During the holiday season, the Craft Brewing Business editors reluctantly head into the world to buy gifts and attend family gatherings. Before heading out though, let’s take a look at some of the top stories of the year from both the craft brewing industry and original features from Craft Brewing Business.
In 2013, we nearly wrote as much about marketing your beer as we did about making it. Labels, tap handles, email, contests, beer events — be sure to brush up on these and start 2014 the right way.
For some brewers, the tap handle becomes their calling card. For others, the tap handle is a traveling sales man. An intriguing, unique, descriptive or clever tap handle could mean a couple more pulls a week, which when spread out over the year, and in each of your locations, could be the spring board that changes the scope of your brewery or allows you to hit the numbers you hoped. Conversely, that dull, nondescript or unattractive handle could send your numbers in the other direction.
Let’s do a quick dive into the ins and outs of tap handle ordering and cover a couple trends that are out there in the market right now, competing with your tiny traveling sales team.
Marketing is too often boiled down into the tools —What sites should we advertise on? What’s our social media strategy? Should we sell t-shirts? — instead of the story. Focus and believe in the brand essence and message first, and then strategize the various ways to spread the word.
Speaking of spreading the word, Portable Bar recommends focusing those efforts as much as possible, specifically on the craft beer influencers, whether that’s locally or on a more national scale.
Cut and stack labels are still the most widely used option in the industry because of the cost efficiencies gained ordering them in large quantities. But pressure sensitive, a mid-tier label in terms of cost, is gaining share, growing about 3 percent a year. Shrink sleeves, the highest cost option for a brewer, has shown a 6 percent pick up and is the fastest growing, but still significantly lags in overall market share among the three.
But why choose one over the other?
Do you need a paper or poly label? Estate look or high gloss? Laminated label or varnish or raised varnish?
All of the available label design options could drive a brewer to cracking one open instead of settling on the right mix of paper, coating, colors, etc.
We asked our label sources to talk about what trends they are seeing and what options they recommend.
Craft beer, as has been noted, is in a boom time that shows no signs of slowing. The beer industry as whole, however, is settling near panic mode. Each quarter shows another dip down in the overall beer drinking population. How can a tiny segment of the beer world be thriving while the overall market, most notably the Big Beer brands, sees its biggest downward trend?
The answer could be a flight to alcohol quality over quantity for the average consumer as the rise in the sale of liquors and spirits coincides with the rise in craft beer. According to the latest data from GuestMetrics, while spirits and wine both saw volume trends improve slightly through mid-August, beer trends deteriorated.
Could the answer also be marketing? Has the once powerful advertising power of Big Beer weakened, or at least lost its message on a new audience?
Full-service integrated advertising, marketing and digital agency The EGC Group announced the launch of its Craft Beverage Division. This newest initiative will address the needs of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage brands — and is designed to help them achieve accelerated growth and exposure through strategic branding and consultation.
Craft brewers are usually a savvy bunch when it comes to social media marketing. A new platform from mobile marketing technology and communications firm VizConnect Inc. might be another tool for that marketing tool belt. Recently named one of the five top technology start-ups to watch by the Boston Business Journal, VizConnect offers an easy and affordable way for small business to easily communicate with their mobile customer using HD video.
Email communication is tricky. On the one hand, it’s easy: It’s an email! It’s inexpensive and can hit all of your audience at once. But on the other hand, there is so much email these days you have to stand out from the crowd and also set up your lists the right way so as to stay within the bounds of the law and in the good graces of your customers. OK, so it’s mostly not easy, at least if you are doing it right.
If you are a start-up or a small brewery looking to launch your brand, gain future cult followers and potentially new accounts, then your best bet is to get out there and infiltrate as many local craft events as you can. If at all possible, find someone dedicated to working a local beer event nearly every weekend. If you have problems finding events, check out local magazines or go to craft-centric websites and look at their event pages.
Not satisfied with such the cut and stack or pressure sensitive decision? Then it might be time to look at screen printing as an alternative option. We spoke with Robert Howerth, owner of Bottleprint, about craft brewers entering the brave new world of screen printing.
Essentially, the people at Bottleprint print the labels directly onto the bottle. The brewer sends the digital artwork for their label to Bottleprint, which burns screens for their labels. The brewer either ships their bottles or they use the bottles provided by the printer. Bottleprint then prints the bottles and ships them back.
Moving out of the high level and into the nitty gritty of establishing that brand, obviously Bob Morehouse, CEO of Vermilion, places the focus on the web. Start with your site, by making it engaging and informative. It should be an extension of that naming/identity you settled on earlier. Vermilion uses open source platforms and modern content management systems that allow sites to breathe and grow at the same pace as your company.
A report from the researchers at Mintel came out last week with a list of craft beer drinker demographic stats. The data might not be earth-shattering, and the numbers may reflect what one would expect, but there could be some takeaways for your business.
If the stats from Mintel are reflected in your market, discovery of new beers is popular and a majority of craft beer drinkers are young and already walk into the store knowing what they want to buy, how will this knowledge alter your marketing approach? Your distribution plan? What new ways can you create a buzz within your market to become top of mind for this experimental, knowledgeable customer?