Picture yourself walking into a specialist bottleshop. Nod politely and say “G’Day” to the bloke behind the counter – they always seem to be good blokes.
Now, wander the shop. Buy a beer.
What makes you choose one beer over another? What is it that leads you towards a certain beer rather than the one sitting next to it? What is it that makes you stop halfway down the beer aisle and mutter softly, “Oooh! Might have to get me one of those!”?
The marketing gurus have large bookshelves full to bursting with large books full to bursting with scientifically based research and testing that explains why you choose the things you choose when you’re out shopping. But that’s all too technical for now. Instead, let’s take a ‘gut-feel’ kind of approach to consumer mentality.
What really influences your purchasing decision? What subconscious factors are at play as you scan the selection? Do your tastebuds tell you what to buy or does the “Beer of Occasion Future” lead you to plan ahead? Are you weighing up what food you’ll be eating with a beer with or is it the other way around and does the beer suggest the dish?
There’s probably a little bit of all of these factors and more bouncing around in your head as you reach and read and touch and feel. The brewery or the brewer him/herself will most likely get a thought or two and selections might be made based on ‘supporting the little guy’ or ‘supporting the big guy based on loyalty’.
The marketing people talk about the ‘decision tree’ that influences our purchases – and therefore influences the look, the price, the packaging and the position of the beer they want to sell you. If you can visualise for a moment a tree. Got it? Good, let’s continue. The roots are sort of like this; “I want beer.” The trunk is; “Here I am outside First Dan’s Thirsty Choice Liquor Superstore to buy some beer.”
Now the tree starts to branch out suddenly. “Six pack or single, dozen or case? Do I really want to get four different sixers or just … hang on, maybe I should get a couple of special singles as well … is Shags coming over this weekend or next … better grab a couple of longnecks … bugger … and a case … what do I feel like? Session beers or some hop bombs? Might just see what’s on special…”
And before you know it, you’ve made about ten little decisions before the automatic doors have even gone *BING!!*
For many of us, of course, the decision is left until we meet the friendly face of our local specialist retailer and we allow him or her to suggest something and do all the thinking for us. But for most, sadly, we must use the large soulless Beer Barns ‘R’ Us and it’s either you or the spotty 18-year-old who doesn’t know a Schofferhoffer from a Scheizenheimer and you are left to make all the important decisions alone.
The packaging and labelling always have some sort of impact with new brands or offerings jumping out and piquing your curiosity and old favourites beckoning from the deep recesses of fond memories. And let’s not ignore the single greatest driving factor – price.
Without thinking about any of this consciously, we probably all take each or many of these factors into account before striding proudly towards the cash register and plonking a mixed six on the bench and continuing that nod-and-smile game we began half an hour earlier.
But what about the name? I don’t mean yours or the guy in the shop, but the beer. And the brewery. Do these simple collections of letters and symbols have any effect on what we choose to buy? The marketing blokes would surely say “Yes. Yes they do!” And I would probably agree. Have a quick think and you’ll probably be able to recall a time when you picked up a beer based on its name and said; “I like that! Let’s have a crack!”
And this lure should not be discounted when it comes to the Good Beer novice who, for whatever reason finds himself in the ‘other’ section of the bottle shop – you know? The one that doesn’t have ceiling-high stacks of discounted slabs of Multi-nat macro lager? There must be countless occasions when he has grabbed a six pack of ‘something a bit different’ because the name caught his attention or gave him a giggle.
Animals seem to be a popular bait with the marketing department as evidenced by the following examples; Fat Yaks, Bee Stings, Bluetongues, Schweinhunds, Savage Seagulls, Fireflies, Dogbolters, Bulldogs, Hop Hogs, Elephant’s Trunks, White Rabbits and Black Giraffes.
And it would seem that attaching a persona or a name to your beer is highly thought of as evidenced by your Hans Klopeks, Mad Abbotts, Punk Monks, Spartacus’s, Rogers and James Squires. Taking that motivation a step forward and trying to appeal to a narrower, more testosterone-driven consumer base you have your ‘girls-next-door’ type Skipping Girls, Maidens and Alpha Queens while those looking for more of a ‘night club liaison’ might be drawn to either of the Temptresses, Big Helgas, Horny Blondes or Growlers.
Put this totally unscientific and pointlessly inconclusive research to the test next time you visit your bottle’o. Wander the aisles and see if something grabs your attention just because the name makes you smile. Or laugh. Or groan.
The marketing people will be thankful that, at the very least, you accept their existence.