Brands on Fire: White Claw Marketing VP on Connecting to Consumers at SXSW
The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festival tends to attract experiential marketing-focused brands during the “interactive” portion of the 10-day event, when the marketing and tech crowds are in attendance. But for a brand like White Claw, which was “born out of culture,” according to Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Creative, Kevin Brady, activating during the music festival portion was a no-brainer.
“We’ve always focused on social, digital and experiential. That’s how we grew up, so we continue to focus on that,” he told Chief Marketer this week. “Even though we’re a much bigger brand than when we first launched, we are still sticking true to our roots.” We caught up with Brady on the first day of the activation at SXSW on Thursday to discuss the strategy behind the White Claw’s Shore Club experiential platform, how the brand connects to culture and consumers, upcoming marketing initiatives and more.
Chief Marketer: Why did White Claw decide to activate during the music festival at SXSW?
Kevin Brady, Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Creative, White Claw: We’re really centered around the music as part of the festival. Of course, we’ll go check out the technology portion of it and see what it’s all about, but we’re really focused on the user.
White Claw was born out of culture in 2019 and 2020. Everybody was posting about us—memes, videos, showing their love. We actually launched in 2016, but 2019 was the big explosion. We were born out of culture, so now, we’re using the Shore Club as a platform to showcase culture and support culture. And that’s where you see design and music come to life. We look at our social and how we’re amplifying, whether it’s impressions and share a voice, et cetera.
CM: You were recently at Sundance. How did the activation differ?
KB: This is more music and less movies, but every festival has such a different personality. Park City is very intimate. You’ve got the winter culture and winter sports, whereas in Austin, typically it’s a little bit larger. They’re just different cultures, and it’s fun to interact with. We’re going to be at Kentucky Derby coming up and soon we’ll be at Made In America. We’ll be at Life is Beautiful and the Re:SET tour.
We’re taking the Shore Club platform and bringing it to all of these different festivals and uniting under one [idea]. It’s a lounge for our consumers to come and hang out. We unite ourselves with artists and tastemakers that are on the cutting edge of culture that’s emerging. We feel that gives us a unique perspective.
CM: When you first started, your marketing was more grassroots. How has that evolved?
KB: We’ve always focused on social, digital and experiential. That’s how we grew up, and we continue to focus on that. So even though we’re a much bigger brand than when we first launched, we are still sticking true to our roots.
CM: You also run White Claw’s internal creative studio. How do you leverage it to create campaigns?
KB: We do a lot of social and shopper marketing development. We’ve got a wonderful consumer insights team and we use research, like brand lift studies, and a mixed marketing analysis. We have brand health trackers as well as social listening to really put our ear to the ground to draw the insights that lead to compelling campaigns for consumers.
CM: What are some marketing channels and tactics that are working for you?
KB: Instagram and Stories are huge for us. We do a variety, from amplification of the experiential work that we’re doing to posting our own content to amplifying UGC. It feels like the closer we are to what the consumer cares about, the better the results are.
CM: How are you partnering with influencers? Are they all music-focused or do they span other genres?
KB: They’re in and around culture, whether it’s music or water culture. And also we’re starting to dabble in the fashion and design space as well. At Kentucky Derby, there’s a big fashion vertical there and an opportunity. It’s our third year of activating it live, and we’re looking forward to really pulling out some of the fashion aspects of it.
CM: How would you say the festival vibe differs from last year, the first in-person event in three years?
KB: Last year was the first time that everybody was connecting together again. I remember it was touch and go; we weren’t sure. So, last year there was still a little bit of trepidation. The combination of mask or no mask, and how people felt comfortable. [Now] it does feel like there’s a bit more freedom for people to connect and be together again.
Consumers are always looking for new products and innovation as well. So we’re debuting our Vodka + Soda and our vodka, which is brand new this year. That is something that delights and surprises them, and they want to engage with both the brand and our products.