by Aaron Lazenby
In Japan, the word Sapporo is synonymous with beer history.
Toward the close of the 1800s—not long after the end of many centuries of isolation—Japan fell in love with beer. In 1876, demand for this novel beverage led to the creation of Japan’s brewing industry and the opening of the country’s first industrial brewery in the northern capital of Sapporo. The Hokkaido Kaitakushi Beer Brewery established the oldest beer brand in the island nation, today named after the city where it was founded and known for its gold-star label.
But Sapporo Breweries’ firsts didn’t stop with the suds themselves. In May 2011, Sapporo was the first Japanese beer brand to establish a presence on Facebook. This foray into social media marked a transformation of marketing strategy at the company, changing the organization and refocusing tactics around direct, personal interaction with customers. Today, social and content marketing efforts are delivering results: driving new revenue for the company, giving product development new insights into the market, and building relationships with beer fans in a whole new way.Built for Digital
While Sapporo Breweries was smart for being the first Japanese company in its sector to move to Facebook, the organization—at that point—was not designed for this new era of marketing. According to Mitsutaka Kudo, general manager of the company’s digital marketing section, Sapporo Breweries’ corporate culture encourages innovation. So several divisions of the company started experimenting with Facebook. These uncoordinated efforts revealed the efficacy of social tactics, but also introduced inefficiency and duplication of effort as multiple social marketing initiatives appeared across the organization.
“We didn’t have standard rules regarding social media,” says Kudo. “So we gathered all the staff working on social media efforts and transformed them into our new digital media department.”
The digital media department, which Kudo now leads, was built by bringing together all of the staff who started social media efforts in their previous departments—advertising, sales support, ecommerce, and others—and building a social center of excellence within the company. This meant standardizing processes, establishing best practices, and assembling an IT platform that would help the new team get the job done.
“Initially, we didn’t have any tools for social marketing,” says Kudo. “If we wanted to post on Facebook, we would have to log in and post directly. But that kind of manual execution can’t scale for the enterprise. Now, we use Oracle Social Cloud and have allocated budget to social marketing efforts. This investment reflects changes in the perception of social marketing among our management.”
With the team and strategy in place, the digital media department could begin work on the social properties they now controlled. The initial focus was on three Facebook pages that accounted for more than a half a million total followers: the main Sapporo Breweries brand page; a lifestyle channel called Hokkaido Likers that promotes events and attractions in the company’s home state; and Hyakunin Beer Lab, a community of beer connoisseurs who share ideas about beer and comment on new beers that come to market.
The team had a specific goal for the Facebook pages—to move marketing efforts to properties their customers are already using. Historically, Sapporo Breweries’ interaction with end cus-tomers was focused on registered users at sapporobeer.jp (a large majority of the company’s sales is via distributor channels). Because these registered users are highly motivated to buy and are 88 percent more likely to take action than nonregistered users, this segment is quite valuable. And becoming a registered user means that the customer data is captured by Sapporo Breweries’ marketing automation system, which is built on Oracle Marketing Cloud.
But site visits and registrations were on the decline, so Kudo’s team decided to shift their efforts toward the external properties where customers (and potential customers) were congregating.
The power of social marketing is now understood inside of Sapporo Breweries.Management realizes that we can use these channels and tools to expand the business.”–Yuichi Mori, Assistant General Manager, Digital Marketing, Sapporo Breweries
“Historically, we deployed member registration campaigns—giving gifts to entice people to sign up,” says Yuichi Mori, assistant general manager, digital marketing section at Sapporo Breweries. “But just this year, we started taking a content marketing approach. We are creating and uploading much more interesting and amusing content to our social properties, via Oracle Social Cloud, so potential customers will follow our content to registration pages on our official site.”Content Nurture
This content took different forms, depending on the channel. For Hyakunin Beer Lab, for example, the content was focused on soliciting feedback from the Facebook community about Sapporo Breweries products. That meant setting up a weekly live virtual meeting where educated beer drinkers could offer their thoughts on new brews. The company even organized offline meetups for the most active members of the online community, collecting input on the development of new beers. In fact, in 2014 the company launched a new beer named Hyakunin no Kiseki Shifuku no Buraun Eeru (“Hundred Miracle Bliss Brown Ale”) that was designed by lab participants.
For Sapporo Breweries’ corporate Facebook page, adapting to the demands of that community meant developing a clever video campaign at a pace unprecedented for the organization.
“We wanted to show all the major Sapporo Breweries brands, but we had to do it in a way that works for social media,” says Mori. “So we created a story about a workplace where each of our brands represented a different worker with a different personality—with our main brand as the CEO, of course.” The campaign moved from concept to market in an astounding 27 hours. And the effort paid off: 33 percent of consumers who saw the campaign took some kind of action—either sharing the video, visiting the company’s website, or buying beer via ecommerce.
On Twitter, Kudo’s team was interested in responding to criticism of the company’s products—but was not sure if that kind of intervention would be appreciated. “We found the opposite to be true,” says Kudo. “We used active support to respond, and our followers liked that interaction. This presents an opportunity to influence the views of customers who are critical of our products and change the nature of the relationship.” This initiative is paying off; using analytics available in Oracle Marketing Cloud, Kudo’s team discovered that the company’s Twitter followers are significantly more likely than their counterparts on Facebook to make a Sapporo Breweries beer purchase via ecommerce.
While these “top of the funnel” tactics are relatively new for the company, the goal remains the same—increase customer loyalty and drive new revenue. And because the front end of the process—managed using Oracle Social Cloud— is connected to the back-end outbound marketing and segmentation efforts connected to Oracle Marketing Cloud, the digital marketing team increasingly delivers the right message designed to motivate the right action. “Social and content marketing efforts give us new insight into what our customers want,” says Kudo. “And once we understand what a user is looking for, we deliver that message and invite them to become a customer.”
The company’s digital marketing team hopes to use these content and social marketing efforts to continue to make history in Japan—creating innovative, customer-facing campaigns and open-ing up new markets for new products, such as wine, which is seeing significant growth in Japan. “The power of social marketing is now understood inside of Sapporo Breweries,” says Mori. “Management realizes that we can use these channels and tools to expand the business.”
Photography by Shutterstock