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I’ll drink to that!  In fairness, I’ll drink to just about anything.

Lyft – the second largest ride-sharing company in the US – is teaming up with Chicago’s Baderbrau Brewing on Five Dollars Off Star Lager.  In a test being rolled out in Chicago (with the goal to expand rapidly into other markets), Five Star Lager will be offered exclusively in bars, with each 12-ounce can featuring a discount code for as much as $5 off a Lyft ride.  The beer is even named for the Lyft rating system, which all else being equal is no better nor worse than any other beer name out there.

In a world where we’ve been conditioned to believe that only digital advertising and promotions can be cutting edge, let’s take a look at all the things Lyft is doing right in executing something that in practice is nothing more than a coupon on a can of beer, but in reality seems like so much more:

  • They went where the competition isn’t: Sure, Uber is ubiquitous to the point where it’s been turned into a verb (as people Uber home from wherever it is that people without children go).  But while it’s already on a great number of smartphones (and has a sizable, though shrinking, lead in downloads), you know where it’s not?  Sitting in a cooler behind a bartender, who’s probably getting spiffed for every Five Star Lager she sells.
  • They demand immediate action: Uber and Lyft sign-up discounts are everywhere.  But what makes this one different is you’re not (at least legally) going to stick a can of Five Star Lager in your backpack and use your coupon later.  You’re going to do it right that second, or else you aren’t going to do it at all.  Talk about your ability to measure ROI!
  • They figured out how to drive downloads: A direct corollary to “they demand immediate action,” for Lyft to close the ridership gap with Uber it needs to first get to home screen parity.  That means it needs to increase the number of people downloading the app to their phone so that, next time that person needs a car, it’s at least a fair fight as to whether he orders Uber or Lyft.  This is a step in the right direction.
  • They figured out how to drive repeat: I thought about using the word “drive” in every key takeaway.  Too obvious?  Even if Lyft doesn’t become a person’s preferred ride-sharing service, after download it’s at least now a viable alternative.  And on those rare occasions where you are forced to decide between paying Uber’s surge pricing and making your next student loan payment, at a minimum you now have a viable alternative (and at a maximum a new preferred ride-sharing service).
  • They created a win-win for Lyft and Baderbrau: In general, being kind of old-school (or maybe just plain old), I’m a much bigger believer in win-lose than I am win-win, but this seems just as likely to drive trial for the local Chicago brewery as for Lyft.  Throw in the fact that it’s getting “a heavy marketing push of posters, glassware and coasters” that I’m assuming are funded to a large extent by Lyft, and everyone seems to come out ahead.
  • They’ve reflected the perfect ethos for a challenger brand: Lyft knows it’s not currently winning the ride-sharing race (see, I did it again), so rather than match Uber promotion for promotion (and in fairness Lyft is doing this, too) it’s decided to offer something different.  Being distinct is almost always better than being the same, especially in a cluttered media landscape.

I’m in whole-hearted agreement with Will Burns when he writes in a recent Forbes article, “The genius of this little idea is that it gets the Lyft branding in front of customers at exactly the moment they will need Lyft most: while drinking alcohol.”  That is the standard of all the best promotions, quite frankly.  To be clear, the “when they need it most” part, not the “while drinking alcohol” part (though that never hurts, either).

So enjoy last call, and let Lyft get you home safely.  And remember, whether in ride-sharing or advertising…it matters how you get there.