Miller Lite and Chipotle Crush Social to Keep Their Brands Fresh During COVID-19

May 20, 2020

By Wendy Ball


Marketing Maestros is providing weekly coverage of how various brands are responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak and relevant resources from the ANA's Marketing Knowledge Center to help your brand do the same.


Michael Jordan Pitches Miller Lite for Free

Miller Lite gained some very valuable advertising in the sixth episode of ESPN's popular documentary The Last Dance, which profiles Michael Jordan and the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls. A segment shows Jordan tossing back Miller Lites with Scottie Pippen and his teammates. Jordan cracked a beer and said he would rather have that than a Gatorade. And then Pippen delivered the kicker: "That's all we be thinking about in the fourth quarter — ice cold beer." (Coincidently, the same appears to be true for home-bound America during COVID-19, where alcoholic beverage sales were up by 58 percent in March.)

Jumping on this rare opportunity for a free association with the Greatest of All Time (GOAT), Miller Lite tweeted out goat GIFs for days following the episode’s first airing. Literally, photos and graphics of goats of all varieties. At first, some people were stumped, but then fans joined in arguing about who the greatest NBA players are. With the NBA season cancelled, the GOAT caper helped fans let off some steam.

Even during harsh times, brands can still tap into relatable and upbeat moments. It just has to be done in an emotionally nuanced and authentic way. Ryan Reiss, VP of Coors Family of Brands at MillerCoors, explained how this same approach helped reignite the Miller brand after years of decline. Miller has learned that it resonates when the brand reflects something from a pre-marketing age — a time when things weren’t so plastic and marketing wasn’t so obvious. It also helps to display a little bit of imperfection. Especially now, when many consumers will engage only with those brands that display something genuine and humane.

Marketing Resources

  • The Marketer’s Resource Guide to Coronavirus Response. The ANA’s Ask the Expert research service is keeping members up to speed on the latest developments in how COVID-19 has affected the industry and what brands are doing in response.
  • Reigniting Miller Lite. Forty-year-old Miller Lite reinvigorated its brand by discovering its most powerful and ownable territory, reframing its message for a new audience, building a plan to make everything communicate, and engaging consumers to help spread its story.
  • Cultivating Brand Culture. This Insight Brief sheds light on how brands can establish a strong company culture and keep employees satisfied.


Chipotle’s Toggle Between TikTok and Zoom Pays Off

During these pandemic times, there’s a sense that social media and tech platforms are fulfilling their original purpose of community building even as advertisers dramatically decrease their paid social ad spend. While advertising on Facebook and Twitter in the U.S. is down by 33 percent, challenger brands like TikTok and Zoom are seeing dramatic spikes in downloads of as much as 27 percent and 1,270 percent between February and March. Chipotle has been ahead of the pack in experimenting with both platforms and using them in appropriate and compelling ways.

Chipotle started using TikTok in earnest in May 2019 after noticing its brand was already being talked about on the platform. The company garnered 430 million views by creating a video using the popular “Guacamole Song” and launching the #GuacDance challenge to celebrate National Avocado day. As people confined to their homes have flocked to TikTok for a fun and quirky platform to express themselves and connect with others, brands have followed. And although Chipotle pulled away from the brand crowd and shifted to Zoom for virtual lunch hangouts in March as part of its pivot to focus on delivery and community building, it returned to TikTok for Cinco de Mayo. Ad Age reported that Chipotle vlogger and brand fan David Dobrik helped the brand decide which TikTok users won the #ChipotleSponsorMe challenge. Winners got the chain’s “celebrity card,” usually reserved for celebs, athletes, and influencers, which entitled the holders to free food. Chipotle’s shrewd social moves are being rewarded by the market, with its stock rising amid an increase in delivery and advance orders of over 120 percent.

Marketing Resources

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