People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 51: Restore the R

A collaborative restoration effort

In July 2012, Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) and Pabst Beer invited people to participate in the restoration of the iconic Rainier Beer sign, by completing a series of online challenges at RestoretheR.com.

Source: restorether.com

Fast Co.Create’s Reggie Ugwu wrote:

“Dubbed “Restore the ‘R,'” the campaign relies on community engagement to help spread the word about the fallen icon and a recent effort to give it the renovations it deserves.”

How it works

The website featured a virtual R sign with 258 light bulbs. To light up the bulbs, fans completed challenges and posted photos/videos as proof. As a reward, participants were invited to the opening ceremony of the new MOHAI location in December where the restored sign would be displayed.

 Torin Daniels, copywriter at the agency behind the campaign, described the process:

“Step one: get the public involved. We created a teaser video that served as a social media rally cry. When people heard that the Rainier R needed new bulbs, they wanted to help – So we created a website where anyone in the country could light up a bulb by completing a Rainier challenge. Film yourself completing a challenge, upload it to the site, share it with your friends.”

Journalist Allecia Vermillion wrote:

The beer conglomeration will pay for a full restoration of the sign, but illuminating each of the 258 lights [of the virtual sign] requires participation from the public.”

Taps into local passion for Rainier

The campaign taps into passion for the historic Rainier brand (established in Seattle in 1878), and appeals to people who were accustomed to seeing the iconic sign as a part of the city skyline.

Ad watchers at Little Black Book wrote:

“The “R” in question is the sorely-missed 12-foot-high, red, illuminated symbol of legendary Rainier beer, which welcomed Seattle residents and visitors from atop the brewery tower.”

The sign was visible from the I-5 highway, and was a familiar sight for travelers. As Seattle local Cheryl commented:

“I loved that old Rainier brewery sign – it meant I was almost home.”

The local passion for the Rainier sign is best summarized by Seattle-based writer Kendall Jones:

“Before the birth of craft beer as we know it today, there was Rainier Beer. Around Seattle, it was the beer. In its heyday, Rainier Beer was ubiquitous around Seattle, even more than Manny’s Pale Ale is today. If you drank anything else, it was probably only for effect. You were probably a contrarian by nature. Keeping dutiful watch over its dominion from atop the brewery, the glowing Rainier R graced the city’s skyline for decades. A smaller version of the same R adorned the window of just about every tavern in Seattle.”

The COOL factor

The quirky nature of the challenges helped the campaign gain traction. Challenges were creative and fun, appealed to the Rainier fan community and inspired participation and coverage.

Ad watchers at Little Black Book noted:

“Rainier is known throughout the Northwest for its quirky, innovative marketing and faithful fans. The brand’s playful essence and consumer affinity fostered an inspiring collaboration with a uniquely engaging strategy as the end result.”

Bloggers at Belles of the Sound wrote:

“Several of the challenges include “finding a cloud in the shape of an R” and “teach a bird to say Rainier”… If you decide to complete one of the challenges, let us know!! We’d love to profile you on the blog.”

Challenges, such as “Make Rainier your guest of honor at the World’s Best Picnic,” were social in nature and participants roped in friends and family to accomplish them.

Source: restorether.com

Restore the R was also covered on the Historic Seattle Preservation blog, which called it “one of the coolest restoration and preservation campaigns we’ve seen.”

Here’s our favorite submission to the website:

Source: restorether.com

Crowdsourcing share-worthy content

Thinkers applaud the design of the campaign, which is designed to generate a stream of share-worthy content and appeal to bloggers and the media.

Journalist Allecia Vermillion described the campaign as a “broadcast media bonanza.

The editorial team of Little Black Book wrote:

“As the campaign gets underway, with challenges completed and participant proof uploaded, the expectation is that certain submissions will find themselves shared across the web sphere by Seattle residents and Rainier beer fans nationwide.  And of course, the media won’t be able to resist getting involved either. What news crew could resist the sight of someone standing on the street playing the vuvuzela for a cause?”

On-ground share-worthy content

On-ground, Rainier created awareness, excitement and an opportunity for people to share photos on their social networks by having mascots ‘Grazing Rainiers’ walk around local parks and neighborhoods.

As Aubrey Cohen noted:

“Pabst also plans to send Grazing Rainiers out to roam Seattle and Portland parks, events and neighborhoods. These are ‘mythical creatures best described as giant beer bottles with legs.’”

Was the campaign successful?

While only 94 of 258 challenges were completed online, the campaign was successful in generating buzz around Rainier, favorability for Pabst and awareness about the new MOHAI location.

As Nidhi Makhija, member of the MSLGROUP Insights Network commented:

“Considering the relatively small population of die-hard Rainier fans (compared to say, Budweiser), 258 challenges may have been too optimistic a goal. I’d say the campaign was a success – it generated quite some excitement at the local level – both for Rainier beer and for the Museum of History and Industry.”

* (MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.


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