Marketing - an intimidating word that means so much. I have spent countless hours pouring through books and internet trying to figure the best brewery marketing solutions for my customers. There is never a magic bullet to marketing and the answer is always dramatically different for each company.
Over the years I have had the privilege to work with some great clients, large and small. The unique experience of watching how different companies approach marketing is eye opening. Some like to be bold, screaming from the mountain tops “Here I am”. Others like subtlety; they like the customer to come to them organically.
I have previously dealt with larger forms of media such as signage and billboards. I owned a signage/ brewery marketing company for 21 years. After selling that company and taking a much needed break, my wife and I decided to mix the two things we love and start a business: beer and marketing. So Wylie Jack Tap Handles & Branding was born. We began making beer tap handles, creating concepts and refining them into marketing works of art. It is something we are very proud of.
We are currently branching out to familiar and comfortable concepts. Branding for new breweries, artwork for packaging and new product development are some of the things we’ve brainstormed. We are looking for what the consumers want and need, a niche.
We work with companies big and small; Inbev to our local brewer. I need to put on a different hat on depending on who is calling, because the customer’s needs vary greatly.
Customize Marketing Needs
Our large customers with infinite budgets go by the numbers. Follow the money! They do marketing studies and have large sales teams to lean on for guidance. They can take more risks. We often get involved with projects that end up going nowhere, which can be deflating. But there are some projects in which we are developing a completely new concept in marketing. Some real outside of the box thinking. Having money behind you allows for bigger risk and often very large rewards. For the most part we do not have anything to do with the big marketing decisions within these companies. Our job is to present new ideas and products because they love being first to market.
Our smaller customers’ marketing budgets are obviously smaller. They have to stretch that dollar further. We focus more on creating feelings within this marketing plan. Their core customers are smaller in number, so they allow us to target smaller groups with specialized advertising. A brewery will often only sell within their province or state, so we can tune the marketing to suit that. What might work in one province may not work in another. Some like to focus on certain demographics, for example women, millennials or even income levels. This allows for some very unique campaigns.
Brewery Marketing Then Vs Now
After countless hours of checking blogs, reading research papers and scouring the internet, I have found some interesting things in regards to where beer marketing is heading. Our customers have expressed concerns that the old enthusiasts are dying off and, in some cases, not being replaced by younger beer fans. Could this be due to outdated marketing, and in some cases, outdated beer? What used to work yesterday doesn’t work today. Gone are the days of the salesmen trying to sell face to face. Social media is what sells to young people, and they don’t want to be deliberately lured in or forced into a decision. They want to feel that they discovered it; this has to be special to them. There has to be a story behind their decision. There has to be a meaning or a cause to get their attention.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Marketing Today
There are advantages and disadvantages to this new age of marketing. One advantage is that big companies can’t just throw more money at the problem, and craft brewers are officially a big problem. No one wants to admit to supporting “big corporations” over “Mom and Pop local”. The playing field is not all one sided anymore. It’s not enough to just throw up a billboard or do a cool commercial; there has to be a backstory. A whole social media campaign must be linked behind the story that ties to the beer. We are now storytellers trying to make the emotional connection from customer to brewer.
The disadvantage is that it’s damn hard work. If you are not in the social media game, you are going to be left behind. The salesmen are replaced with social media specialists. Marketing meetings are not about which magazine to be in, they are about the content of the next blog post and the location of next community event we are taking part in.
How to Market to Today’s Generation
To be noticed by today’s generation, give them an excuse to lift their heads from their phones. When one person makes a discovery, it spreads quickly (making it viral!) Make your brewery marketing lure look like a discovery, not a forced marketing ploy.This breeds loyalty. News, new products…. everything, good or bad, can spread in seconds.
Craft Beer: Large vs Small Craft Breweries
The craft beer culture appreciates smaller-scale breweries because of the perceived hand crafted production and the use of quality ingredients. It is their big middle finger to corporate produced beer.
When discussing the size of a brewery, at what point are you no longer craft? I think I have heard 10 different answers to this question and am still shocked at how many craft breweries are owned by major corporations. I love to see people work hard and become successful. It’s brilliant when a small Craft Brewer becomes a big enough thorn in the side of corporate that the big guys buy him out.
However…. today’s generation believes in equality, social justice and awareness regarding what they put in their bodies. There is a fine line that is crossed for them when a small craft brewer becomes large. I call it the you/me line. Once they feel you are not in business to serve them anymore, you are in it for your own success, and that is the start of the slippery fall to the dark side.
Individual success is looked upon differently now. Unfortunately it’s negative to be successful. You’ve succumbed to the corporate greed.
Be A Successful Marketer
Marketing campaigns are now afraid of looking too corporate. You want to see a little struggle. You need to show that you’re a real, emotional person. Share the conflict. Wear a dirty t-shirt in a picture. Keep it real. Post that realness on social media.
In the end, the value of a craft brewery is more than just the beer they make. The value is in the story. The brand. The marketing.