Jon Stern

Jon Stern on MillerCoors’ social storytelling strategy for their Leinenkugel’s brand

Two new beer makers join the market in the U.S. every day.

Millennials are the most marketed to generation of any generation, and they can sniff a fake in a second.

According to Jon Stern, MillerCoors' Director of Media and Investor Relations, breaking through the clutter can be competitive. And to find ways to talk about their styles of beers, tradition, heritage, and rituals, they focus on a narrative.

“We've begun using ‘Face, place, and story,' as a way to tell our narrative. We think everybody can understand our brands a lot better when they apply those three things.”

In his case study presentation at our Member Meeting in Chicago, member Jon shares how they're accomplishing that with their Leinenkugel's brand.

Jon Stern

The Leinenkugel family has been involved in brewing their beer for six generations.

Jon says to tell a brand differentiating story like that, they focus on sharing that family's history through photos of the actual family — the “face” part of their strategy. Particularly of the three brothers who run most of the operation.

Leinenkugels tweet

“We want to show that they're a bunch of regular beer drinkers just like you.”

He explains that means posting photos of Jake Leinenkugel and his daughter at a baseball game, the brothers at a family reunion, and shots from Camp Leinie, a Willy-Wonka-style meet-and-greet experience for Leinenkugel fans.

They also ventured into uncharted territory for the brand on Reddit.

Jake Leinenkugel held a two-hour AMA session where he answered questions about topics like why they use twist-offs instead of pry-off caps and how to respond to people who say shandies aren't real beers.

Jake Leinenkugel
Jake Leinenkugel, former president of over 25 years of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.

They earned 500,000 impressions, 353 comments, and 50-percent higher engagement than the brand had projected.

Jon says, “Being 148 years old can be good, or it can be bad. What I mean by that is, how do you stay contemporary to show that you're a relevant, current brand?”

He says that branching out into new areas like Reddit helps keep them contemporary, but they also avoid some of the other emerging channels that just aren't targeted for a 21-and-over crowd.

On Instagram, they used influencers to drive home a sense of “place.”

Jon explains, “When you think of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewery, you should think about Wisconsin.” The brewery uses local ingredients like cranberries for their Cranberry Ginger Shandy and honey from Wisconsin for their Honey Weiss beer.

“That's important to beer fans, because they want to know this is something authentic and something real — particularly millennials. Millennials are the most marketed to generation of any generation, and they can sniff a fake in a second. You want to come up with a face and a place so they know you're not calling BS.”

So Jon's team invited six Instagram photographers to join them at their headquarters in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. They took them on scenic adventures that were great for Instagram content, like a canoe trip, a brewery tour, and a family dinner paired with Leinenkugel's beers.

Leinenkugel Instagram

But instead of picking beer enthusiasts, they sought out people interested in rustic lifestyles, the outdoors, and fitness. “These are people who might be interested in your brand, but from a different side of the coin,” Jon explains.

The campaign earned them 33 photos from their influencers and three times the typical engagement Leinenkugel's receives on Instagram.

Leinenkugel Instagram

“Storytelling is a vehicle everyone can relate to,” says Jon.

“Some brands might fabricate a backstory. But we actually have a real story, so we want to tell that story in a more authentic, transparent way.”

He says that by focusing on the real faces, places, and stories behind the brand, “it can bring your brand to life and separate you from the competition.”

Watch Jon's full presentation from our Member Meeting in Chicago. Jon's been a member of since 2014.