Blog post

A beer mat as a digital sign of our times

By Mark Raskino | March 17, 2023 | 0 Comments

A couple of weekends ago I spent a very pleasant Saturday afternoon and evening in Liverpool. A couple of decades ago, I’m not sure I would recommend that. But these days – the bars, restaurants, entertainment and nightlife are really vibrant. City planners have redeveloped the run down areas and re-sited university student accommodation to bring a creative, entrepreneurial population into the centre.

In one of the crowded pubs, I found an everyday object that really struck me as a milestone of our digital times.

Americans would usually call this a coaster. I prefer the British English term beer mat – less elegant but more functionally descriptive. It’s a cardboard mat that soaks up beer spills, and they are also commonly used as an advertising surface. Here’s what this one is doing:

  • Advertising a mouth spray to relieve nicotine cravings
  • To help you give up – not cigarettes..  but vaping
  • With a QR code to aim your phone camera at
  • To order from a 30 minute grocery delivery bike service called Gettir  (“get here”).

Wow. A decade ago vaping was hardly a thing at all – for example Juul wasn’t founded until 2015.  Back then, QR codes were something I only saw Japanese consumers using and grocery m-commerce was still niche – let alone the instant-gratification fast bike services. Such a high rate of digitally enabled change in our consumer lives is dizzying. But there remains an unchanging analogue anchor to keep us grounded – the beermat.

Even in a digital world, some traditional advertising media works. That’s why Don and I created a beermat to celebrate our new book about Machine Customers – the next chapter in digital advancement. Whether its tea, coffee, beer or something else – drinkers are thinkers. Cheers!







The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

Leave a Comment