I like beer. But, when I tell people that I like beer, I’m not talking about the big three American brands you’d expect to see at college frat parties. I like craft beer. Small, local craft beer breweries have exploded in popularity across the US in recent years, and oddly enough, their massive growth has taught me a thing or two about marketing a brand.
Right off the bat, the flavor and variety of choices do have something to do with why I enjoy craft beers so much. But, while there’s nothing quite like the bite of a good IPA, or the complexity of a mocha stout, their flavors alone don’t endear me to certain craft beers. When I think about what truly speaks to me as a beer drinker and consumer, it’s the distinct, creative, and proud brands the various craft brewers have created for themselves.
Each brewery markets its beer differently, and none seems willing to back down on their brand image. In a sense, they’re not ashamed to be themselves. But, what did that teach me about marketing a brand? A lot. Looking at how craft breweries present themselves and their beers to the public, I’ve taken away a few key points that are applicable to any brand. So, let’s take a look at what we can learn from craft beer marketing.
1. Have pride in your brand. One of the first things I’ll usually ask someone when they tell me about a great new beer they tried is, “Where is it from?” To me, it seems that small craft breweries take extreme pride in where their beer comes from, so I like to keep location in mind as I enjoy their beverages. Though a beer brewed in Philadelphia may be quite similar in taste to one from Denver, the attitude and locational context provided by different cities helps to frame the brand identity for me.
These small, proud brands have embraced the fact that they can’t please everyone with their products, and they’re not afraid to market themselves based on that fact. Everything from graphics to bottle style serve as unique identifying aspects of craft brews and many breweries have made names for themselves based on their distinct personal style. And while some people hate the strong, harsh bite of a bitter brew, some breweries have built their entire business around insanely bitter and traditionally “unpleasant” beer.
When marketing any brand, though, resist the urge to try to please everyone. While there may be a broad solution to a product that would satisfy a multitude of audiences, many brands excel at marketing just one or two specific products. In craft breweries, we see a prime example of “quality over quantity” when compared to the giant national beer brands. In some senses less is better, right?
4. Have a passion for your product. It’s as simple as that. The biggest piece of marketing advice I’ve taken away from my experience with craft beer is that passion shines through if you let it. After seeing an amazing cinemagraph of the Dogfish Head brewing process, I was hooked. The passion oozes out of the series of moving images. To this day I think of the images when I order their beer, the hands-on process of the brewing still fresh in my mind. It’s passion like this, and dedication to the crafting process that shows a sincere and genuine love for the product that small breweries are producing. We could all learn from them in that regard.
It’s easy to be passionate about a product you love. So, my final take-away? Market something you love and your passion will show through.
EDIT (05/22/13): I found this post recently and thought it was too good to not include: Logo Design Tips with 8 of the Best Looking Craft Beer Brands.