OPINION: Was the Tui Beer prank a marketing hit or miss?

Jonathan Pease
By Jonathan Pease | 19 September 2013
Tongue executive ideas director Jonathan Pease.

Popular New Zealand beer brand Tui has ‘helped’ a group of regular guys prank their mate by plumbing his entire house with beer. That’s right, every tap, shower and faucet in his humble abode. A video of the prank setup, the prank itself and the victim’s reaction was released onto YouTube on Monday this week. It seems to be connecting with the audience, but there has been some industry push-back regarding the authenticity of the stunt – you know, are they really just a group of mates? Did they really execute this stunt by themselves?

I for one don’t care if they did it all by themselves or not. I think the idea is a smart way of playing off two very simple and true insights. Firstly, every beer drinker in New Zealand would love to have their house plumbed with beer. Secondly, every beer-drinking man loves a good prank with his mates. ‘Mateship’ is indeed at the heart of many a beer-drinking occasion and this stunt goes to the core of what good mates are all about.

Was it effective? Like most questions in the marketing world, the correct answer is – it depends on the client brief. There’s no blanket right or wrong here, although some holier-than-thou advertising executives may try to convince you otherwise. An unbranded amateur-style stunt can be a highly effective way to launch a campaign for a brand that has low awareness levels or just wants to cut through the market clutter. The Tui video has already earned over two million views and there are loads of press articles popping up in New Zealand and around the world. It’s certainly got people talking. Getting ‘the people’ to talk about a brand is the most influential and behaviour-changing thing a brand can do.

Most of us consume ‘early general news’ on a daily basis and that is still the ultimate starting point for any brand that wants to become the topic of national conversation. But you need to anchor the public chatter in the right conversation and this is where I believe the Tui stunt has come a little unstuck. With all the YouTube views and PR articles, why does Tui’s PR agency, Porter Novelli, feel the need to explain that the Tui brand didn’t pay anyone for their involvement in the stunt? The stunt is ‘working’ but these types of PR disclaimers really change the conversation that’s naturally being had around the brand. In many such cases, the public conversation is on point but within the marketing industry, our regular over-analysis means we’re talking about different things to the general public. This is one of those cases.

All that said, here’s some more over-analysis as to how they could have improved the public conversation. There were better ways to position the brand's role within the story. Someone could've suggested the prank to Tui via Twitter, to which the brewery unexpectedly responded by making it happen. The lads might have made a request for a single keg to plumb a single tap, to which Tui responded with a bigger and better solution – just because the brand loved the idea. These angles would make the story more believable, while also directing more of the viewers' love back to Tui.

Whether or not the guys were paid should be irrelevant. Instead, we should be judging the brand on whether they do stuff that people want to get involved in and talk about. This is tougher in some categories than others, but if anyone can do it, a much-loved beer brand can.

Jonathan Pease
Executive Ideas Director

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