid $135 to wander around SoHo’s Skylight Clarkson Square sipping Stella Artois and sampling “edible curiosities” inspired by the flavor of the beer, like cherry tomatoes infused with a jolt of chili and radishes planted in a coarse, sweet “soil” made from malted barley.
There was also a sit-down dinner, but it wasn’t really the highlight. (“This tastes sort of like it came out of a Chinese takeout box,” one guest observed, picking at her spice-rubbed pork loin). Rather, the brand sought to create a visual experience that attendees would feel compelled to share on social media, enlisting caterer Bompas & Parr and Cirque du Soleil’s 45 DEGREES events company to deliver a barrage of elaborate stunts.
“It’s immersive theater, like Sleep No More or Queen of the Night,” said a sleekly dressed hotel marketing executive who gave her name as Angela. After spotting an ad for Le Savoir during the Rio Olympics, she and her friend Hanna bought tickets on Gilt City. The fact that the dinner was part of a marketing campaign did not deter them. If anything, it was a motivator: “We go to a lot of these events. It’s kind of like our hobby.”
Also held in Montreal and Buenos Aires, the summer-long event testifies to Stella’s savvy use of experiential marketing and social media, one of the main factors that helped the brand earn its ranking of Genius in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beer. While Stella lacks the massive Facebook and YouTube reach of fellow AB InBev brands Budweiser and Bud Light, which join it in the Genius category, the brand remains competitive on Instagram, where it shares meticulously composed images intended to cultivate an aspirational aura.
The event was designed along the same lines, with a press release that repeatedly mentioned words like “sophisticated” and “elevated.” To promote the dinner, Vice President Harry Lewis told me, Stella partnered with “premium” food publications including Eater and Food & Wine and local “foodie influencers” on Instagram, where there are nearly 1,300 posts tagged with the #lesavoir hashtag.
While the event might seem over the top, the effect could be powerful, both for attendees and those who glimpse it on social media.
“When you go out and have a Stella, this will be in the back of your mind,” Angela said.