A Question from the Audience
When I wrote the “So You Want To Open A Brew Pub” series of blog posts here as a guest blogger, I didn’t have any grand ambitions beyond giving back to the community and sharing some knowledge. The series has proven fairly popular. Today, someone who I apparently met while working for Building Opportunities with Business, put two and two together and sent me a couple follow up questions. I decided to share the answers with the rest of our readers.
Have you come across any stats/articles for the size of craft beer marketing budgets? How are they making a name for themselves in the face of the dominance of the big breweries?
I did a lot of research, craft beer in Canada/Vancouver is getting a lot of press. Articles have appeared in places like BC Business and the Globe and Mail on the rapid growth of some of the craft breweries, hundreds of percentage points in a short period of time. Obviously they are not doing it with TV ads during the Superbowl. Most of the the breweries start out with a handful of staff, 3 or 4 at most so a lot of the marketing is done by the owner/operators. Brewmasters are not anonymous and get interviewed by bloggers and sometimes mainstream media. A lot of the marketing is done at festivals, special craft beer nights at pubs and restaurants, and through word of mouth and social media.
There are ‘cask nights’ at many many establishments in Vancouver now, where you can taste a specially made beer for only a few hours then it is all gone. Now often another cask is made available at another time and venue, but some are truly ‘one offs’. The other thing you see is food pairing dinners. Where a patron pays a set fee for say three courses and three beers. The social aspect of craft beer combined with the web, smart phones, and social networks has made these events popular and excellent branding opportunities. Finally there are festivals where people pay a single ticket price to enjoy a sample of a dozen or more different beers. These have become quite successful in Victoria and Vancouver. I’d lump competitions in with festivals, I’m not sure what pays off more, winning a medal or just doing an end around distributors and retailers to interact directly with consumers.
I’d say craft breweries compete on taste/quality first and foremost. Secondly they are not faceless mega corporations headquartered in another country, you can meet and talk with the people who make the beer. Local and fresh are also key marketing points. Third they do a lot of promotional events and rely heavily on word of mouth marketing. Finally they are not afraid to take chances, not so much with marketing but with releasing specialty or niche products. Even if these truly niche beers don’t sell that well, they help make a brewery’s or brewmaster’s reputation as a talented or creative producer of unique flavours. This has a trickle down effect on the main beers a craft brewery produces.
If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. Or if you want to maintain some anonymity, I’m not a hard person to find in Google.
Many days later a story went through Twitter on how “social networks are becoming the go-to platform for alcohol marketing“. None of the examples are from the craft beer industry. However if major brands in wine and spirits along with their marketing agencies are advocating increased use of social media to promote their product, this can be taken as validation that the strategy/tactic can be very effective.
A lot of the bigger brands in the wine, beer, and spirits market aren’t even selling alcohol anymore, at least in their advertisements. They are selling ‘fun’ or ‘prestige’ or in some cases ‘tradition’. Beer is frequently marketed this way, Bud Light is a fun brand, they try to associate their brand with popular spectator sports in North America. Stella Artois would be an example of a beer brand that sells prestige. They market around the shape of their glass even how the beer should be poured. People who drink Stella Artois are obviously more sophisticated than people who drink Bud Light, or at least advertisers want you to believe that.
Lots of breweries market based on their brewing tradition, when Coors bought Molson they immediately changed the founding date of their brewery because Molson was founded earlier than Coors. Many European brands expound upon their brewing tradition, but it is also a popular angle or slant to take in North America. Sleeman did a series of ads after they were purchased by Sapporo that played up their tradition and heritage. Sleeman brewery was founded in 1834 but ceased brewing beer for many, many years so it is a bit ironic they market so heavily on their brewing tradition now.
Craft breweries don’t have the budget for expensive television commercials and studies are showing people have grown accustomed to tuning them out. So the one to one interaction with customers either in person or through social media has proven to be an effective marketing tactic for craft breweries and many of the larger corporate entities that sell alcohol. Craft breweries often market their beer as being a prestige product, much less frequently as a fun product, but it is hard for them to market based on hundreds of years of brewing tradition so they have to emphasize the craftsmanship and the care that is taken in producing their beer.
Taste is difficult to convey in video or print, but that doesn’t stop advertisers from trying… Here are three ads showing the fun, prestige, and tradition marketing angles. Taste is often not even mentioned in mainstream advertising for beer.
Written by Muskie
February 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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