NEW YORK: Heineken is the most digitally engaged beer brand in the US, coming in ahead of rivals like Bud Light and Stella Artois, a study has argued.

L2, the think tank, ranked leading brands in this sector on four criteria: the quality of their website; their search, display and email marketing efforts; the compatibility and optimisation of their marketing efforts on smartphones and tablets; and their social media presence, popularity, content and engagement.

Heineken topped the rankings, earning a "genius" ranking. The only other brand to achieve a similar designation was Budweiser.

A further seven of their rivals fell into the "gifted" category, a list comprising Bud Light, Stella Artois, Samuel Adams, Coors Light, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Blue Moon.

But most beer brands are lagging behind other product categories in their approach to the digital world, the report said.

One example of this is the failure to optimise sites to cater for mobile users: 60% of beer brands rely on desktop versions of their sites, despite almost a third of keyword searches originating from mobile devices.

The report went on to describe the 14 sites that were mobile-optimised as a "content graveyard, housing recent ad campaigns and pushing users toward more engaging social media channels".

Beer brands were further let down by the failure of many sites to include a store finder: just 46% offered this facility.

Heineken came in well ahead of its competitors on all measures relating to social media and search. The brand had the most fans and highest engagement on Facebook, as well as the most Twitter followers, biggest YouTube fanbase, and most individual YouTube channel views.

It also controlled 60% of organic search in Google's first-page search results, compared to a sector average of less than 25%.

A recent site upgrade has also enabled Heineken to personalise the user experience while increasing the amount of data captured.

The report also cited Heineken's use of Facebook Connect to access users' profile pictures and other data, and incorporate them into the storyline of an online game, as an "outstanding effort".

Data sourced from L2; additional content by Warc staff