There’s a new brewery. You know the story.
Two friends, their mates, and a dog, decided one sunny day over a beer to take their homebrewing prowess to the next level, and start a backyard brewing project called (insert miscellaneous pun) Brewing Co.
Recognise the story? Pick the brewery. If you can’t, you will realise just how same-y craft beer marketing has become.
While that classic yarn spawned the modern craft brewing industry, experts are warning brewers that communicating brand messages and focusing marketing strategies are incredibly important to the longevity of breweries in the craft brewing industry.
Wade Curtis, former Head Brewer and General Manager of Queensland’s 4 Hearts Brewing Co, said that brewers must “be as creative with their brands as they are with their beers” and to stop with the boring repetition so many industry professionals have become used to.
“Just as 100 different pale ales are boring for consumers, the same goes for 200 craft beer brands with the same back story.”
For Curtis, passion for the industry isn’t enough for a craft brewing business to stand out in this crowded market – they’re going to need another point of differentiation.
With 20 years experience in corporate marketing and having worked for companies like Smiths, McDonalds and Virgin Australia, Curtis said that brewery positioning has never been so important.
“Your positioning needs to follow the broader trends in society, there’s no point owning an irrelevant position in the market.”
“At the same time, it’s definitely best to mean something to someone.”
Following Coopers’ announcement last month of a 9.1 per cent sales decline, and after 24 years of reported consecutive sales growth, Curtis’ message is more timely than ever.
Zoe Ottaway of Totem Marketing and regular guest on Radio Brews News, said that because the craft beer category is so cluttered, her fear is that the industry will see some good breweries go under and it won’t be because of their beer.
Rather it will be because of a lack of awareness of who the customer is and how to engage with them effectively Ottaway said.
“All brands, beer or otherwise, survive because they’ve managed to create a tribe of loyal and biased customers.”
For these are the most profitable customers.
“Anyone can be your customer but it is these consumers that your marketing efforts should go towards,” she explained.
“You can’t be everything to everyone with your marketing (or brewing!) so don’t try to be.
“Even huge organisations such as Apple, McDonalds and Coca Cola and their mega millions budgets don’t try to do this, so small breweries shouldn’t either.
“What they do is work hard to be front of mind with those who they have identified as being their target customer.”
Her advice to craft breweries is to develop relationships with their customer base.
“These are the people you must always be talking to and keep them feeling appreciated and valued as your customer.
“These are the people who will choose your beers over others, will buy a six pack or case over trying just a single bottle, who will visit your brewery and, most importantly, will work as an advocate on your behalf.
“Word of mouth is the most trusted form of advertising, it is likely to be heard by those who share similar interests and it is free!”
Ottaway tells brewers to ask themselves the following two questions.
“‘What is is about your brewery that is undeniably you? and ‘What makes you different?'”
“Every brewer stands for quality and passion – what drives you as a brewery might not be the same thing that consumers see in you.
“It might be important to you how your brewery started, especially if you quit a comfortable corporate gig to chase your dream, and rightly so, but with 500+ breweries likely to tell that same story, consumers may appreciate the background but it won’t be enough to create that bias over other breweries.”
As breweries grow and mature, their initial customer base may change.
Ottaway said in that in this way it is important to revisit your customer base and ask questions like who is coming into the brewery, what are the best sales and how does social media impact the business.
Her advice to brewers is, don’t do something just because someone else is doing it.
“You’ll waste a lot of marketing budget – or just your bottom line – that way.
“Reach the people that count, don’t count the people you reach.”