Brands embrace virtual Oktoberfest as live celebrations canceled
It's nearly October! Time to trade in your pajama bottoms for lederhosen, dust off your stein and set up your webcam for a virtual visit to Bavaria.
With coronavirus forcing the cancellation of in-person Oktoberfests in Munich and around the world for the first time in recent memory, brands have been forced to get creative in bringing the celebration’s core spirit of beer-drinking jubilance into consumers’ homes.
To replicate Oktoberfest remotely with any success, brands must look to the key elements of the event: the food, the beer, the music, and the spirit of the celebration. Beer and pretzels is perhaps the most iconic pairing of the whole event, so it only makes sense that two well-known brands would partner to cash in on this combo.
This year, those brands are pretzel maker Auntie Anne’s and Boston-based brewer Samuel Adams, who are teaming up to offer a limited-edition “Oktoberfest At Home” kit.
For sale online starting today, the $89 party pack includes everything a group would need to enjoy a full-on German celebration in the comfort of a living room: a DIY pretzel-making kit, a six-pack of Sam Adams’ OctoberFest lager, lederhosen, steins, a downloadable “Prost from Home” playlist, and more. The promotion was conceived and executed in-house by the partners.
The Auntie Anne’s-Sam Adams partnership is not a last-minute symptom of a coronavirus marketing scramble. “While the idea of the at-home kit stemmed from the fact many people are staying home and celebrating events virtually or in a social-distanced fashion, we had been planning on partnering with Samuel Adams this year for Oktoberfest,” says Danika Brown, director of growth initiatives for Auntie Anne’s.
While there’s much more to the history and culture of Oktoberfest than putting back stein after stein of beer, that’s the image most commonly associated with the event—and it’s one that has long attracted brewers’ marketing teams.
For Steve Hauser, the president and CEO of the American arm of Paulaner beer, the brand’s connection to the event cannot be understated. “In many ways, we are Oktoberfest. We are tied in. People look to Paulaner when they think of Oktoberfest.”
Founded by monks in 1634, the storied brewery’s products are typically more common in Europe than North America, but come Oktoberfest season, Paulaner is always a hit; in Munich, it is consistently the most popular brand consumed at the festival, accounting for up to 40 percent of all beer sales at the official two-week event.
“Munich is inherent in our brand,” says Hauser, noting that Paulaner was one of the first suppliers for the original Oktoberfest in the early 1800s. This season, the brand is launching a fully integrated campaign focusing on Paulaner’s Oktoberfest ties, anchored by a series of social media broadcasts and giveaways.
Paulaner used A Team for retail and Southard Communications for earned media for its campaign.
He says he hopes the Bavarian brewer’s new campaign, which also includes promotional retail elements, will encapsulate Gemütlichkeit, a German-language word that roughly translates to a feeling of friendliness and camaraderie. “Munich is Oktoberfest, and Oktoberfest is Munich,” he adds.
That ethos can pose a problem for would-be Oktoberfest revelers, since Germany’s largest, most-attended version of the festival has been axed for the first time since World War II. However, adult-focused travel operator EF Go Ahead Tours has an alternative to attending the 210-year-old event.
“Everything we do is around experiential learning,” says Heidi Durflinger, president of EF Go Ahead Tours. With most non-essential international travel on pause, the company wanted to create a way to “bring the world to travelers’ homes,” which culminated in the creation of EF’s “Online Escapes” virtual program, executed in-house.
Between Sep. 19 and Oct. 4, the original dates the Bavarian festival was slated for, the company will be offering five small-group Online Escapes hosted by Alex Peterson, a longtime German tour guide and Munich resident, all designed will simulate an at-home Oktoberfest.
During the one-hour virtual excursion, participants will enjoy a brief Oktoberfest history lesson, learn traditional beer hall songs, and gain insider tips for when they can attend the festival in person one day—all while bringing their favorite German brew to the webcam to Prost! as a group.
And an added bonus of EF’s virtual programs: “It gets people dreaming and understanding what it would be like to be on a trip, and leads them to sign up,” Durflinger says.