Good ideas are sometimes surprisingly simple. When the German beer brand Beck’s (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) realized that it faced strong competition from small breweries and craft beers, they wanted to make Beck’s beer more appealing to a younger customer group. Together with the agency BBDO Berlin, the marketing team started by observing common behaviors.

One particular habit caught their attention: At parties and at bars, people like to scratch the aluminum sleeves on the necks of their beer bottles with their fingernails, sometimes in an absent-minded fashion and sometimes with the intent to send a message, say a smiley or a flower, to the attractive woman across the table.

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BBDO and Beck’s marketing team wondered: What if we gave people a larger canvas? And promptly decided to find out. They developed a “dummy” of an interactive and playful packaging that had the whole green glass bottle wrapped in an aluminum sleeve, thus providing enough room for patterns and more elaborate designs featuring faces, animals and whole scenes. Even simple games such as tic-tac-toe have been scratched onto the aluminum label.

The scratch bottle quickly became a social media phenomenon despite the fact that the bottles were actually never sold or distributed to the public. The scratch bottle was created as a “dummy” for internal purposes, Beck’s spokesperson told us. There are no plans to produce the bottles at the moment, he confirmed, which means that the creative endeavors remain limited to aluminum bottlenecks for the time being.

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Still, even as a concept, the packaging/ad campaign is intriguing because it creates instant customer engagement with the product. It uses an already common behavior and encourages people to be creative. The campaign is humorous and engages the senses, which is also key to successful marketing. Even better: It is so simple that it works without further explanation. It also doesn’t rely on cultural context, which is useful since Beck’s beer is sold in 90 countries. There is one feature that sets the campaign truly apart from other successful packaging models: Even though it never left the lab, it still created social media buzz and goodwill for the company.

Beck’s Scratchbottle from Coni Design on Vimeo.