Neal Stewart is engagement. I caught up with him last month while in Denver for a board meeting (an annual event that just happens to coincide with The Great American Beer Festival). Don’t let his casual demeanor, passion for Turkey Sandwhiches and marketing department size fool you. If you are employed in any kind of marketing today, you should watch Neal Stewart closely. To answer my own title question, Neal represents the new face of marketing.
In 2005 we witnessed Neal’s work for Pabst brand, Rainer Beer, beat out Burger King/Crispin’s Subservient Chicken for best of show as well as “Strategy,” “Ingenuity” and “Business Performance” in a “Battle of the Brands” shoot out for ANA/AICP. The RainierVision campaign that was created on a shoestring reinvigorated a beloved regional brand suffering from branditis and neglect, driving sales growth of 45% in three years.
Today, you can find Neal almost everywhere online as well as at the helm of marketing for the irreverant Denver-based Flying Dog Brewery. With slogans like “Good beer, no shit,” and patron saints like Hunter S. Thompson, you can imagine its marketing has wide license for relevance online. And they are embracing digital marketing with the passion of a retriever playing “fetch.” They’re in Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Mashables, Flickr, and on and on and on. Their message is united by the raw authenticity of a rock band and their followers as passionate.
If you dismiss their approach because they are too small, too rogue, too spicey or any other “too” for your more conservative brand or customer composition you will be overlooking the big point. Neal understands that he has a clear and long lead in engaging consumers years before his competitors small and large grasp the fact their audience is there. In most cases, he is the only brand speaking to his target in these uncluttered spaces. That gives him lots of time to learn and outperform. Although necessity–in this case a microbrew-sized marketing budget–is the mother of invention, the strategies and tactics that Neal promotes are those that most marketing departments need to find. These include:
- Embrace Web 2.0 in all aspects by doing–Neal probably has an account for any new service launching with Web 2.0 architecture
- Filter less–let your less polished moments out as well
- Align to 2.0–Neal has in his small department a “MySpace” specialist and a “Facebook” specialist while he’s a tireless blogger
- Experiment often, learn and cut losses–Neal tries a lot of things and doesn’t sweat it if some don’t take off. His victories seem more informed and his losses minimized in this kind of environment
- Invite engagement–like real world beer tasting, Neal and his team invite people to sample and leave their impressions everywhere they engage
You can catch Neal at WOMMA in Las Vegas this week.
As I prepare to publish this post I imagine the case of beer headed my direction because Neal will have read this post in his RSS reader or caught the tag in Technorati. Neal, I’m digging the tribute to Hunter, Gonzo Imperial Porter, if my instincts are correct. 🙂