Those watching the NBA Finals (or any one of a number of male-oriented programs) over the weekend may have seen the perplexing, if high spirited, ads for tall cans of a beverage called Jeremiah Weed.
On the surface, there's nothing unusual about these spots for the the malt liquor brand extension of the Kentucky-distilled bourbon. Just more entries to an already full, if lucrative, party.
Indeed, nothing unusual here (other than that gigantic burger) until a closer look is taken at the ad. UPDATED
(Read our update at bottom)
The ads are promoting Jeremiah Weed's three new beverages: Lightning Lemonade, Spiked Cola, and Roadhouse Tea. All are clearly targeted at the booming "alcopop" market, the one Four Loko exploded into the mainstream consciousness last year. Weed's 12 and 23.5-ounce cans though are "only" 5.8% alcohol by volume, compared to Four Loko's 12%.
It's a smart and cunning brand extension for an existing alcohol product with a rich and largely respectable legacy. Also smart and cunning? Tagging the commercials with the brand's Facebook URL instead of its main age-restricted website.
The "About" section of the Jeremiah Weed Facebook page states that users "Must be 21+ to follow." But that doesn't mean they need to be 21 to visit the page itself, look at the pictures, and learn a little more about the brand.
The brand's official website, as required by law, forces visitors to enter their birthdays to prove an age above 21. (Of course, anyone can lie about this.)
Evidencing just how attractive this approach is, the ads don't even bother noting the brand's JeremiahWeed.com web address anywhere in the commercial.
Look for more booze brands to do this as a way not to market to the underage (though that probably works too), but as a way to get around the age-input landing pages that everyone, even those over 21, find annoying on the web.
UPDATE: The folks from Jeremiah Weed point out that I was mistaken about the Facebook back-door to alcohol pages. It seems Facebook does indeed prevent those under 21 from visiting official alcohol brand pages by blocking access to those logged in as under-21 and bouncing all logged out visitors to the Facebook homepage to log in.
Still, I was curious as to exactly why the brand opted for a Facebook URL instead of its main page, we asked. And they told us:
"We opted to drive consumers to our Facebook page rather than JeremiahWeed.com because Facebook allows for more engaging, two-way dialogue with consumers that a website cannot provide. Our brand site is great for consumers looking for information, however our Facebook gives fans a forum to share their stories and photos, ask us questions, and we can ask them questions. More and more brands, both within the beverage alcohol industry and otherwise, are moving in this direction because of the consumer engagement Facebook provides. It’s not just what we’re looking for, but also what our consumers are looking for."
The spokesman for parent Diageo added that this strategy "holds true across all our brands" and that "Facebook simply allows for more engagement than a traditional microsite, which again is what consumers are looking for."