Q&A: Mark Hunter and Chris McDonough on…

  • To read the cover story relating to this ’Only here to put cheer back into beer market’, click here
  • To read responses to marketing experts questions, click here

Relative to some of the challenges around responsible drinking, one of the opportunities for beer is for it to be celebrated as a low-alcohol long drink. And if you look at studies across the market, the way that beer is consumed is different relative to other alcoholic categories.

MW: What’s your view on having a minimum price that beer can be sold at in the off-trade?

MH: If you look at other developed markets, such as Canada, where social reference pricing is in place, an awful lot of the issues that we see in the UK don’t seem to appear in the Canadian market.

Rather than saying we think it’s a bad idea, we think there could be some possibilities, if the challenge around responsible drinking is as large as many of the commentators would have us believe. The Government has asked us to consider a ban on below-cost selling. That is a step towards minimum pricing, so it should be considered.

The debate is much broader than just price, that’s why [alcohol industry body] the Portman Group, [advertisers’ body] ISBA and the [Committee of Advertising Practice] CAP codes are so important. The legislative framework we have around alcohol communications is very tight. An awful lot of what happens in soap operas around alcohol you could never put in advertising, for example.

…Social media measurement

MW: You have run social media campaigns for Carling and Grolsch. How do you measure the impact of those campaigns?

Chris McDonough (CM): We currently measure our marketing investment in pockets, so we may do it by campaign or by bespoke activity. We’ll have econometric modelling against every element of the mix, of which social media is one, by December 2010.

One of those measures is buzz and how much noise it generates, [but we are looking at] whether we can put a bit more science around it. It is probably a 60:40 split between science to art, and we’ve got to respect that. If we can put a programme in place, we will.

You have to connect on multiple touchpoints, but the challenge is consistency so that your brand becomes displayed, referenced and talked about in a similar way. One of the big challenges is how we drive that consistency as we look at our media next year.