Marketing via Sister Products

06 Feb 2013 BY Jim Taylor

One form of marketing communication that may well be in its infancy, is what I call ‘Marketing via Sister Products’Basically, it is where two products, that have a relationship of some sort, communicate via each other’s packaging and mutually help each other....

The reason for this may be to:

  • Attract a new audience
  • Get seen more often
  • Break-through the clutter and surprise / interest
  • Re-position
  • Drive new distribution


One recent example is with Dortmund Concert Hall in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. They were struggling with attendance figures, until they found out that it was scientifically proven that cows produce more milk when they listen to classical music. So what did they do? They started to play classical music to a cow herd, and they took the milk and sold it as ‘Concert Milk’ in speciality stores in Dortmund. The milk had vibrant packaging: with a black musical note as the label shape, within which were details of the artist the cow had listened to and the concert hall season. It became local and national news and attendance at the concert hall boomed.

See the Cannes video case study of this, below:


In this example, the two products shared an unusual relationship. But a more natural relationship exists in many other categories – one such relationship being Beer and Music. Beer and Music are perfect bedfellows and partners in crime.

For starters, to many brewers, brew-days are musical events - they play music as they brew. Some – like Italian brewer Teo Musso – take it to a more cerebral level. Teo plays music to the beer as it ferments – so as to keep the yeast healthy and happy so it does the best job it can.

But looking at this subject with a marketing lens, there are a few basic ways this could work …


First, co-creative collaborations with musicians.

At a basic level, this could involve a brewer making a Limited Edition beer to celebrate a musician or album. A few years ago, craft brewer Dogfish Head in the States – together with Sony - made a beer called Bitches Brew – to celebrate the anniversary of Miles Davis’ seminal album, Bitches Brew.

But better yet is where the music or musicians actually get involved - brewing a beer together and then marketing it together.  It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine the edgier, rawer type of musicians, really enjoying brewing beer, as well as drinking it.

This might be with emerging musicians. Or if the brewery were credible enough, it could also be with famous musicians. In the vein of ‘authentic production’ by well-known musicians, Alex James from Blur makes his own cheese. So imagine an ‘Eric Clapton Cauldron IPA’ or a ‘Neil Young Homebrew Ale’ …..These beers would be hugely desirable globally. They might be good alternative sources of income for musicians (if they got tired of touring).

Tacked onto such a collaborative brew, could be any number of activities ….

-       An off-pack promotion ….

  • One example of this was last year in the UK, the band Elbow, did a great collaborative beer with brewer Robinsons, with a golden ale called ‘Build a Rocket Boys’ – which was also the name of the band’s new album. The artwork was the same, to ensure the beer promoted the album, and vice versa, as much as possible. It was sold around Christmas time in pubs and supermarkets. And if you bought this beer in the supermarket, a neck hanger on the bottle allowed you to enter a competition to win a pair of up-coming Elbow concert tickets.


-       Another obvious route is to build the beer into a launch gig whereby gig entrance ticket includes the price of the beer


-       Tour venue – it becomes the only beer on sale in the pubs or clubs when the band tours, and adds a sense of exclusivity to an evening


-       Other possibilities are things like tying into band merchandise ….. a beer promotion whereby band merchandise is the prize; or deluxe album versions where the deluxe album is marketed via a special deluxe beer version.



A second basic way of partnering – for emerging musicians in particular - could be with distribution.

Emerging musicians nowadays struggle with distribution and ‘getting well known enough to get sales’. As a craft brewer, you could team up, and – by putting NFC chips or QR codes on bottles – allow consumers to instantly download a song onto the mobile, by buying the beer. In other words, you could produce Limited Edition beers or beer ranges that are in effect song / album distribution vehicles.

This could serve as a one-track download from the bottle that is a way of the band, sampling a track that gets beer drinkers to go online afterwards to listen to or buy the whole album.

Alternatively, if a beer had say 10 different label variants and each was, in effect, linked to a track off an album, then by buying each beer you could in effect be buying the whole album too. In this case, the cost of the music would have to be amortized into the overall cost of the bottle of beer.

This could well be an interesting way of merchandising and gaining visibility in supermarkets. Imagine seeing a gondola-end display where a beer had 10 label variants. You could buy each variant separately for say £3.00 which would in effect be £2.50 for the beer & £0.50 for the track. Or you could buy all 10 label variants in a special pack, for £20.00 …. 10 bottles of beer, plus an album.


A third basic way, would be for a brewer to work with a number of artists, in different ways, but then to ‘wrap’ this towards the end of each year with a proprietary Music & Beer Festival which pulls together all the artists and beers that year, and that takes the best of both beer & music festivals & combines them.


Now obviously these are different marketing approaches, but as a musician / music company and brewer, they can be mixed up and used simultaneously.


At The Little Beer Corporation, we are putting this thinking into practice …

Music has always been part of things with our beers. I create a Spotify list for each beer – and I play this list of music whilst the beer is brewed. The same list is also on the website under ‘product details’ for each beer …. Consumers can click through and listen to the list whilst they’re drinking the beer.

But this coming year, we’re looking to take this a lot further …. We have teamed up with The Boileroom and emerging Guildford musicians to build an exciting partnership. All of The Little Beer Corporation’s new beers this coming year will be linked to emerging musicians from Guildford and to The Boileroom as a local music venue.

 Initially, this will manifest itself in producing a beer that is only for sale at The Boileroom.

Thereafter The Boileroom and The Little Beer Corporation will work with five emerging musicians this year and for each:

  • We will set up ‘Brewday Gigs’ as mini-events, whereby the band plays live at the brewery on brew-day, and does some brewing – so they have a hand in the creation of the beer.
  • The Band will help design the label. If they want to market a series of tracks (eg off a new album) then – for the same beer – there will be a different label variant for each track.  The label will also feature a QR code, that lets consumers download a free sample track from the artist.

o    Once each beer is bottled, it will be launch it with a special live Boileroom event.


The first Brewday Gig (at The Little Beer Corporation) will be on Saturday 9th March. That evening there will be an event at The Boileroom, to celebrate the start of this partnership. The five emerging musicians will all play. Tickets will be on sale; and a Little Boileroom beer will be launched there as well.