Brand Insight in association withLBB's Brand Insight Features

Brand Insight: Why San Miguel is Hunting Out the Alt Rich

London, UK
The beer brand is reaching out to the public to find the truly life-rich and celebrate the brand’s adventurous roots
“Ordinary riches can be stolen; real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” So wrote Oscar Wilde back in the 19th century – and it’s a philosophy that’s found its way into San Miguel’s 2017 campaign. Last year the beer brand launched its alternative Rich List, a group of inspirational people celebrated for their passion for life-enriching values and experiences – and this year the team have brought the campaign back, reaching out to members of the public and broadening their search for dedicated, passionate people who embody their life-rich ethos.
Last year’s run helped drive the brand on to sell 180 million pints – and the team are hoping to open the campaign up and increase engagement by inviting the public to put themselves forward. 

As the campaign launched, LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Dharmesh Rana, Senior Brand Manager at San Miguel UK, to find out about the insights and strategy behind the campaign.

LBB> Why did you want to bring back the Rich List?

Dharmesh Rana> It was successful on a number of levels last year. When the campaign was at its inception stage we were trying to address some of the specific challenges. 

One was about making sure people understood what the San Miguel brand was all about. As a brand team we dug a little deeper into the history of the brand. It has quite an amazing history but we’ve never really told it before. And we found a way to tell what could be a very boring brand-centric story, that I’m sure most beer brands have got, in a way that was real and contemporary. It is quite a long-term trend that people are placing more value on experiences and that’s what the brand set off to capture.We thought it was quite an important story to tell and quite a timely story to tell. And so, last year, The Rich List was born.  

Our brand equity scores were growing so from a brand health perspective, we’ve seen that working. We had a fantastic commercial year last year, we grew our volume sold and value, so we’re doing the right thing for the category. We smashed a million hectolitres, which was a milestone moment for the brand – if you turn that into pints it’s about 180 million pints.  We’ve reached quite a momentous moment and we looked at some of the things that helped us get there – and the brand campaign was absolutely one of those things. We thought there was lots of mileage in the campaign and lots of things we could do differently to make it bigger and better than the previous year.

LBB> So would you say that the idea that people increasingly value experience was one of the key insights behind the campaign?

DR> One of the challenges in the beer category is that people are opting for beer on fewer occasions, and when they do go for beer even at home, they want quality occasions and they want to savour those moments. And they’re doing those things with people. Even at a broad, cultural view of what sort of things are available, you can’t open up a newspaper or magazine or website without seeing a new experience that someone’s doing that involves a fusion of this culture and that culture. And it can even relate to simple things around food experiences – it’s not just about going out for a meal, it’s about a food experience. The recent Crystal Maze event was all about experience. Or it could be discovering new people and places through travel. And people are placing more value on that than having money in the bank, especially the younger generation who want to live for now. 

LBB> So you mentioned that the idea of life enriching experiences fits with the brand history. Could you tell me about that history?

DR> The brand was founded in 1890. A group of Spaniards got on a boat, left Spain and ended up setting up the first brewery in South East Asia. They landed in Manila and they used that as a good port to search that area of the world for ingredients to make San Miguel, the beer we know today. They started to export the beer around the Asian region and became popular with loads of Americans. In the early 1960s it came back to Europe, to Spain, and started to grow as a brand there. And since then it obviously came into the UK and various other European markets. That’s part of the essence of the brand – it comes from exploring the world. That’s what the brand has always done – it went to different countries to find ingredients and learn different brewing techniques. There’s a broad portfolio of beers that draw from the ingredients that they’ve discovered over the years – and a number of beers from that portfolio in Spain will make their way over here in the next 12-24 months, just to showcase the travels the brand has been on, the journey, to bring more of that authentic San Miguel experience through the beer.

LBB> How does the campaign fit with San Miguel's strategic objectives?

DR> The aims of the Rich List campaign is twofold from a strategic perspective. It’s about driving differentiation – this is very different, you are not going to find a beer brand campaign that talks about this at the moment. And having a whole philosophy that threads from the campaign activation all the way down to the DNA of the brand is really unique. We’re a brand that has that authenticity and lives and breathes that philosophy.  Consumers want premium brands, so that’s one of the ways we’re activating very differently from previous years. If consumers want to go out and have one quality beer, we want them to choose San Miguel because they want a premium experience. So everything we’re doing – the feel, the look, the way we make our adverts, the way we make our packaging – every single touch point should feel premium, whether it’s in the marketing they see or the physical experience of having the brand in hand. 

LBB> Who have you worked with in terms of your agency partners?

DR> From a creative point of view the agency is Pablo. We worked with them last year and they did an amazing job. Delivering a campaign like this with so many touch points does require a big team, so the media is being handled by OMD and there’s the guys at Clifford French who are driving the earned and PR side of things. And this year we’ve got the Evening Standard and Independent as a media partner, looking at all the different things they can do and they’re adding some really amazing layers to the campaign.

LBB> This year you’ve partnered with adventurer and writer Levison Wood, who will be a spokesperson and will lead the judging of the applications. What was it that made him the ideal person to work with on this?

DR> He epitomises what the brand is all about – his attitude, his approach to going out, discovering different worlds, discovering different cultures… and he’s done it in a very sociable way. And he’s always happy to talk about it, to share it. And that’s the nature of beer too – it’s a social thing. When we were looking for people, he was clearly on the top of the list. It was a relatively straight forward sell from the agency team to our brand team.

The campaign's spokesperson Levison Wood enjoying a San Miguel

LBB> This year you've added a consumer-recruitment element, where people can nominate themselves or their friends – what do you think that adds to the campaign?

DR> That’s one of the key differences. Last year was about, to a degree, telling our story. This year it’s about telling our story and inviting people in. So, we’ve got a view of what makes some people life-rich, but what interests one person and gives them a ‘life-rich’ experience is very different to what gives another person a ‘life-rich’ experience. You might not be interested in the outdoors and nature – your passion and interest might be in craft and artistry. 

By opening it up to the general public, we want to make it as big and broad as we can and to appeal to as many people as possible across different disciplines. I’m really excited to see the different sides of people. It’s going to be quite an interesting one because people probably don’t want to shout about what they do. I’d be surprised to see how many people self-nominate versus how many people will nominate someone else that has that dedication and thought process. We’re trying to showcase people who share the same philosophy as the brand and it’s not a competition either. There’s a reason why we don’t rank people. It’s not about having someone at the top of the tree and saying, ‘you’re number one’. 

LBB> Does that mean that the campaign will have a few different phases? What does the timeline for the rest of the year look like?

DR> The campaign went live last week, with hero cinema ads, press and print and the recruitment stage is all about telling people about the rich list and the application. That’ll run till the end of July and when we get the applications through we’ll review them all and compile them. Early Autumn is when we will publish a new Rich List with some of our media partners, and bring to life some of those people. And then we’ll get a second wave, featuring some of those people.

LBB> So can you tell me about the execution side of things?
DR> Essentially the ad very much focuses on the heroes from last year’s Rich List. We discovered a lot of people from around the world. It’s very premium with rich imagery – it’s very epic and very emotive. Again, very different to more traditional beer advertising. It talks about all those people, their stories and their values and contains a call to action. The same creative is taken through the print execution and there will be profile pieces on the individuals, looking at the values they portray. If you share the same values as this individual maybe you are right for the Rich List. 

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