How craft beer brand Belgo is taking on ‘big beer’ in Vietnam
A vending machine on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City certainly doesn’t scream premium craft beer; however, for Belgo, the Vietnamese-brewed Belgian brand, it was a surefire way to get people talking.
Mostly because this was no ordinary vending machine. The beer-currency machine required consumers to deposit a mainstream beer into the machine in exchange for a premium Belgo.
The machine was positioned in high-traffic areas of Ho Chi Minh City, including District 1’s Nguyen Hue walking street, which is a popular weekend spot for young adults, District 4 Vinh Khanh, which is famous for its streetside bars and delicious seafood and District 7’s Crescent Plaza, Binh Thanh, an area full of bars close to the tallest building in Southeast Asia.
The aim was to drive awareness of Belgo among Vietnam’s beer-loving consumers by putting the product in their hands. In a market dominated by big brands such as Tiger, Heineken, Bia Saigon and 333 and where beer is as cheap as water, generating awareness is a significant challenge alone.
Vietnam is the leading country in Southeast Asia for beer consumption, with Vietnamese citizens guzzling 3.8 million kiloliters a year – which accounts for 2.2% of the global market. In a sign of just how much the Vietnamese love the liquid gold, beer accounts for 91% of the total recorded alcohol consumption in the country.
For Belgo, awareness is crucial, and so is product sampling. As a premium beer, Belgo carries a premium price which is around eight times the price of other mainstream beer brands.
Nick Stillittano, the creative & production director at Happiness Saigon, the agency behind the campaign, says the strategy was to give people the opportunity to experience the brand and taste the difference between a mainstream beer and a Belgian craft beer.
“With a product like Belgo, accessibility is a challenge - no one wants to take a chance on a beer that’s eight times the price of what they already know they enjoy. But, turning the accessibility of those mass market brands to our advantage, we think there’s something fun, provocative, and maybe a little head turning in there,” says Stillittano.
“The big point of difference is the taste. When you put the two [types of beers] side by side, you quickly realise that a mass-produced beer is quite shallow in comparison. We know that after trying [Belgo], people convert, so that left us with a simple proposition: help people trial Belgo for the first time in a way that's as accessible as their favourite beer.”
As a small-batch brewer, Belgo did not have the budget to match its big competitors, so the brand wanted to create shareable moments to drive awareness. It also needed to stand out among the saturated craft beer market, which features around 90 different beer brands.
“The objective was awareness. Awareness. Awareness. Which we shattered. The social post gained over a million views on the first day alone. Popping up in Vietnam's largest communities, getting more interactions, comments, and shares than anything the brand had produced previously. We exposed our target demographic to the brand name for the first time and showed a bit of rebellious spirit.”
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While the brand has managed to generate some awareness with the ‘beer currency’ campaign, the next challenge for Belgo is to drive education about craft beer and create an understanding of the different styles of beer that can cater to different occasions.
“Most people only know the main mass market brands, like Tiger, Bia Saigon, 333. They don't know the depth that beer can have. And while that's a challenge, it's a fantastic opportunity for product trial, because you are able to show people a completely unique product and flavour profile. The opportunity lies in allowing them to taste the difference.”
“Everything has its time and place, and we'd like for people to be able to make the right decision for the moment,” says Stillittano.