There’s no doubt that millennial men make up the majority of craft beer enthusiasts but brewers are missing out if they don’t invite women into their business. In a craft market that grew 16 percent last year and is becoming increasingly competitive, female consumers can make a difference. According to the Brewers Association, there are more than 4,000 breweries operating in the United States. What has until now been a very friendly industry will get more aggressive when it comes to shelf space and the fight for the local consumer.
Breweries, like most other businesses, cannot ignore the buying power and influence of women. They not only lead all consumer buying, they are influencing entertainment decisions, are avid reviewers and review readers and make up the majority of TripAdvisor and Facebook users — viable platforms for small businesses like craft breweries. We can take a cue from some of the globe’s biggest brands who are making a major shift to target female buyers: Misty Copeland for Under Armour, Serena Williams for Beats by Dre, Mila Kunis for Jim Beam and Amy Schumer for Budweiser.
In preparation for writing this article, I interviewed women in various breweries and there were plenty to talk with. Most were part of a couple or a group of friends, some were serious tasters, regulars enjoying their favorite brew and others seeking the lightest lager, preferably with fruit. When asked how they came to be sitting on the barstool, the common answer was that she had organized the outing. She researched on social media. She controls the calendar.
Don’t freak out. Targeting female craft drinkers doesn’t necessarily mean changing up branding, scrapping your current campaign or designing a pink label.
Assess your branding
You’re probably doing okay. We find that women are as happy with the masculine skewing brands as men; they feel cool being a part of the craft beer tribe. Looking at the Brewers Association’s list of top 50 breweries based on sales, there’s nothing remotely objectionable. However, there are some breweries trying hard for market attention and pushing the boundaries of taste, which women, and probably many men, find offensive. Mouth Raper, Big Tiddy Assassin, Pearl Necklace and Happy Ending are a few edgy beer names.
As brand designers, we acknowledge the graphics are usually well done and get consumer attention. If you are of the belief that all attention is good attention, don’t change a thing — but don’t expect women to support your brand. Effective branding needs to be unique, but avoid the ends of the spectrum where you’ll find angry graphics mixed with body parts opposed to messaging featuring swirly fonts and pink.
Messages to women are changing. Just look at Big Beer. They’re trying to counteract years of bouncing babes in bikinis by adding Amy Schumer as their comedic front woman — a smart move. Today’s millennials welcome diversity, uniqueness and innovation, regardless of gender. Female consumers love a good story, so spend some time on yours.
Research by packaging company, MeadWestVaco showed that 64 percent of craft shoppers purchased something new after reading the label. Give your market something unique to love. The same messages that resonate with men are not only acceptable but preferable to women, who are likely to bristle at obvious pandering. Case in point: Jim Beam didn’t change their branding; they changed their messaging with spokesperson Mila Kunis.
Change the messenger
Connecting with women is as much about where you deliver the message as the message itself. If you don’t change your advertising at all, you can still see results by putting the message where women will find it. Female consumers have desire for adventure, connection, escape and freedom. Millennial women and men align themselves with all kinds of environmental, flavor and travel interests. Wrap your brand around one of these interest groups. Target online advertising to travel, food and beverage and jewelry. Choose platforms like Instagram, which attracts 81 percent women, Facebook with 79 percent and growing social platforms like Snapchat that are female friendly.
In my experience, women travelers are especially interested in referrals. TripAdvisor is the top site indicated for making decisions to visit. Increase your ratings by encouraging reviews and responding personally to favorable mentions. You’ll find millennials have the craft beer social app Untappd at the ready and log every taste. Ratings will be increasingly important to both sexes as more and more breweries pop up in an industry that as yet shows no signs of slowing.
Including women in your marketing plan isn’t a phase. It’s an ongoing commitment. Spend as much time on your story as you do on flavor, innovation and local pride. Be gender blurred, not gender blind.