While tent-pole events like the Super Bowl remain key moments for promoting beer brands on TV, top companies are also expanding into comparatively cheaper digital advertising. Category leader Bud Light partnered with Snapchat and Tinder to promote its #UpForWhatever campaign, while Budweiser’s videos dominated other beer brands on YouTube. The parent company of both those brands, Anheuser-Busch InBev, claimed half of the top 10 brands in L2’s 2015 Digital IQ Index: Beer – a sign of its vast budget and sustained investment.

Top 10 beer brands1. Bud Light (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Digital IQ: 156

Bud Light’s success demonstrates that old-school TV advertising isn’t going away any time soon. From March 2014-15, Bud Light spent more on TV commercials than any other Index brand, garnering an average of 0.33 online actions per dollar spent. But the brand also demonstrated digital savvy, partnering with newer social media platforms like Snapchat and Tinder.

Bud Light's #UpForWhatever campaign utilized newer social media platforms like Tinder.

To recruit participants for its “Whatever, USA” event, Bud Light created the first video designed specifically for Tinder. The campaign also posted “Whatever, USA” videos on Facebook, which drew 3.5 million views within the first three days. On Instagram, the #UpForWhatever hashtag was used nearly 50,000 times, peaking the weekend of the Whatever, USA event in California. Using Snapchat’s Story function, Bud Light broadcast user-generated videos from the event for those who weren’t in attendance. That footage will also be featured in upcoming TV commercials.

The brand also expanded into e-commerce by partnering with alcohol delivery app Klink to create Bud Light Button, a dedicated mobile app for ordering beer.

2. Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Digital IQ: 150

Budweiser dominated both YouTube and Facebook with its #BestBuds Super Bowl videos. On YouTube, “Puppy Love” was by far the top video of all Index brands with more than 58 million views, followed by “Lost Dog” with almost 30 million. The Super Bowl campaign boosted Budweiser’s share of voice on Facebook, where it was one of the top three brands.

Budweiser's popular Super Bowl video

Budweiser also partnered with celebrity chef David Chang to launch the #BudandBurgers campaign, a cross-country search for the best Budweiser and burger pairings. Finalist recipes were hosted on the brand site, thus boosting long-term SEO visibility. More than 700 photos on Instagram were tagged with #BudandBurgers.

The brand also promoted #BudandBurgers with ads on food-related sites like Serious Eats and Open Table, in addition to Facebook. In one Facebook post, Budweiser experimented with a “Shop Now” call to action that linked users to grocery courier Instacart.

3. New Belgium (New Belgium Brewing Co.)

Digital IQ: 145

New Belgium’s website is comprehensive and easy to navigate, with product pages that include everything from nutritional information t0 food pairings. The site and accompanying app are also optimized for mobile, offering access to the brand’s loyalty program and merchandise store as well as a local event calendar that lets users buy tickets online.

New Belgium rounds out its digital investments with a weekly newsletter featuring product announcements, local event schedules and dispatches from the Fort Collins brewery.

New Belgium's easy-to-navigate events page

4. Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company)

Digital IQ: 136

Like New Belgium, Samuel Adams stands out for its comprehensive product pages and monthly email newsletter. The website also has distinctive features like the “Flight Builder”, which helps visitors create their own personalized flight from the dozens of Samuel Adams beers, building on the brand’s reputation for craft beer.

Samuel Adams includes a geolocation component in its product locator feature

Samuel Adams has also created an optimal mobile experience, an area where most beer brands have been inconsistent. While 64% include a retail finder on their desktop site, for instance, only 37% do so for mobile. Samuel Adams even has a product locator with a geolocation component – one of only seven brands to do so.

5. Goose Island (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Digital IQ: 126

This Index newcomer was the only brand linking product pages to reviews on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer. Craft brands like Goose Island perform 29% better on average than macro brands like Dos Equis, so the choice makes strategic sense.

Goose Island's product pages link to outside reviews

Given the size of its brand, Goose Island has also generated impressive engagement on social media, with more than 57,000 Twitter followers and 555,000 Facebook fans.

6. Stella Artois (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Digital IQ: 125

As the first beer brand to advertise on Instagram, Stella Artois was a pioneer in integrating advertisements with content. In December, when the #GiveBeautifully holiday campaign was launched, the brand’s Instagram account gained 242 followers per day.

Stella Artois grew its Instagram community 126% through #GiveBeautifully campaign

The campaign began with a nationally aired TV commercial, followed by online videos of heartwarming gift giving. Supported by advertising, the eight videos averaged 800,000 views and helped Stella Artois knock Bud Light out of the Facebook top three brands in terms of share of voice. In May, Stella Artois launched summer campaign #HostBeautifully to capitalize on #GiveBeautifully’s success.

7. Michelob Ultra (Anheuser-Busch InBev)

Digital IQ: 122

Shifting to a mobile-optimized site and launching an official Instagram handle propelled Michelob Ultra from Challenged to Gifted. A key element of the site update was the #LiveULTRA social feed, which incorporates elements from social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest and encourages users to “join the conversation.”

The brand also employed an aggressive paid search strategy, helping it control competitive “light beer” terms.

Michelob Ultra's paid search strategy

8. Blue Moon (MillerCoors)

Digital IQ: 120

Blue Moon activated its Instagram account in June, complementing its already strong content and engagement strategy on other social platforms.  The brand’s Facebook posts encourage responses from followers and offer value-added content such as recipes. Despite its proportionally small Twitter community, Blue Moon was one of the most active brands on the social platform with 15-20 tweets per week. In contrast, the average Index brand tweeted about four times per week.

Blue Moon posts frequently on Twitter

9. Coors Light (MillerCoors)

Digital IQ: 116

Like Blue Moon and an increasing number of other beer brands, Coors Light created an Instagram presence this year. But the brand focused its investment in display advertising and SEM, paying for search ads that promoted seasonal products while providing links to the brand’s social channels. While Bud Light and Budweiser still dominated the competition in terms of ad impressions, Coors Light was fairly close behind.

Top 10 brands sites buying search ads

9. Heineken (Heineken USA)

Digital IQ: 116

Heineken has taken steps to align with popular culture, like employing actor Neil Patrick Harris as spokesperson and continuing to sponsor music and arts festival Coachella. However, while the brand launched a U.S. Facebook page in March, it has yet to scale.

On YouTube, more than 95 percent of Heineken and Bud Light’s views in the past year were gained through paid advertising. However, Heineken’s content was far less popular, with only 25.4 million views for the period – less than 25% of Bud Light’s 119 million.

Ownership of first-page "beer" category page on FreshDirect

For more, download a copy of L2’s Digital IQ Index: Beer.
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