A Call to Rally ‘Round the Pub

A new national consumer campaign being led by six pub groups asks U.K. consumers to share their take—via stories, photos and videos—on why life is better at their local pubs.

The “It’s Better Down the Pub” campaign is meant to generate goodwill toward the pub industry, whose members consider themselves under attack variously by retailers able to undercut them on beverage prices, large pubcos eyeing a bigger share of the market and/or lawmakers who would seek to regulate the pubco-tenant relationship. “It’s Better Down the Pub” calls on consumers to go to itsbetterdownthepub.com and use social media to share why they value their local pubs.

“The pub is an integral part of our culture,” said Tim Hulme, CEO of the British Institute of Innkeeping, a founding sponsor of the campaign. “It’s important that we encourage our customers to celebrate the enriching impact this great British institution has on our lives.” The campaign is a nice way to prompt consumers to consider why they frequent these establishments and call to mind fond memories of their own pub visits over the years. (And giving those who submit their stories the chance to win iPads and other prizes certainly encourages this sharing.)

But can it spur consumers not just to patronise their favourite locally owned pubs more often but also to urge elected officials to protect pubs as a kind of national institution? That remains to be seen. However, two elements of the campaign are likely to be vital in determining how successful it ultimately is.

One Strong Voice

The first is broad, consistent national exposure. The “It’s Better Down the Pub” campaign, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping and the Society of Independent Brewers, among other groups, seems to have this. A news release states that organisers have raised a six-figure sum in support of the campaign, which launches to consumers in June. Pubs, suppliers and service providers all are being solicited to promote the campaign among their guests and/or employees, and “It’s Better Down the Pub” has a dedicated Twitter account (@IBDTP) and a single, national Facebook page.

Though it’s an imperfect comparison, one example of the potential of this kind of national campaign to sway public sentiment and spur action is found in U.S. American automaker Chrysler. Chrysler has won wide praise for its “Imported From Detroit” campaign, launched two years ago during American football’s Super Bowl championship game to showcase the brand’s roots in that Midwestern city and declare boldly that Chrysler vehicles could stand up to their non-U.S.-born competition.

Chrysler’s memorable two-minute TV commercial made a statement and created needed positive buzz for the brand. In the wake of the U.S. federal government’s bailout in 2008-’09 of Chrysler (and competitor General Motors), Chrysler’s renewed focus on the quality and efficiency of its vehicles—as expressed in the Imported From Detroit campaign—helped rally U.S. consumers around Chrysler products. Chrysler’s sales grew 21 percent in 2012, as reported at the beginning of the year by the Detroit Free Press. And two years later, the “Imported From Detroit” tagline, as well as a line of associated merchandise, remains.

Many Supporting Players

The other necessary element of the pub campaign is widespread on-the-ground support. Engaging pub owners throughout the campaign will be crucial—if pub owners and managers “buy in” and actively encourage their patrons to share their stories, the campaign is more likely to register with consumers as a united effort on the part of the country’s pubs. If consumers see that the establishments that they know and trust view the national effort as worthwhile, they may be more likely to give it a second look.

Totally Locally, a shop-local movement born in 2009 and based in West Yorkshire, has won such support from the independent retailers it aims to promote. Totally Locally (motto: “Invest in your town – Invest in your future”) offers a free branding and marketing kit designed for communities to implement town-wide, and its website serves as sort of a home base for each of the towns participating in the movement. Each town has its own Totally Locally page highlighting local merchants and news from the business community. For visitors to the Totally Locally website, it’s akin to having access to several chamber of commerce pages on one site, united under the Totally Locally brand.

It’s always interesting to watch competitive brands join forces for a campaign. And when the campaign is all about protecting the livelihood of a given industry, it’s more interesting still to track the brands’ commitment over time. Will “It’s Better Down the Pub” successfully get out its message at the national level and find sustained support locally? We’ll look forward to seeing what kind of consumer action this unique collaboration can generate.

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Patrick Noone

With more than 15 years of experience in the research/consulting industry, Patrick Noone, Executive Vice President, Business Development, is integrally involved in the sales, development and marketing of Technomic's online resources, reports and custom studies—tools that provide clients with actionable industry data that supports their strategic and tactical business planning processes. He also manages Technomic's Business Development and Client Service teams.

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