Hahn: Message and a bottle

Hahn’s message and a bottle

In Examples by Peter Gearin

Beer brand Hahn is behind a video series showcasing the thoughts and fears of successful Australian entrepreneurs.

A really good story to tell over a cold beer is Chuck Hahn’s. The man whose name is synonymous with the popular Australian beer brand was a Coors brewer in the US before heading to the antipodes in the 1980s. He ended up working in New Zealand but thought there might be a chance to shake up the beer scene in lager-loving Australia. So one day he and three mates sat in a pub and wrote the recipe for what turned out to be Hahn Premium on the back of a coaster.

It was a good thing one of them remembered to pick it up from the sticky bar table before they left. Hahn soon built a mighty microbrewery in Sydney on the back of that lager and released a successful light-alcohol version, Hahn Premium Light. Although Hahn’s light is still around, his microbrewery only lasted five years – food-and-beverage giant Lion took it over in 1993.

Chuck, who is more formally known as Dr Charles Hahn, is now Australia’s best-known beermaster. He is in charge of Lion’s Malt Shovel Brewery, which produces craft-style beers, including James Squire.

Anyway, Hahn’s personal story remains a big part of how Lion markets the beer that still carries his name. At the heart of the brand is a spirit of entrepreneurship, which is why Hahn’s marketing team was interested when digital agency Sydney Stockholm came knocking with an idea in early 2017.

“Beer with an Entrepreneur” is the brainchild of Sydney Stockholm’s co-founder Daniel Kjellsson. The idea is to interview a range of Australian entrepreneurs – in tech, fashion and food – and ask them about their motivations, fears and successes. The half-hour interviews, conducted by Kjellsson in a plain, modern office setting, were cut to 7-9 minutes each and appear on a series of platforms, including a made-to-measure website (awkwardly called “beeur”) and social media pages. They are all Hahn branded, and include interviewer and interviewees enjoying a Hahn Super Dry as the conversation flows.

All of the interviews include little gems for aspiring entrepreneurs, or anyone interested in how successful people define their achievements. There is a great sense of honesty that comes through in all of the short videos. For instance, we learn that almost going broke was the best thing that happened to restaurateur Luke Mangan and that being “stubborn and naive” were factors in Jane Lu’s ambition to build fashion retail site Showpo.

Hahn marketing manager Richard Spicer says that many people see entrepreneurs, such as those interviewed for the video series and Chuck Hahn himself, as today’s “rock stars”. “The Elon Musks, the Richard Bransons – these are the people who aspire to be more than average,” Spicer says. “Even if you’re a small-scale entrepreneur, it’s about being able to say, ‘Well, I tried and failed’ or ‘At least I didn’t sit on autopilot my whole life’.

“You need to have the bullshit radar on full beam and be self aware about where the lines are.”Hahn's Richard Spicer

“Actually, from a brand point of view, it’s interesting that what consumers love is as much about the failures as it is about the success. We wanted to make sure that Daniel drew out the stories about failures and what kept people going during the times when it was hard, because that’s the essence of a good story in entrepreneurism. If someone just had a good idea and cracked it and became a billionaire, it’s not all that interesting. In fact, it makes people feel jealous, sometimes.

“It’s really the, ‘What did you do when the chips were down and you thought it was all over and you were on your last $10?’ That’s when it really gets interesting.”

Spicer says “Beer with an Entrepreneur” sits comfortably alongside Hahn’s current “Never Settle” campaign. “It’s about inspiring people to get out of their comfort zone,” he says. “We’re hoping to demonstrate our commitment to this space by giving people the opportunity to follow their passions, either by giving them experiences or giving them prizes or putting them in touch with other people who are doing this kind of thing.”

He says the Hahn brand looks to connect with “open-minded progressive drinkers” – people who are more likely to be interested in this kind of content. But in the end, of course, the goal is to sell more beer. Spicer admits it’s difficult to create branded content that is relevant for every potential customer. “The entrepreneurial thing itself is very interesting and motivating to a small portion of people,” he says. “It’s some way interesting to a lot of people and then there’s the kind of regular beer drinkers who just don’t really care at all and they just want beer stuff.

“As a marketing strategist, you want to feed consumers all day with things your brand cares about, but ultimately consumers have a lot of interests and they don’t want to just engage with you all day.”

Beer companies running “conversation-style” content projects have had mixed results over the past year. Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” was as series of short video “experiments” that throw together two strangers with sharply conflicting views and ask them to interact – first in an activity, then over a beer. The campaign has been generally well received, unlike Coopers’ “Keeping It Light” video, which featured two right-wing politicians “debating” the controversial topic of marriage equality in Australia. The South Australian brewer, which had teamed up with the Bible Society to create the video, was forced to make a humiliating apology following a public backlash.

Spicer says he was personally moved by Heineken’s campaign: “It’s a different way of expressing that idea of ‘open your world’ … I think it’s brave and inspiring.”

He thinks the basic concept of two people talking over a beer resonates, especially in Australia where it’s such an iconic social lubricant. “It’s a good opportunity for the product to have a role in the experience. It’s just part of Aussie life, getting together and catching up over a beer.”

So how does Spicer measure the success of an initiative such as “Beer with an Entrepreneur”? For Hahn, it’s about brand engagement and increasing sales. “It’s about the number of people who are spontaneously aware of our brand – the number who say Hahn Super Dry is a brand for people like them or a brand that’s big in their lives. Those kinds of statements are indications of brand health and, traditionally and consistently, are measures of projected volume performance. If you get a spike in spontaneous awareness in the next two, three or four months, you should see an increase in volume [sales].”

In the end, Spicer says, the success of executions such as “Beer with an Entrepreneur” can often come down to whether the message is delivered in way that’s acceptable for the target audience. “You need to have the bullshit radar on full beam and be very self aware about where the lines are – where people are going to call you for stepping over the line,” he says.

“It’s something that’s part of today. All consumers are like that – the younger you go, in particular. They’re more savvy and cynical about brands trying to create relevance in issues or areas that may not be suitable for them. It’s not just beer. It’s a conversation we regularly have: ‘do we have a right to play in this space’?”

Just like Chuck Hahn, they decided to give it a go.

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