The Only Effective Marketing out there for a Craft Brewery

"Make sure you get your tickets now for the XXX BrewFest Extravaganza 2015!! They're going fast and you don't want to miss 75 breweries in one place!"

You've received this email before. In all likelihood you've recently gotten something like this in your inbox if you're remotely connected to the craft beer world. My quote above isn't meant to be a mockery...just a general summarization of how those emails are carefully worded to convey urgency and increase ticket sales. 

Scaled out to a national level, brewfests seem to be a more common appearance than ever before. And it makes sense that this is happening. More people are interested in craft beer, and therefore, in our great capitalist society, we can sieze this opportunity for increased demand and create more opportunities for you to buy it. Let that idea ferment for a minute while we chat about something else quickly.

The idea that a craft brewery has to focus on "marketing" in order to be successful has been a centerpiece of industry thought for at least 20 years. Now more than ever, the ubiquity of craft beer has spurred enthusiasts and aspiring enthusiasts to come forth and discover the great products available from today's craft brewers. Over here at The Brew Enthusiast, we love it. 

But...we think there's a small separation between the effectiveness of traditional marketing techniques and what effects the bottom line for most breweries. Marketing at a brewery, as we know it, is a combination of:

  • Establishing a path to your customers and building awareness
  • Outlining the voice and "brand" of a brewery - including design, packaging, beer nomenclature, etc. 
  • Being a relevant brewery in a digital age (nicely designed website, SEO, social media, etc)
  • Setting the general tone and perception of what you want your customers to think about the beer and the company.

I glossed over a good chunk of the minutia, but I think that sums up most of the marketing activities. Now we come back to the brewfest. We're here and we're having a great time. We're trying new beers, discovering styles and flavors we love, and meeting a lot of awesome people. The breweries are happy to talk to you about their products. They have a whole story on how they got there, what makes their beer unique and interesting, and why you should try it. They are building a definitive report with you, their valued consumer. 

And that conversation is the only thing that matters. Putting a face and a story to the brand is, in our opinion, a zillion times more effective than clever packaging, digital excellence, and the sweetest tap handle on the tower (those don't hurt, mind you).  

As a seasoned brewery employee, I understand that brewfests get tired in a big way. Another afternoon of sampling out your flagship lager doesn't sound that rad, and frankly you'd rather go take a nap. But it's the only way to actually reach your consumer and build the awareness that the brewery needs to be successful. This is why brewery's employ a sales team. This is why that sales team goes to hundreds of these festivals...so you can talk to them, hear their story, and appreciate their beer on a distinctly human level. This is the marketing the grows a brewery. This is the only marketing that really matters. 

And it just makes the industry that much better. A product built around good times, great people, and a good story can't possibly be uninteresting.

When's the last time you went to a management consulting festival and thought "this is the coolest!"?

- Chris