A Story is Worth a Thousand Beers
I recently highlighted this little story from Brewbound on the front page of The Brew Enthusiast, explaining the results of an Eventbrite survey that was recently done. In summary, it's explaining that the modern generation of festival goers are just as interested in the story behind the beer as they are the beer itself. It goes on to explain our (the "millennial") obsession with beer festivals in general, and how we'd really prefer if the booths were manned by brewery representation, versus the ever-more-common "volunteer" you see staring at your blankly while you ask the most basic details about the beer in your hand.
I'll say this...I don't think you should attend a beer festival that touts more volunteers than brewery reps, unless you've got some completely awesome volunteers. If you're just trying to get drunk with your friends, grab a few 12 packs, a couple pizzas, and a frisbee and head to the nearest sunny patch of grass...you'll have way more fun for way less money, I promise.
What we are seeing here is an obvious example of the power of storytelling. The power of the experience around the "thing", versus the thing itself. This is a pervasive and highly appealing concept for marketers and businesses looking to capitalize on millennial mindshare. The idea that your content or product needs context. Your brand needs a story. Your beer went on a journey to get to your glass. It came from somewhere, it was made by someone, and it's not just some liquid sitting in 3 oz taster as your local festival.
I mean...it is just some liquid sitting in a 3 oz taster at your local festival, but that's not why it's valuable. That's not why consumers are paying 50 bucks to stand in line and try a swallow of it. They're paying for the story, even if they don't realize it. They want to be entertained.
I'm a classic example of this particular phenomena. As I explore the beer world, digging deeper every day, I'm less inclined to engage in myopic, gated conversations around a particular pale ale's SRM and hop profile (not to say I don't geek out when I can engage in that conversation). I'm naturally drawn to the wider, experiential questions about the brewery. When did this brewery get going? Where are they located? Who made the beer? These are the questions that tell the story and literally make the beer better than it was before. I enjoy the beer more than I did before, simply because I can attach a little anecdote to that flavor.
MillerCoors understands this. They made an entire YouTube Channel featuring millennially-focused experiential videos extolling the virtues, people, and story behind Blue Moon's products. They're selling you the whole experience. It's clever stuff, I'll have to admit it. Red Bull, which is actually the worst thing ever produced by humans, bases their entire brand on experiential marketing. Flying machine competitions, extreme sports, and soccer have nothing to do with a drink that glows yellow-green (seriously...it glows).
None of these insights are revolutionary. I've riffed over and over again about the power of human communication in craft beer storytelling, which is infinitely stickier and more durable than a simple tasting of the brewery's latest IPA, and it always boils down to the same thing. Are you doing things that result in your brand being valuable to your potential market? Are you creating evangelists who are literally happy to talk about your product? Are you working your hardest to wrap up your beer in the most engaging story possible?
I guess I love a good story more than your average bear, but it's food for thought. I'll continue to help tell the stories of all the great beer out there, and the great people who work hard to put it in your glass.