In the first part of this two-part series, we looked at innovative ways to build and retain a loyal customer base — probably the most essential element in any effective craft beer branding strategy. Among the insights offered by various branding experts:
- Gain a deeper understanding of what your target audience wants in a quality craft beer.
- Discerning customers are drawn to a brand that displays passion for its offerings.
- Offer a pleasurable experience at beer festivals, tastings and brewery tours. These positive experiences lead to invaluable consumer-bonding relationships.
This last point is worth exploring further, since most consumer-bonding relationships will likely take place in your local community. It’s a compelling reason to seek out every possible opportunity to capitalize on your local brand.
As Neal Stewart, director of marketing at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, puts it: “Craft brewers are more profitable if they sell a higher percentage of their beer in their home market.”
Know what you want from branding and positioning
Every craft beer company must answer key branding and positioning questions before they engage with consumers in their community:
- What’s the core idea behind your brand?
- Can you articulate what makes you passionate about your craft beer?
- What sets you apart from other breweries in your area?
“Together, branding and positioning tell your story in a compelling way to potential and current customers, which is why they’re so important for new breweries,” says Cody Fague and Isaac Arthur of CODO Design. “By taking a hard look at yourself and refining your branding and position, you can tell a great story about a new product that will fit seamlessly into your beer drinkers’ lives.”
“Infiltrate” local festivals
With the explosion of craft beer festivals all over the country, it’s easy to “infiltrate as many local craft events as you can,” says Lindsey Rogers, co-owner of Kick Boom Pow. You can usually find festival listings in locally published magazines or on the event pages of craft-focused websites.
The reason behind this particular approach is simple, Rogers notes: “Beer events are the fastest and easiest way to get a ridiculous amount of people to try your product that normally otherwise wouldn’t have.”
National beer festivals also offer great consumer exposure and networking opportunities for your brewery.
For example, during the most recent American Craft Beer Week (May 12-18), brewers from each of the 50 states took selfies that best represented their brewery and state and posted them on social media to help celebrate the week. (A video montage of these craft beer selfies can be found here.)
The Great American Beer Festival, which bills itself as “the premier U.S. beer festival and competition,” offers both a public tasting event and a private competition. (The 2014 event takes place on Oct. 2-4 in Denver, Colo.) While not a local event, you can still meet and mingle with distributors and breweries both from your own community and across the country.
Whatever the venue, Rogers advises bringing along a variety of beers to these events.
“We think it’s a great idea to bring a specialty beer along with a beer from your core product line that may need a little boost on the market,” she says. “Everyone’s looking for the next shiny object, so get them to come to your door by dangling that carrot and then make them remember how good your other beer is, since that was what got you the notoriety in the first place.”
Tasting rooms for fun and education
Craft beer drinkers are gregarious and love to get together and talk beer. You can help foster this community and build your brand by offering a tasting room at your local brewery.
To be effective, a tasting room should be more than just a bar and a handful of bar stools. Think about ways to enhance the appeal for your local customer base. Jason Morgan of Craft Brewing Business suggests “getting an inside look at the brewing operation, tasting limited-run beers and being in close proximity to brewers — all of which should be in the forefront of your mind when building or reorganizing your tasting room.”
Payment processing options for your brewery
Whether you’re building brand awareness for your craft beer at a festival, local event or in your tasting room, customers expect hassle-free payment options when they purchase your beer. Mobile payment processing has become increasingly popular at restaurants, bars and other independent retail operations, so it’s a natural option to consider for your business. All you really need is a smartphone or tablet and card-swiping, plug-in hardware and you’re ready to go.
Mobile processing makes payment more convenient and user-friendly — a process that complements, rather than interrupts, your customers’ experience of your great craft beer.
Know what you and your business stand for. Become active in local craft beer events and festivals. Use your brewery as a staging platform for building brand awareness. These efforts will create a community around your product — the most effective way to generate a legion of loyal craft beer followers.
Kristen Gramigna is chief marketing officer for BluePay provider of payment processing options for a wide range of businesses. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors.