Getting Crafty: Helping Craft Beer Build Market Share

December 4, 2014
December 4, 2014 Full Contact

Before we get started, let me introduce myself. I’m JP, the Strategic Planning Intern here at Full Contact. Over the past three months I’ve been lucky to learn about the world of advertising from this supremely talented group of people, and now I’m getting paid to talk to you about beer. It’s not a bad gig.

Now, on to beer. The craft beer industry has been experiencing massive growth over the past decade. For the first time since the 1800s, there are over 3,000 breweries in the United States, with more opening almost every day. Mintel projects industry sales numbers to hit $20 billion in 2014 and grow to over $36 billion by 2019. Still, only 23% of beer drinkers report drinking craft beer, leaving a massive “untapped” (see what I did there?) audience for breweries to attract. How do they do that? Well, after some brainstorming sessions around the kegerator, here are some ideas we’ve come up with here at Full Contact.

  1. Leverage your labels.

With the overwhelming variety of beers on store shelves, package designers need to make sure that their beers both look and sound intriguing. A Mintel survey revealed that descriptive packaging is a major purchase influencer among craft beer drinkers; 31% said they were swayed by packaging that featured appealing descriptors like citrus or pumpkin, and 30% were influenced by packaging that featured familiar beer terms that they enjoy like hoppy, bitter and malty. Craft brewers need to keep these trends in mind when designing their labels, because the point of purchase may be not only their first but also their last chance to win over consumers.

  1. Pique interest with personality.

This isn’t Tinder. Breweries can’t survive on looks alone. A good one has personality, and Lagunitas is a prime example. They are one of the largest craft breweries in the United States, but they aren’t afraid to tell their consumers who and what they are. With names like “Lagunitas Sucks,” “Undercover Investigation Shut-Down,” and “Censored,” their beers demonstrate the edginess of the brand and tell honest stories that big breweries would usually shy away from. In an interview with AdWeek, Todd Stevenson, the COO of the Lagunitas Brewing Company, said, “The identity and the attitude of the brewery are the important parts of the brand.” In addition to having a kick-ass product, developing an authentic voice is one way to get on consumers radar.

  1. Embrace the social aspect of your social lubricant.

Once you’ve found your voice, it’s time to start generating conversation. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and apps like UnTappd, there are plenty of opportunities for direct interaction with consumers. Breweries can now track consumer sentiment, tell their brand story, and market themselves in unique ways. Just look at Dollar Shave Club. They identified a key point of differentiation from industry shaving giants, Gillette and Schick, and marketed themselves with one wildly successful YouTube video (with over 17 million views to date). Dollar Shave Club’s video cost just $4,500 to produce, but they captured attention with a unique service, a sense of humor, and one well-timed f-bomb. Now they’re taking market share from Gillette and Schick, whose combined 2013 media spend was $228,511,222.

As a whole, social media is still an underutilized tool in the craft beer segment. Anheuser-Busch InBev brand Stella Artois recently became the first brand to purchase ads on Instagram, the leading social media outlet for consumers over 21 years old. There are countless ways that a craft brewery could take advantage of these platforms to create some seriously cool advertising, and just have a little fun.

At the end of the day, craft beer isn’t about numbers. People aren’t opening breweries to get rich; it doesn’t work like that. That’s like treating Little League like the first step in a career path to the majors rather than what it is – fun. Making beer is about passion, and sharing the result of your passion with as many people as possible. Beer brings people together, creates friendships, and makes memories (in moderation). Good advertising will identify the heart of a craft brewery and effectively project that to the public. That’s what we love about our jobs, and we’d love to talk about it more – over a beer.


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