Oktoberfest is an annual celebration held in Munich that dates back to 1810. The first edition was a post-wedding feast to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, and all of Bavaria was invited. The event was so popular it has continued year after year.
So how does this relate to marketing?
When you have more than 200 years to perfect the art of throwing a party, there are plenty of things to learn. From promotions to branding, everything seems to contribute to one common goal: Gemütlichkeit – a German work that roughly translates to a cross between coziness, warmth, belonging, cheerfulness, and fun. And personally speaking, I have never had more fun in my life then I did during my two trips to Munich for Oktoberfest.
As they say when the first keg is opened and the festival begins, “It’s tapped!” So here are the top five marketing tips you can learn at Oktoberfest:
1) Raising your prices isn’t necessarily the best solution.
Every year, the price of a liter of beer goes up, and every year, more and more people attend Oktoberfest. What does this tell us? Lowering your prices isn’t always a good thing.
Yes, there are obviously more factors involved in this statistic, but as Irish marketer Jon McColloch said in a recent email, it’s easier to sell one $80,000 BMW than it is to sell 80 Chevy Cobalts at $1,000 a piece. And Just in case you’re wondering, the average price of a liter at this year’s Oktoberfest is about $11.68.
2) Planning is paramount.
Every year, months before 7 million people walk through the gates and the music begins and the mugs clank, Oktoberfest is planned down to the smallest of details. The famous märzen beer is brewed in March. The massive beer halls holding upward of 10,000 people are constructed months in advance. Even the locals get in on the planning.
The famous German waitresses carrying all those liters can make enough money during the two plus weeks of Oktoberfest that they don’t have to work the rest of the year. If they can make a one-euro tip per beer, carry 14 beers at once, and make a new run for beers every five to seven minutes… well, you do the math. They have, and they plan for it every year.
3) Make charitable donations.
The Hacker-Pschorr family – one of Munich’s most famous breweries and one of the “Big Six” permitted at Oktoberfest – donated the land on which the festival is held. They were present at the first Oktoberfest in 1810, and because they gave Munich the fairgrounds for the festival, it’s safe to say they’ll be allowed at every one after. Giving can go a long way.
4) Be creative with your branding.
Beer has been around for a long time in Bavaria. So long, in fact, that there is a bit of uncertainty as to when some of the Big Six breweries were even created!
The oldest is Augustiner Bräu, established in 1328, and they certainly know a little bit about making beer, as well as marketing it (or not marketing it). They didn’t change the shape of their bottle when it was popular to do so. They rarely ever change their label. They do not engage in advertising campaigns. They do not export their Oktoberfest beer. They are the only brewery at the festival to serve it from traditional, wooden barrels. And their beer just happens to be the most popular at the festival and is noted by the locals, almost unanimously, as the best beer at Oktoberfest.
What does this tell us? That producing a high-quality product, and then just sticking to that, can often be the best way to build your brand.
5) Sell an experience.
Yes, people go to Oktoberfest for the beer and the pretzels and the music. Some go to a certain tent for a special food served there. Some pick a hall because they like the band or the décor.
Individually, these are all great, but when you add them up, they create an experience that is hard to replicate. Every tiny detail contributes, from the smell of candied almonds to the bright lights of the roller coasters.
Use this philosophy to analyze your products and services. Make sure your customers are getting the same attention, and make an effort to give them an experience they will never forget, every time.
Maybe even come up with a clever name or tagline to help brand it. At Oktoberfest, it’s called gemütlichkeit. Whenever gemütlichkeit is mentioned in song, it’s mandatory that people toast. When people toast, they drink. Needless to say, the song is played quite often. That is Sales and Marketing 101. Prost!