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Wisdom and Wit From Marketing Legend Terry O’Reilly

How can you sell a beer—without mentioning its name?

That was the challenge podcaster and marketer Terry O’Reilly put to his team of marketing writers when asked to create a campaign for a new beer in Portland, Maine.

When O’Reilly asked his client why in God’s name we needed another beer, the brewer’s response made sense to him.

Apparently, everything in Portland, Maine is geared toward tourists. But Sparhawk Golden Ale was meant to be a beer for the people of Maine. Not tourists. It was a beer that Mainers could call their own.

So O’Reilly sat down with his team to brainstorm. How do you advertise a beer on the radio without tourists hearing it?

marketing beer

The solution was genius. They would run a radio ad in the two weeks before tourist season. They would introduce Sparhawk Golden Ale, note that it was brewed in smaller batches for better taste and state that it was brewed for the people of Maine, not tourists.

Then came the kicker: They promised that in future ads, the name “Sparhawk Golden Ale” would never be mentioned. Instead, they would use a code, so tourists wouldn’t understand. The code would be a specific three-note whistle, and it would indicate that a new batch of Sparhawk was ready for consumption. (You can listen to the ad here.)

Once tourist season started, O’Reilly’s team started running fake radio ads for car dealerships, funeral homes and lawyers—typical local radio advertising.

But at the end of each commercial, the three-note whistle would sound.

Amazingly, O’Reilly got the client to agree to the campaign. And after an initial, gut-wrenching lull of a couple weeks, the campaign exploded. It garnered a huge amount of free media coverage and goodwill. And it sold a ton of beer.

This was just one of the stories that podcaster and marketer Terry O’Reilly shared from the stage of a recent Vancouver Writers Fest event. This story (and many others) can also can be found in his new book, Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence.


But O’Reilly’s book is much more than an entertaining read. It’s also a great resource for small businesses looking to stretch their marketing budgets.

If you like your marketing insights to come with a good dose of humour and storytelling, you should definitely check it out.

Posted: April 11, 2017 in: Copperplate News

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