Modelo taps its heritage to appeal to drinkers on Day of the Dead — and beyond

Modelo is going all out to draw American consumers into the Day of the Dead this week with a series of social media executions that encourage them to join the Día de los Muertos celebrations, including a Snapchat lens and live-streaming a festival on Facebook Live.

“In the beginning we relied primarily on word-of-mouth marketing and our core Hispanic consumer base, but we’ve now broadened our strategy to reach multicultural general-market consumers more broadly,” said Ann Legan, vp of brand marketing at Constellation Brands’ beer division. “Our consistent double digit growth shows that this is certainly no flash-in-the pan brand.”

Modelo has been steadily gaining ground in the U.S. for over three decades, on the back of its loyal base of Hispanic drinkers. In 2013 CNBC asked if the beer brand was “the next Corona.” Between July 2015 and 2016, Modelo Especial alone grew over 20 percent, with sales of over $128,000,000, according to IRI. Second quarter revenue for parent company Constellation Brands came in at over $2 billion in 2016, with a 17 percent improvement over sales reported this time last year and analysts anticipate double-digit earnings growth every year for the next five years.

But its impressive sales haven’t necessarily translated into corresponding brand awareness and recognition, which the brand has been fixing by ramping up portfolio and marketing strategy as well as by catering to a broader audience.

After expanding distribution more widely in the U.S., the brand launched its first national English-language TV campaign last year. More recently, Constellation Brands consolidated the various beers in Modelo’s portfolio, including Especial, Negra and Chelada under a new master brand called “Casa Modelo” this summer. This has been supplemented by a more focused social media strategy, aimed at elevating Mexican culture in American life in authentic ways.

Its Día de los Muertos executions, for example, tapped into the widespread popularity of facial filters through a sponsored Snapchat lens, turning users’ faces into a painted skull. It has also launched a Facebook Messenger bot, designed to educate consumers about the history and traditions associated with the festival. Lastly, the brand will also host a Facebook Live Ofrenda on Nov. 2, live-streaming the Olvera Street festival in Los Angeles on Facebook and encouraging viewers to pay homage to their deceased loved ones by commenting.

“When we first started dabbling in social for the brand, we went for simple, static campaigns,” said James Hidden, executive group director at Ogilvy. “Now, we’re trying to blow that up and offer fully integrated and immersive experiences regularly.”

The brand’s Mexican heritage is central to its social media strategy across its social channels. Earlier this summer, for example, the brand celebrated “Michelada Week,” encouraging fans to share their own recipes of michelada cocktails. It also roped in Chicago mixologist Dylan Stewart to show off his version live on Facebook, driving over 3 million Facebook shares and over 669,000 video views on Facebook Live. Modelo frequently shares beer cocktail recipes on Instagram and Facebook, and is experimenting with influencer content as well, by partnering with celebrity chef Rick Bayless, for example, for a digital video series that showcases how beer can be used in food.

It seems to be working. According to data crunched by Unmetric, its followers on Facebook have increased from 26,000 to 243,000 between July and October 2016. The brand is not only a rising star in the Constellation portfolio, but has also seen the most growth on both Instagram and Facebook, beating other brands in the portfolio including Corona.

“We’ve seen strong ROI across our digital campaigns which gives us positive reinforcement to continue investing against these efforts,” said Legan. “We know that our approach is working.”

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