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London calling: inside Camden Town Brewery's UK-wide pandemic push

Camden wants to increase metrics across the nation

Fresh from launching its first nationwide TV ad, Camden Town’s marketing director André Amaral explains how the brewery's plan to satiate the thirst of a fresh group of drinkers beyond the M25, in the midst of the pandemic, is coming along.

Walk into most pubs in London and you will find Camden Town’s flagship lager, Hells, on tap.

Founded a decade ago by Australian Jasper Cuppaidge, the brand has grown from strength-to-strength, with a particular focus on building a fan base in its native capital. After selling more than 127m pints, though, the North London-based brewery is now taking the lessons it learned in lockdown and looking outside of its hometown to capture fresh audiences with a nationwide marketing campaign.

Taking advantage of lower TV rates, the brand aired its first nationwide spot on the small screen last week – a QR-powered ‘drinkable TV ad’ created by Wieden+Kennedy. The campaign (‘Give ‘Em Hells’) offers viewers the chance to win some 45,000 cans of free beer by scanning their TV using a phone. It debuted during the Champion’s League semi-final on BT Sport this week and is running across Channel 4 this weekend.

“We need more people to know about us,” says marketing director André Amaral on the thinking behind the push. “Once people try our beer they become loyalists, so we’ve combined sampling with mass reach to drive that strategy forward.”

He concedes that brand metrics are higher in London, but says it’s making an effort to increase them across the nation.

“London is where we started and we have more distribution here. Our brewery is here, so that’s natural. But we’re expanding. We’re available in supermarkets nationally and we also have sales teams in the north of England, which cover Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. When people try the brand in these places, it performs well.”

Two days after airing ad twice, over 20,000 people had taken part and the 4000 tins of Hells allocated to those two spots had been snapped up already.

Seeing DTC differently

As well as tracking direct-response, Amaral says the business will be using awareness and customer sentiment to measure the success of its inaugural TV investment across the UK.

The campaign also links back to Camden’s online store; a play the marketer hopes will translate into success for an increasingly important part of the brand’s business as it stretches its tentacles beyond London – direct-to-consumer (DTC).

Between being snapped up by AB InBev the end of 2015 through to 2019, Camden Town has seen a 216% uptick in sales. Then when Covid-19 hit, its entire business model was unsettled by the closure of the pubs and restaurants (which accounts for 85% of sales).

Despite this, Camden managed to continue to grow its brand equity metrics of awareness, consideration and trial amid lockdown, thanks to shrewd marketing that drove people back to its online store and encouraged them to enjoy the product at home.

This included rebranding its Camden Hells lager to Camden Heroes to support NHS workers, with the proceeds of every can donated to healthcare charities and NHS staff about to order a free six-pack of the beer. It also held a five-day public auction to raise funds for the shattered hospitality industry which cumulated in a headline-grabbing high-bidder paying £800 to have a freshly-poured glass of draught delivered to his doorstep.

This earned media drove shoppers to Camden’s web shop, which the marketing team then started to see “in a very different way”.

“We only launched e-commerce in December last year and the numbers were OK, but amid lockdown, the volume of sales coming from their grew by 1000%,” explains Amaral.

Camden then pumped more spend into the offering, creating new products and mixed packs to be sold exclusively there. Though pubs, bars and eateries are reopening in the UK, DTC will continue to be a major focus for the business moving forward.

With warnings ringing through from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that European countries should brace themselves for the second wave of coronavirus in winter, Camden Town’s marketing team is certainly not getting comfortable.

“The first time around we managed to react very quickly and run five big marketing initiatives that ended up being really successful and weren’t even an idea when Covid-19 struck in March.

“We can move quickly as a business and be very agile. From a marketing point of view we’re ready for any scenario. We’re trying to keep our finger on the pulse of the customer."

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