Gaffel: Cross-media marketing for a beer brand

For some, it's a tin can. For Thomas Deloy, it is "an excellent communication vehicle with enormous creative options. The head of marketing and PR at the private brewery Gaffel relies on campaigns that are "emotional, modern, and up-to-date. Gaffel has already proven several times that the minikeg is ideally suited to this.

The latest highlight of the creative Cologne team is the limited-edition Carnival Barrel 2022, which looks like a loudspeaker box hung with streamers and printed with lines of popular carnival hits. A QR code on the barrel leads directly to a Spotify playlist with ten hours of Cologne carnival hits. Social media posts refer to regional retailers and link to the Gaffel online store. There, the party keg is also available for purchase in a special set with a fan shirt and typical Kölsch glasses. The Gaffel Carnival keg is a prime example of cross-media marketing for a beer brand. The comments on Instagram prove just how well this is received by the target group: “Send them to Mexico, dude!” or “Will you send some to Chicago, too?” are even written there by enthusiastic followers.

Social media as the key to success

Creativity pays off – and that has been Gaffel’s trademark for many years. It’s not for nothing that the slogan is “Special Kölsch.” It refers not only to the beer itself, but also to the marketing. The fact that this plays a major role with Kölsch in particular is due not only to the “relatively uniform taste” of this type of beer, as Thomas Deloy admits, but also to the regional sales market. “People drink by brand,” is how the Gaffel boss sums it up.

Thomas Deloy, Gaffel

Thomas Deloy, Head of Marketing/PR at Gaffel

This makes it all the more important to “emotionally charge” it: “We are constantly reinventing ourselves. However, we never lose sight of our tradition and the promise of quality that goes with it.” How does that work? “By talking to people,” Thomas Deloy emphasizes. In the pub, on the street – or on social media.

The importance of social networks has now been demonstrated above all by Corona. The breweries that had already built up a broad community on social media in recent years were clearly at an advantage. They were still able to reach their target group via these channels. Moreover, important during the pandemic: adapting quickly to the new situation and (re)acting flexibly – which is exactly what Gaffel did!

Always close to the pulse of the target group

When Corona paralyzed large parts of the public in spring 2020, Gaffel did not go into shock. “It was clear to us right from the start that we weren’t going to bury our heads in the sand and go underground until the storm passed,” recalls Thomas Deloy.  With its social media campaign and the claim “By far the best Kölsch!” Gaffel pulled off a coup in terms of cross-media marketing for a beer brand: In a short video clip, two residents of adjacent apartments simultaneously fetch a cool Gaffel Kölsch from their refrigerators in a split screen. Shortly afterwards, they meet outside on their balconies and toast each other across the distance. The hashtag “Balkonkoelsch” (“balcony Kölsch”) quickly made the rounds. In the reader poll conducted by the trade magazine “Horizont” for the best Corona-related campaign of the month, the Gaffel creation landed in first place in April 2020 – even ahead of large corporations like Aldi or Penny.


Kooperation Gaffel und Brings

Cooperation with MiniKEG an the music group ‘Brings’

Nevertheless, Corona naturally also hit the Cologne-based private brewery hard. Before the pandemic, the restaurant trade accounted for around half of its sales. After all, every third Kölsch tapped within a radius of 100 kilometers around the cathedral comes from Gaffel. The loss of the event business and the gastronomy lockdown thus meant a slump in sales of a good 50 percent.

New products and minikegs strengthen trade

“In this situation, two things were particularly important to us,” analyzes Thomas Deloy. “On the one hand, to continue to support the catering trade as a contact partner and on the other hand, to pull the hose over to the trade.” With supporting campaigns, such as keg sponsorships for the favorite pub, Gaffel continued to secure popularity and attention for the restaurateurs. At the same time, the company focused on new products: “Gaffel Wiess,” a naturally cloudy top-fermented beer, was originally intended exclusively for the restaurant trade, while “Gaffel Lemon” was actually only for a South Korean retail partner. In the wake of the pandemic and thanks to short decision-making processes at the private brewery, both were also launched in the retail trade within a few months – with great success.

Thanks in part to the minikeg, Gaffel was able to make up ground in the trade. Instead of watching soccer in the pub, people sat at home in front of the TV with their best buddies. Instead of going to the beer garden with the whole gang, people met up with two or three friends on the balcony at home. On these occasions, the minikeg was – and still is – very much in demand. “It simply has an incredibly communicative component due to the self-tapping,” Thomas Deloy knows. And an emotional one on top of that – especially when it’s designed as creatively as it is at Gaffel. In any case, the marketing expert is enthusiastic about the Envases minikeg, which has had a firm place in Gaffel’s marketing concept for more than 20 years: “The print image alone is a sensation!

Cross-media marketing of a beer brand needs creative ideas

Fantas MinikEG

Whether it’s the annual fan kegs in cooperation with 1. FC Cologne, the special kegs for the World Cup or European Championship, collections featuring popular Cologne music bands, or the limited carnival edition – loyal Gaffel fans collect them with enthusiasm. “The special editions give us a sales peak every time,” says a delighted Thomas Deloy. The icing on the cake is often an interactive component linked to the minikeg. Whether it’s an imprinted QR code for the Spotify playlist or craft instructions including sticks for a conversion to a DIY drum – the Gaffel marketing department has come up with quite a few ideas.

And the next Minikeg campaign is already in the starting blocks: Under the motto “Verein(t) gewinnt,” (meaning “Club wins / united we win”) Gaffel will be giving away exclusive club concerts with popular Cologne bands such as Brings, Kasalla and Milijö starting in spring. To take part, you have to enter a lottery code online. Where can you find it? On the mini-keg, of course – as a scratch-off ticket on every five-liter keg of the special edition. Cross-media marketing of a beer brand – Gaffel knows how to do it!