Sarah Warman is Senior Marketing Projects Manager at Scottish craft beer company BrewDog, where she wears the badge of Alpha Dog 2014—the most prestigious of all BrewDog’s accolades. She is also a part-time beer presenter on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, Jamie Oliver’s DrinksTube and her own YouTube channel, Hop Topic. She talks to Figaro Digital about beer, books, and ballsiness
What does your role as Senior Marketing Projects Manager involve?
At the moment I’m getting stuck into some exciting projects that we’re working on for 2015. We’ve got an awesome little group of designers and content managers making up the core of our marketing team. It’s a very fun and inspiring bunch to work with.
What qualities—personal, professional, technical or creative—does a role like this require?
Militant organisational skills, unflappability, an eye for detail, and the balls to go hard or go home. At a brand like BrewDog, you can’t sit back and watch a billboard campaign do the work for you. You have to be totally on top of current trends in social media, as well as in the UK beer scene. You also have to surround yourself with people who challenge you.
You need to learn how to be highly engaged with your audience. The BrewDog brand is built on passion, openness and community. We brew the beer we want to drink, so we need to show people why that’s a good thing. This can come across as stuck up if interpreted incorrectly, so our message and tone of voice is critical. The best way for us to communicate our ideas is to involve our community in everything we do.
What’s likely to be the most significant challenge facing BrewDog over the next 12 months?
We’ve been growing rapidly over the past eight years, so we’ve learned to adapt quickly; we’re exceptionally agile. However, our international expansion makes that a tougher task as we’re dealing with time zones and language barriers.
Ensuring we have the best people to convey our message is super-important. Luckily, we’ve got a mega switched-on team that work internationally. Adding to that and ensuring cohesion across communications becomes more and more important as we grow.
Where do you find inspiration or insight in the field of digital media/marketing? Are there any writers, speakers or thinkers you particularly admire?
When I started at BrewDog, James Watt (Co-founder) told me to read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. So I did, and it was like someone had shown me the light. It was a massive eye opener; something totally clicked for me, as though everything I’d learned up until then made sense. It became infinitely easier to formulate effective creative ideas.
Personally, I love everything that Victoria Coren-Mitchell writes. Although not directly linked to marketing, I relate to the way she thinks and her outlook on life.
What was your first job in the marketing industry and how have things changed since then?
My first job was in PR and marketing for fashion events, working as a three-way partner for the business. As it was a small business, I got very hands-on with a lot of different jobs. I now work across PR, social media, events, project management, copywriting, some design direction, and line manage a team of two to three people.
I struggled with making mistakes at the start. I once made a major boo-boo when contacting potential sponsors; in the process of copying and pasting emails, I accidentally named a competitor to a sponsor. I lost sleep over it and cried—I was mortified! I think it’s good to have that much attachment to your work, but I have now learned that the little things will not break you. Attention to detail has never left me, though.
I’ve also learned the importance of contacts. Never burn your bridges. Before BrewDog, I worked at Manifest London as PR account manager on the BrewDog account. Shortly before I was due to leave for a different role, James approached me and asked me to work at BrewDog. I snapped up the opportunity. This meant that I was moving from agency to client, and my old boss would become a supplier. I worked my hardest to maintain the relationship and, now, the bond between BrewDog and Manifest is as strong as it always was.
Are there any words of wisdom that you wish you’d have been given at the start of your career in marketing?
Know your worth. Don’t let anyone take you for granted.
Looking back over your career, is there any one project or campaign that you’re particularly proud of?
#MashTag, a 100 per cent crowdsourced beer, is my pride and joy. It’s been awesome. We launched it in 2013, ran it again in 2014, and are doing the same this year. Over the course of five days, our social media communities vote on the different elements of a brew—hops, malt, special twist etc—and design the label.
It’s awesome fun. It sparks debates and discussions around beer, and engages both our existing followers and loads of new folks. So far, the resulting beers have been delicious—I can’t wait to see what 2015’s round brings.
Is there another brand whose marketing strategies you particularly admire?
Innocent do great stuff on social media. Their CSR is really on-brand, and isn’t totally disconnected from their core messaging.
What’s your favourite thing to do away from work?
I am a part-time beer presenter. I present the beer features on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, have my own YouTube channel, and also present beer videos for Jamie Oliver’s DrinksTube. My ambition as a kid was to be a presenter, so I am basically living my dream as a hobby. I love it.
I’ve also recently launched a property hunt management tool with my boyfriend. We’re looking to buy a house and have been struggling to find a way to store and share all the listings we find online. So we built a solution. It’s called fortsort.com, and it’s a cool side project. It’s good to keep the cogs whirring outside of work.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the current state of digital marketing?
Traditional marketing is becoming ever more irrelevant. The changing state of the digital landscape gives power to the people. Brands need to evolve to be relevant and to maintain a position as part of the conversation. Failure to do so will be fatal. On a side note, if you post portrait-orientated pictures on Twitter, you will face my wrath.
Interview by Estelle Hakner. This interview also appears in Issue 24 of Figaro Digital magazine.