Six Pack to Brewing Success – Part 4 – Getting people to buy

When we last left this seemingly never ending series of posts we examined some of the better ways to get people to try your beers (I note that Moondog had a ‘showcase’ pack in stores last week, perhaps they have been reading the blog, would have thought they had better things to do, like changing the face of the Australian beer industry) but hell everyone loves free/cheap beer so how do you covert the trial into sales?

Now although this chapter is called – ‘Getting people to buy’ it could more correctly be called ‘distribution’.  As with all the other areas we have looked at there are a lot of things to consider.

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Six Pack of Brewing Success – Branding

An Effen awful idea

If I had a dollar for every time that someone told me they had a great beer on the weekend, but they can’t remember its name I’d be a rich man. Well not rich, but I have slightly more money than I have now, although I’d probably just spend that money on beer, so then I’d have the same amount I have now, but I would have more beer which would be good.

After producing good beer, branding it well has to be the most important thing a brewery can do and like most things there is quite a bit to consider. 

The brand name is a good place to start. Now first and foremost, puns and in-jokes may be funny, at most once, but then you are just labelled with a stupid name. No one wants to order an Effen beer, it’s childish and dumb.  

You should remember particularly if you are on tap that you are going to need a name people can pronounce. This is more a issue for international brewers than Aussies, but if you were Zierholz, Kooinda or Lobethal you might want to think about it, and if you think I’m being picky you’d be surprised how many people pronounce words wrong, or worst still for your brand, avoid having to say it at all. On a side note if anyone can explain how to pronounce Nogne O correctly I’ll be forever in your debt.

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Six Pack of Brewing Success – Part 1 The Product

Let’s start with what every beer geek will tell you is the most important thing, in fact they will tell you it is the only important thing – the product – what’s inside the bottle, can, growler or keg.  This is also the reason that most brewers get into the business, they love beer, they love creating beer recipes, pushing the boundaries and producing great, high quality product.
But what should you brew? If you are a brewer chances are you have beer tastebuds that are developed far beyond the general public, including most beer geeks, but you are running a business here and you can’t sell your beer to yourself so you have to consider what the public want.
And here starts one of the biggest fights in the beer geek community. God forbid you are a craft brewery that is ‘playing it safe’ by producing what there is demand for. All beer geeks think everyone should produce beers that are targeted absolutely directly at them, even though we can’t actually agree on what beers we like.
I’ve discussed Thunder Road before; they are a Melbourne brewery putting out perfectly acceptable, if a little boring (to beer geeks) pale beers. The strange thing is there is an unnatural level of hatred for them amongst the beer geek community.
Thunder Road are unashamedly going after the mainstream beer drinker. Phillip Withers the owner of Thunder Road told the SMH:
”It’s important to respect the 98 per cent of beer drinkers who don’t drink craft beer, because they are the ones we need to convert,” Withers says.
”They deserve to have as close to what they enjoy already but better. We would love people to all be drinking IPAs but some are going to be scared off.”
It’s a simple enough philosophy; produce a better version of the style of product that the market is already drinking and it’s the exact model that a brewery like Thunder Road would need. If you don’t know anything about them, the description in this article sums it up nicely as a ‘money-is-no-object brewery’. I’m sure money is an object (rich people don’t get rich by being dumb) and they know that if you want to make serious money you need to produce mainstream styles.
Sure do them in a craft beer way with a focus on quality ingredients, but if you want to carve out significant market share you are going to have to go after the pale lager loving, beer garden market. 

The Moondog Boys in their makeshift brewhouse

At the other end of the spectrum is Moon Dog who I have also discussed on here a few times. Now these guys are absolutely the brewery that all beer wankers love to see. Three guys (unfortunately only two and a half beards between them, but we can forgive that), completely ramshackle, a do it yourself vibe and small scale. I assume they have low overheads (for the notoriously capital intensive brewing industry) and therefore they can take risks.

They produce risky beers; pumpkin, plums, coffee, pineapple, coconut, all sorts of things are in their beers They are playing at the ragged edge of where Australia’s beer tastes are and are heading. Some people will love the beer, probably just as many will hate it. It’s a niche within a niche and I’m not entirely convinced it’s actually big enough to sustain a brewery, but I could be, and often am, completely wrong.

To make this approach work you have to accept that you are only going after a small market and you have to treat them as special. It’s going to be a huge amount of one on one communication, talking to people at bars, on twitter and in blogs.

I would suggest you might need to be charging a premium for the product as well and you’d have good cause to given it’s unique and one assumes it’s limited. Of course with a higher price comes an expectation of higher quality, unfortunately quality control has been a little patchy at Moondog, but beer wankers are a forgiving lot (assuming we like you to start with) so they will be fine.  

Which approach is right? Well both, or none, or maybe one of them. I’ve discussed this article before, but let’s face it in the blog world no one reads old entries so I’m going to quote it again. There were some dudes in the US who did a correlation study between sales growth (and you should note it’s growth not volume) and ratebeer scores and found:
By analyzing hundreds of thousands of beer reviews, Clemons found that the brewers whose sales grew the most were not just those with high ratings, but those with the biggest gaps between their highest and lowest ratings.
“It is more important to have some customers who love you than a huge number of customers who merely like you,” the paper concludes — even if your beers are so intense that they turn off a lot of potential customers. “Good, solid, likable, average, middle-of-the-range new products that consumers neither love nor hate will not sell.”

So that suggests that raspberry-infused coffee stouts that half the beer wanker population love and half hate will produce sales growth. Having said all that the article goes on to speculate, when discussing the success of Three Floyds brewery:
But one factor trumps the others: “They picked styles that America truly loved and they made them extreme but not too extreme.”
It’s possible, Clemons notes, to make a beer so edgy that nobody likes it. The key is to be as different as possible without being just plain weird.
So maybe success actually lies somewhere between the two approaches. Produce styles that people like, or perhaps more importantly styles you think the market will grow to like.
We can see that the two biggest selling craft beers are Little Creatures and Fat Yak (both pale ales at around 30-35 IBUs) so perhaps the best approach would be to produce a more extreme version, say a 45 IBU pale ale and then grow them to a 60 IBU IPA and then to a 80 IBU Imperial IPA.
And this is the approach of EPIC brewery, which is one of the most popular craft breweries in New Zealand and increasingly pushing into the USA. Their entry level beer is the pale ale (45 IBUs), but also in the range is the Armageddon (60 IBU) and Hop Zombie (80 IBU). And for the ‘I did a weird fruit infused beer’ crowd they have the Portamarillo, which is made with tamarillos and the Fig and Coffee Stout.

So there are a few approaches that you can take, play it safe lagers all the way through to completely nutbag weird shit. You can probably find a market for both, even if they are different sizes, you just need to understand the market you are making the beer for. 
Possibly interesting epilogue. GABS is approaching later this week. 60 craft beers, some relatively safe, some way out there. There is a ‘People’s Choice’ award where the punters vote for their favourite beer. The questions, what will win? A ‘safe’ choice like Thunder Road’s Richmond Pilsener, or maybe Bridge Road Imperial Lager or something way out there like Moondog’s Mr Mistofflees (clearly the brewers are big musicals about pets fans) which is a passionfruit and mango wild ale or The Monk Brewery’s Sweet Potato Porter.  My guess is it will be a ‘safe’ beer.

The Six Pack of Brewing Success

I wonder what this "Beer" they speak of is

So last week I briefly mentioned that I believe that there is a six pack of craft beer marketing success. I chose six because I know that all beery folk think of things in 6 pack units. See already I’m targeting my message to my audience, that’s number one. Well actually it’s not number one, but you should know that all good marketing starts with an understanding of your audience, the best advice I could give anyone when selling anything, ‘Know your audience.’

Think about it, you are at a party and you spot a fine specimen of the opposite sex, or same sex if you are that way inclined. You would like this person to be your lifelong partner/special friend for the rest of the night. If you know absolutely nothing about her it is going to be tough going, you are going to pussy foot around and you run the risk of throwing something out there that is going to get you slapped in the face.
But what if you’ve done a little scouting mission, talked to her friends, found out that she loves horses and the musical stylings of Burt Bacharach circa 1964, then all of a sudden you drop into conversation that you think Riwoche horses are so cute, then you serenade her with ‘There’s always something there to remind me’ and bada bam bada bing, you’re in.  
So as you read the rest of this remember you should always try to see everything from your customers’ perspective, they may not be as enlightened as you, not as educated as you, and they certainly will not care about your product as much as you do. But they are willing to hear about it, try it, and love it. 
So, without further ado here is The Six Pack of Microbrewing Success. 
1. Get the product right – Make the right products for your target and for the market conditions. If the market is full of pale lagers, should you go with the flow and make a pale lager, or do you Zag (as in zig zag, I’m not suggesting you hire a clown) and produce a stout?
2. Getting people to remember it   – There are thousands of beers out there, how is anyone going to remember yours?
3.  Getting people to try it – We all know that ‘if people just try it they will love it’ so how do you get people to give it a go?
4. Getting people to buy it – Or more specifically making it easy for them to buy it. Distribution has to be the biggest downfall of most craft brewers, could it be overcome with innovative thinking?
5. Get people to talk about it – How do you build brand advocates and how do you stop them destroying your brand?
6. Get people to buy it again and again – Building loyalty.
My theory is that you have to have a strategy for dealing with all of the above, get most of it right and your craft brewery should be a success, get them wrong and you will struggle.
Over the next six weeks (and I can’t believe I’m committing to a six week/six post long entry) I’ll be looking into all of these areas in detail.

Or you could just back a truck of money up to Charlie Sheens door like Bavaria did (This is for their non-alcoholic “beer”)