For its 50th anniversary, House of Anansi set out to obtain new readers by teaming up with Henderson Brewery Co. and pairing books with beer. The person behind the idea, Neil Wadhwa, Marketing and Communications Assistant for House of Anansi, talks to us about the outcome of this initiative.
How did this project come to life?
Anansi moved to its new offices at 128 Sterling Road in Toronto in January 2015. Henderson’s wasn’t open yet, but we were watching with anticipation as the brewery was being built—and I was really excited at the prospect of combining books and beers in some sort of capacity once they were up and running.
I emailed Steve, the general manager of Henderson’s, in February 2016 to talk partnership ideas—even though the brewery wasn’t set to open until Spring 2016. We met in Anansi’s office and among the many ideas we discussed included the idea to do an Anansi and Henderson’s collaborative beer as part of Henderson’s monthly ides series.
It was a perfect match! We decided the beer would be in celebration of Anansi’s 50th anniversary. A handful of people from Anansi got to taste test beer samples—we ended up doing a cucumber beer (using real cucumber juice) that would pair perfectly with good books and warm summer nights—and decided to use all 30 of our A-List covers as labels.
We launched the beer in April 2017 on the day of our annual poetry bash, which was held at Henderson’s.
What was your marketing strategy like? What role, if any, did digital media play?
The marketing strategy was purely digital. We pushed news of the Anansi beer over our social networks, on our blog, and through our online mailing list, and Henderson’s did the same.
There was coverage in print media, including a full-page spread in the Quill & Quire, but most of the print coverage was about the larger, ongoing relationship between Anansi and Henderson’s—besides the beer collaboration, we’re also neighbours, host a monthly Beers & Books series, we’ve held our poetry bash there, and are constantly working together on new partnership opportunities.
We also decided to keep it to organic digital media because the beer was only available for a limited time, and also only available at Henderson’s itself.
Did you reach new readers?
We reached a new audience altogether! Beer lovers that might have been unfamiliar with Anansi are now aware of us, what we do, where we’re located, and more.
We also strengthened our relationship with our existing fans and readers. Book lovers got a CanLit collectable, and we spread awareness of Anansi’s new storefront on Sterling Road.
Do you think it’s important to find new ways to reach readers?
Always! Sometimes the new ways you experiment with might not work, but it’s worth it to explore new avenues because your audience might not have social accounts, might not be on your mailing list, or might not even pay attention to book publishers in general—they might be missing all your messages. Finding new ways is fun—you get to think outside of the marketing box that you might be used to, and if successful, you get to tap into a whole new audience that might eventually because brand champions.
Do you have other similar initiatives on the way? Are you looking to implement other projects like this?
We recently started a book club with the Drake Commissary, and have also been working with both the Drake Commissary and Henderson’s on ways to help grow the community, specifically Sterling Road and the Junction Triangle (the neighborhood in Toronto we’re located in). Besides that, we do have a few more fun collaborations planned— but everything is under wraps right now! Keep an eye out on our social accounts in the near future as we start announcing some of the fun projects we’ve been working on!
Have you any events, initiatives, partnerships or addresses to share? Let us know so we can share the news on our blog.