We’ve always been big fans of Lagunitas Brewing Co. The Petaluma, Calif.-based brewery not only makes some of world’s best beer (Hop Stoopid being the best bomber for your buck in America), but the maverick culture surrounding the brand and brewhouse is the stuff of craft beer mythos. Like that one story when chief marketing officer Ron Lindenbusch (who usually goes by the title of “head beer weasel)” was arrested for smoking pot at a St. Patrick’s Day Lagunitas party in the early days. We love that stuff.
So, it was kind of a big surprise when Heineken announced the acquisition of a 50 percent shareholding stake in Lagunitas last September, the fifth largest craft brewer in the United States by volume at the time. Surprising in the sense that Founder and CEO Tony Magee was known for saying stuff like this:
Selling ones brewery is selling all of ones best friend’s careers, their hearts, the portion of their lives they spent working for you.
— LagunitasT (@lagunitasT) January 31, 2013
But in the end, Magee believed Heineken was not AB InBev. He felt that Heineken shared the same ambitions and cultural qualities. We quote Magee from last September: “This alliance with the world’s most international brewer represents a profound victory for U.S. craft. It will open doors that had previously been shut and bring the U.S. craft beer vibe to communities all over the world.”
Well, now we know it will also do the opposite. It will also bring more macro-owned global beer brands to compete in the U.S. marketplace and now with a slicker marketing campaign via the help of America’s biggest craft beer brands. We guess that’s the rub. According to an article on Business Insider:
The company is using a partnership with California-based brewer Lagunitas to help modernise its marketing strategy, Heineken’s chief financial officer, Laurence Debroux, said in an interview.
Debroux said: “We’ve learned a lot from them in terms of marketing. Viral marketing, using social networks, you know these guys don’t do any TV advertising at all. They use a lot of digital, and we’re learning a lot here.”
The social nature of the craft beer movement and the American beer lover is a bit of a different animal for Heineken. In the past, the Dutch-brewing company seemed focused on global marketing campaigns and major sponsorship deals for things like the Rugby World Cup and James Bond movies. Yeah, that’s not very American, but Lagunitas very much is, so the two companies are looking to capitalize on each other to earn more of the all-mighty dollar (well played, gents). From that same Business Insider article:
Debroux didn’t give any details on specific campaigns that Heineken is working with Lagunitas on, but said that Heineken wants to “leverage what we’ve learnt with Lagunitas” and “bring the Lagunitas style to our way of business.”
In return, Heineken is using its distribution network to “put Lagunitas on the shelf in other countries,” she said.