At De Standaard, we believe the ideal conditions for successful marketing campaigns should create activations and awareness, and set the scene for close collaboration between a news media brand and an advertiser.

We believe the Westvleteren coupon offer was such a campaign.

“At aedificandam abbatiam adiuvi.” Do you know what this means? 

It means, “I helped to build an abbey” in Latin.  

To find funding for the renovation of their buildings, the monks of Westvleteren raised the production of their Trappist beer and launched a product called “The Brick” —  the abbey’s 12° beer (they also make 6° and 8°) and two limited-edition glasses.

Normally, cases of beer are only sold at the gate of the abbey. It is an award-winning product and recognised by many as one of the finest beers in the world.

People travel to the monastery from all over the world to obtain the maximum of one case per person. To prevent fraud, the monks of Westvleteren take note of license plates to make sure no one returns for a second case on the same day. They are very thorough!

But this time — and only just this once — their beer was available at our retail partner Colruyt with a coupon we ran in De Standaard. Even with the coupon, The Brick cost more than €25 — not exactly cheap.

The coupon was published on a Wednesday morning. Within a couple of hours, the entire 95,000 bricks had sold out. There were reports of big disputes between people laying their hands on the last brick and people driving more than 100 kilometers to obtain one.

The monks of Westvleteren, who live a sober Cistercian life, normally produce and sell only enough beer to provide for their bare necessities. But with this one, well-targeted campaign, they succeeded in raising more than €2 million.

Had they wanted, the monks could probably have also won an Effie Case for the campaign! I just discovered that empty bricks sell on eBay for US$100. That’s a lot of money for a piece of cardboard!

What can we learn from this campaign and from our clever monks?

  1. There is a demand for the product. Westvleteren 12° is nothing less than Flemish legacy. People from around the country know the quality and reputation of the beer, and those who have tasted it are excellent ambassadors to those who have not. It’s a product of almost mythical proportions. 

  2. There was momentum. Offering this extremely scarce and poorly distributed beer created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people living on the other side of the country (even a small one like Belgium).

  3. What the monks also teach us is a lesson in product development. The Brick was no ordinary repackaging of a six-pack. It was the promise of savouring a 12° Trappist in good company. It was a limited edition. It had two special glasses. It also symbolised laying a brick and literally contributing to the monks’ building. 

  4. Lastly, and that’s where De Standaard comes in, this is a wonderful example of activation. It might look like just another silly couponing campaign, but never underestimate the power of a physical coupon. The coupon represents to the customer a material right to get what he wants.

So a newspaper with a large circulation and a high profile readership is very welcome in the scheme of our Cistercian monks.

This promotion happened two years ago, and we at De Standaard have been looking for a success story equal to this one. But we haven’t found it.