Each year, around six million people head to Munich, Germany, for the annual Oktoberfest celebration. It’s widely regarded as one of the most popular festivals in the world and is a bucket-list travel destination for billions of beer drinkers and strudel aficionados around the globe. And, like anything iconic, there’s no shortage of imitators; copycat festivals have popped up around the world, from Cincinnati and Tokyo to Brazil and Australia.
As a brand, this level of popularity is something to be envied. Imagine if six million people across the world sought your website out each year? Imagine if a thousand other companies tried to create what you’ve been creating for hundreds of years?
So, what can you do to make your brand as iconic as Oktoberfest? Well, other than building a time machine, establishing your company in 1810, and letting time work its magic? Can’t help you there! But we can help you from a marketing standpoint. Here are seven marketing and branding takeaways you can learn from Oktoberfest.
Don’t nickel and dime your customers.
Did you know that Oktoberfest is free? Yep, you read that correctly — visitors can quite literally walk into the official Oktoberfest without even opening their wallets. And not only is there no entry fee, but beer and food prices are kept to a (relative) minimum. For reference, a stein of beer at this year’s Oktoberfest is roughly $13.50 — $13 for a beer the size of your head! Have you TRIED drinking an entire stein!? It’s not easy!
In a society where Disneyland seems to raise its prices bi-annually, and most venues charge $15+ for a small can of warm domestic beer, the concept of a festival without any surcharges and convenience fees, let alone without an entry fee, is difficult for Americans to wrap their heads around. But, there’s something to be said for keeping some things free and/or affordable.
Oktoberfest always starts on the third Saturday of September, and you can find the same food and drinks each year with little variation. In its 200-year history, it has only been canceled 26 times (for cholera, post-war inflation, various wars, and COVID, in case you’re curious.) Basically, Germans can count on one thing every single year: come September, they’ll be able to head to Oktoberfest, gorge on plenty of brats and beer, and sing songs with complete strangers in the beer tents.
For brands, consistency can look different depending on your business model. For brick-and-mortars it means adhering to your business hours. After all, nobody likes visiting a store an hour after opening only to find the door is still locked. For restaurants, it means making sure your food tastes the same, regardless of who is cooking it. And for plumbers, electricians, or other home-service workers, it means showing up on time and with the right tools to complete the job.
Don’t sacrifice your standards (even for celebrities).
This year, the German Rheinheitsgebot (or purity law) celebrates its 500th anniversary, making it the oldest food safety law still in existence. The law limits German beer brewers to just four ingredients: malt, hops, yeast, and water. Though the law has a lot of critics (mostly outside the country), 85% of Germans support it, and 79% think it should be protected. Considering Germany exports $1.38 billion in beer annually, it pays to have high standards — and to stick to them.
Just like how Germany sticks to its strict beer-brewing standards, your brand should remain steadfast with your own set of standards, even when dealing with celebrities who expect special treatment. Most events would be ecstatic to have a celebrity like Paris Hilton attend their party, but not the organizers of Oktoberfest. After she showed up to the 2006 event wearing a “tacky” and offensive dirndl (a traditional German outfit worn by women), she was permanently banned from the event. Moral of the story? Celebrities aren’t exempt from respecting your traditions.
Be human and create a cozy feeling.
At the end of the day, our companies wouldn’t be here if humans weren’t involved somehow. Whether you create a product for your customers, handle marketing for a company that does, or work in the hospitality industry, you probably wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for humans interacting with or purchasing something from you. One of the most important marketing lessons is to always treat your customers like people first (and customers second.)
Although Oktoberfest prides itself on its expansive menu, beer selections, and merch, many of the slogans, songs, and phrases you’ll hear at Oktoberfest focus on conjuring up warm and fuzzy feelings. For example, one famous Oktoberfest song is “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit,” which roughly translates to “Cheers to warmth and friendliness.” The song is played several times an hour, and each time complete strangers can be seen locking arms and clinking beer steins.
Don’t fear imitators.
Canada. Brazil. Argentina. India. China. Russia. Sri Lanka. Zambia. The United States. What do all these countries have in common? They each hold their own Oktoberfest celebrations each year, with the most popular attracting over half a million visitors each. In the United States alone, there are hundreds of individual Oktoberfests held throughout the country, with the largest (Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati) attracting more than 700,000 people to the event.
Unless they’re infringing on your copyright or otherwise breaking the law, don’t panic if an imitator pops up. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of advertising, right? If you truly feel that you’re offering the very best product and/or service, you shouldn’t stress about copycats. Take it as a compliment, and “free” advertising for the real deal. After all, how many people attending copycat Oktoberfest festivals still dream about attending the actual event? Lots!
Focus on your specialty.
If there’s one thing we can learn from Oktoberfest, it’s that icons are one-of-a-kind, and are often the best at what they do. Oktoberfest isn’t trying to be Mardi Gras or Coachella. Sure, all three sell beer, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Schnitzel (or six million annual visitors) at the latter two. Oktoberfest is what it is, and doesn’t try to market itself to everyone. Not everyone enjoys beer and bratwurst, but plenty of people do.
As a brand, you need to find what you’re good at and focus on that — don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to cater to everyone. Take us, for example. SEO is our bread and butter. Yes, we offer content marketing and link building, but everything we do falls under the “organic” umbrella. Many agencies offer SEO as an afterthought — it’s just one line item on a long list of services — but Redefine? That’s all we do, and we like to think we’re pretty darn good at it as a result.
Create an image.
When people think about Oktoberfest, they think about lederhosen and dirndls, bratwurst and beer, pretzels and strudel, carnival rides, and, everyone’s favorite, the Chicken Dance. When people think about your brand, what comes to mind? If you haven’t taken the time to sit down as an organization to establish brand guidelines or a mission statement, now is the perfect time.
From logo usage and brand colors to the voice and tone you prefer in advertising, a brand guidelines document is your chance to “create” your image. This document should be incorporated into your new employee onboarding and training, and it should be provided to freelance writers, graphic designers, advertising agencies, or your SEO firm — basically, anyone who works for you in any way. Be as detailed as you want to be; we’ve seen clients incorporate everything from font size and style to logo use and how to use visual elements. The sky’s the limit!
We can help make you iconic.
Want to start on the path toward becoming an icon? We can help get your brand off the ground! With experience in link building, social media, on-page content, and technical SEO, we can help you create the perfect image. Contact us today to learn more.