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How To Win Friends and Influence People

I got a comment the other day to one of my old posts about Rolling Rock when the brouhaha was going down in Latrobe, Pennsylvania earlier this year. E-Rokk, the person who posted the comment, apparently had a run-in with an Anheuser-Busch distributor’s rep. He also has a blog with four friends called Hey Stupid, which according to their byline “is a collection of writers that are pissed off at society, culture, the world and most importantly…you.” E-Rokk is a former Pennsylvania resident who moved to the Rapid City, South Dakota area and took with him a fondness for Rolling Rock beer. He claims to be a beer connoisseur, but his list of favorite beers is not exactly bursting with esoterica. In fact, more than half of his list includes generic industrial light lagers, most of whom are made by the big three but marketed under their original regional brand names. His favorite three are Yuengling, Iron City Light and Rolling Rock, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

Anyway, he tried the new A-B-made version of his beloved Rolling Rock and found that it no longer tasted the way he remembered it, and so he wrote a rant on his blog that spared no one’s feelings and told A-B in no uncertain terms to go fornicate without a companion, though, of course, not in those words. A little while later, he received a response from his local A-B distributor, Eagle Sales of the Black Hills, Inc. The letter was apparently written by the distributor’s “Contemporary Marketing Coordinator,” Cassie Kimball. I can only imagine what that job description entails. Anyway, to satisfy myself that her response was legitimate, I checked out the distributor’s website and sure enough she is the last person listed at the bottom of the web page “Our People.” He reprinted her response in it’s entirety and it’s a terrific example of how not to interact with your customers, especially when E-Rokk still listed several beers as his favorites that Eagle Sales distributes.

Because technically her letter is copywrited material, I won’t publish it here, but please go read it at E-Rokk’s Hey Stupid blog, you won’t be disappointed. She basically swears back at him and further tells him his band will never receive any promotional support from A-B (which is odd since I didn’t even know he was in a band). It’s riddled with typos and grammatical nonsense, which is pretty scary especially since I would think communication skills would be fairly important for someone in marketing. I know people can make mistakes — hell, I make them all the time — but her letter seems to show only a rudimentary familiarity with the English language and how to communicate coherently. But perhaps I’m being too hard on her.

My favorite thing she says, though, is about her beer knowledge. She claims that mainstream beers are called “American premiums” — I just love this aside — “as real beer connoisseurs like to say.” That has me doubling over. American premium is essentially a made-up term used as a category by Nieslen, IRI and other businesses when discussing a particular group of goods, to distinguish them from sub-premium and other categories. It has no meaning in the real world but only as business jargon. And I don’t know many beer connoisseurs, real or otherwise, who refer to this type of beer as American Premium, not with a straight face anyway. It is a subcategory at GABF under category 26, American-Style Lager, but that’s more to allow the big companies a place to enter their products. Likewise, it’s a subcategory under BJCP guidelines for category 1, Light Lager. But you won’t find it coming up in any serious discussion of beer styles. But then again, maybe I’m not as “with it” as she is. After all, she’s the “contemporary” marketing coordinator, whereas I’m just an old curmudgeon.

I also love her revisionist history when she claims A-B bought the Rolling Rock brand “to help it stay alive.” Their own flagship brands’ sales woes had nothing to do with wanting to pick up another brand for their distributors. That’s hilarious. I feel kinda sorry for her, in a way. She just keeps putting her foot in her mouth. At least she does it with confidence, I guess. She really seems to believe what she’s saying and yet appears to have no idea about what’s really going on in the industry she’s a part of. Ah, to be young and ignorant.

The way she just attacked and swore back at her critic has to have come up in PR 101 as how not to communicate with a customer, no matter what they’ve said. It’s frankly pretty astonishing. E-Rokk responded by writing back to her, to what end I can’t fathom. It was just as bad as his original rant but it will be interesting to see if his baiting works and she writes back again to escalate things even farther.


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