When considering how to market yourself to a global audience, it’s always a good idea to consider the kind of ideas that unite different cultures across the world, cutting through international divides. Undoubtedly, one of these has always been a love of beer, fun, and camaraderie – all three of which are outstanding characteristics of the annual Oktoberfest.
A German institution since 1810, Oktoberfest has now become a global celebration, marked all over the world – an odd fate for what started as the obscure celebration of a Bavarian royal wedding. Held on the occasion of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, the first ‘fest was a horse race held on fields outside the Munich city gates, which are now named Theresienwiese in honour of the bride (or the Wies’n for short).
One unusual feature is that, despite the name, Oktoberfest now starts in September– to take advantage of better weather – and ends after German Unity Day on 3rd October.
The beer at Oktoberfest started as a side-show, alongside the rides which first turned up in 1818, although autumn has always been a traditional time for boozy parties: as the new brewing cycle begins, brewers needed to empty the remaining casks of beer made in spring.
Now a special brew is made each year – the Oktoberfestbier – and it is such a central feature that beer in big ‘steins’ – or more correctly Maß – is the first thing which springs to mind when the event is mentioned, and most global events are hosted by bars and pubs, stripping away the other aspects – although many offer free beer to those who turn up in lederhosen or a dirndl! Millions of litres of the stuff are consumed in Munich alone every year.
For teetotallers, there are of course other attractions – including the many kinds of German sausage, or wurst, not to mention the culinary delights of sauerkraut and brezeln.
It could probably be argued that Oktoberfest is responsible for the fact that all of these German words are well known in numerous countries – an example of where the language itself has become an asset to promoting this cultural event. This is especially the case with the Reinheitsgebot, or brewing purity law, which has become a mark of distinction for the beers which still brew to the standard (which is no longer compulsory in Germany) and a ‘USP’ for Oktoberfest in its celebration of German bier.
Today, Oktoberfest attracts 6 million people to Munich – and that’s without counting the millions who attend local events internationally. Whether you’re going for the curry-wurst or the lager, this is a cast iron example of brilliant global marketing we’re all keen to celebrate!