As the Macro beer companies know all too well, marketing matters. And it matters in the craft beer business as well. Quality should, of course, be the number one priority for any brewery to be successful. But craft beer consumers also make decisions based on brand identity – they purchase beers from breweries that have a feeling they can relate to, and core values more aligned with their own.
Breweries market themselves in many different ways and even just putting the tag “craft beer” on a can or bottle immediately differentiates it from other beers on the shelves.
There are many different reasons why people choose to drink craft. For some it’s solely about the quality, for others it’s the appetite for new flavors and inventive ideas.
The “rebel attitude” and active rejection of macro brands also plays a part – or maybe you just want to support your local brewer.
Whatever the reason is, the craft beer consumer has made a conscious choice to care about what they pour into their pint glass. And every brewery (craft or macro) should be trying to prove that they are the right choice.
Again, every brewery’s core competency should be making good beer. It sounds like a no brainer but many breweries choose to use marketing gimmicks instead of just keeping it simple and about the beer.
They also need to be taking the time to educate their fans, not just about beer making in general, but why their process is the chosen one.
Many tasting rooms offer tours of the facility and as educational as those may be, they aren’t necessarily accessible to everyone. In today’s tech-savvy world, a well-chosen blurb under a flashy Instagram photo is all it takes and you can brag to your friends about your inside knowledge.
A certain level of transparency should also be present. The drinker’s experience is enriched as they learn more about where their beer is coming from and who is making it.
Many smaller breweries fail to highlight their talented brewing staff and are missing a huge opportunity here. Just like a celebrity chef sighting, seeing a brewer working (or posing) on Instagram gives the consumer insight into the types of people they are supporting.
Brewing is a skill that requires a tremendous amount of work and time, so understanding the people and equipment behind it shows the level of pride that the brewery has. For example, Stone Brewing posts pictures of their brewing team on Instagram to garner support for their events and it serves as a glimpse into understanding who actually has a hand in the beer they are producing.
Having a consistent and clear brand message is one of the most important and basic marketing concepts. Listeners would not support a band that’s punk rock for one album, country for the next so why choose to support a brewery that’s inconsistent with their style and quality?
Presenting and cultivating an image doesn’t have to be difficult and if the brewery can’t develop its image or target market, you can almost guarantee its beer is going through the same kind of identity crisis. Smaller breweries don’t have the money to spend on expensive packaging but can easily cultivate an image using free social media.
At the end of the day when the craft beer community chooses to support a local brewery, it’s wise and appropriate when that brewery takes the time to “give back.” Many breweries sponsor community events such as “fun runs,” beer donations to fundraisers, and others have even gone as far as offering brewing classes.
Some rare breweries take it a step further.
In Ventura, California Topa Topa Brewing Co. has fully embraced the surf-obsessed county they occupy and will host a four day surfboard building class in February. This is a well-designed way to cultivate an identity while connecting with local fans of both craft beer and extreme/adventure sports.
Bottom line -Anyone who loves beer is a brewery’s target demographic – and marketing that communicates a brewery’s essence can only strengthen that bond.
Originally Published Feb. 1, 2016