Alcohol advertising in the UK is subject to some of the most stringent rules in the world.

They place a particular emphasis on protecting young people. Alcohol ads must not be directed at people under 18 or contain anything that is likely to appeal to them by reflecting youth culture or by linking alcohol with irresponsible behaviour, social success or sexual attractiveness.

These mandatory rules, as independently regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) apply across all media, whether offline or online.

Which brings us to social media. How does an alcoholic beverage brand successfully run a social media channel, full of appealing content and personal engagement while sticking to the right side of the regulations?

Lets take a look at some of the most popular brands in the UK.

Heineken

Heineken has a wide-ranging, multichannel content marketing strategy that takes in various partnerships with film, music and sporting events. This gives Heineken a great deal to chat about on Twitter. 

At the moment it's particularly focused on promoting its ‘Wherenext’ Twitter app, which allows followers to tweet the account and then receive information on events that are happening around them using geolocation.

Heineken also offers regular commentary on European football games. Not to make gross generalisations or anything, but if you’re following Heineken, you might also be into football.

It shares other followers and brands’ content that has a particular relevancy to its own image.

And Heineken even takes a visual approach to fighting its PR battles.

All in all Heineken has plenty to talk about as it creates its own content, sponsors a variety of events all year round and regularly engages with its followers.

It’s also not shy of a newsjack or two.

Carling

Carling’s strategy currently surrounds its #CarlingOfficeEscape campaign. This contest earned the company its most shared response.

Similar contests using the above hashtag also do well for the company.

Whether promoting the idea that skiving off work to drink a pint of Carling is irresponsible or not is up for debate, but then again this is only going to appeal to adults in current employment, so it’s on the safe side of regulations.

Again, aligning itself with sporting events gives Carling something to talk about and inspires shareable content.

Its other newsjacking content is somewhat less successful. Would you expect a beer brand to make a full 1m30s long advert to say ‘congratulations on the birth of your baby, Kate and Wills’? The poor YouTube view and sharing figures speak for themselves.

Carlsberg

Carlsberg has recently been slyly skewing cultural trends with a series of humourous content-based tweets.

It also has a strong focus on its heritage, by regularly scouring the vaults for interesting pieces of vintage advertising.

Carlsberg of course loves its sport and it also loves making infographics.

This love of sporting statistics also comes into play come match day when Carlsberg’s Twitter feed fills up with stat-based football punditry.

Foster’s 

Foster’s now exclusively tweets from its Foster’s Funny Twitter account. Here you’ll find the two Australians from its TV commercials repurposed into various memes and awkwardly Photoshopped images. 

No expense spared. No news item unjacked.

On the positive side, using two established characters that already fit the tone of your products provides Foster’s with endless content.

On the negative side, if you’re just relying on the same characters then you’re running the risk of putting followers off who are getting sick of them. If you scroll back through the site, you’ll see that this has been going on for six months now.

Previously Foster’s had used content incredibly effectively, commissioning brand new original programming from Steve Coogan and Vic & Bob.

It was all quality stuff and changed my perception of the brand from one that traded on offensive stereotypes for laughs to one that’s given some of my comedy heroes from the nineties a brand new outlet.

This feels like a step backwards.

Guinness 

Guinness has many years worth of marketing wins in the bank, thanks to its groundbreaking and classic television adverts.

Its Twitter feed doesn’t exactly set the world alight in the same innovative way, instead it offers old-world warmth, comfort food and nostalgia. 

There is also some shareable branded content here...

...with simple and direct ‘retweet bait’. Although perhaps that term is unfair, as the following is so specific I doubt it would be shared by anyone who hadn’t visited. 

Guinness is also one of the few brands here that makes a point of regularly making the ‘enjoy responsibly’ message clear and includes a link to drinkaware.co.uk.

Heineken’s media manager Elizabeth Hodson is one of the speakers at Econsultancy's Festival of Marketing in November. Our two day celebration of the modern marketing industry also featuring speakers from Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more. 

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 22 October, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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