This article was updated in January 2023 to reflect current market trends and pricing.
Building and maintaining a strong, consistent brand is fundamental to any marketing strategy. A solid brand fosters recognition, trust, and brand loyalty. Your marketing strategy should focus on building brand equity because it plays a significant role in your brewery’s long-term sustainability.
Brand loyalty is a key factor in customer retention. It ensures consistent repeat purchases over time, regardless of price, convenience or even a global pandemic.
An apt example is Corona beer. Sharing a name with the virus that caused us to spend much of 2020 and 2021 in lockdown the company did not actively distance themselves from the unfortunate similarity. Relying instead on Coronas strong brand equity, built upon consumer sentiment and a marketing campaign which has remained consistent for over 30 years. Corona’s ‘do nothing’ strategy appears to have paid off — Brand Finance Annual Report named Corona as the world’s most popular beer brand.
Beer marketing strategies in 2023
Traditional beer marketing strategies have predictably been male-dominated, with an emphasis on masculinity, tradition, local heritage, and culture. Marketing campaigns largely focussed on mate-ship and camaraderie. This Speight’s ad, The Dance, is all about mateship
Beer marketing for big breweries
Big breweries and beer brands have had the opportunity to build brand equity over time. Their marketing strategy has been largely supported by and maintained consistent brand elements and themes over decades. This builds trust and familiarity.
For example, Carlton United Brewery’s marketing strategy for Victoria Bitter portrays a sense of the Australian culture:mate ship, and reward for a job well done with its “hard earned thirst” campaign that ran from the 60s to early 2000s. In 2015, CUB revived the “hard earned thirst” campaign, replicating the original narration with the help of technology.
Budweiser also builds on heritage and tradition. The Clydesdale horses have been an iconic part of their brand since 1933 and even feature in their Super Bowl ads. Their 2014 Super Bowl commercial, Puppy Love, has been ranked the most popular ad in the history of Super Bowl.
Beer marketing for craft breweries
Craft beer is a unique segment in the beer industry. According to Nielsen, the average craft beer drinker is primarily male, a Millennial, and earns upwards of $75,000. The craft beer segment relies heavily on perceived value, craft beer enthusiasts expect high quality, creativity, and traditionally brewed beers with innovative flavours, using locally sourced ingredients. To really succeed in marketing craft beer and tell an authentic story, brewers need to thoroughly understand their customers.
Beer marketing strategies during lockdowns
As the world effectively came to a standstill in 2020 and large portion of 2021, many organisations adapted their marketing strategies, redirecting marketing activities to online and eCommerce platforms.
With the closure of pubs, clubs and most hospitality-related venues, beer brands needed to look for new ways to engage with consumers during the pandemic. Self-serving campaigns were out, staying safe together was in.
Some examples of smart community-oriented strategies and tactics implemented by beer brands include:
‘All Together’ global beer collaboration
Other Half Brewing Company created the All Together global beer collaboration during the pandemic. This initiative invited any brewer to use the open-source beer recipe, artwork and name to sell beer. It aimed to provide brewers with the tools to make the beer at the lowest possible cost. They should then use a portion of the proceeds to supporting the hospitality industry in their community and use the rest to keep their business running. Currently, 850 breweries from 53 countries are participating in the initiative.
AB InBev and Somnis Bedding
AB InBev partnered with Somnis Bedding, a Belgian mattress manufacturer, to buy and operate a custom-built machine to produce face masks for employees, customers, and partners. It put some of its brands to work, organising blood drives, and mobilising fleet vehicles to deliver essential food and medical supplies such as sanitisers, face masks and shields.
Good George hand sanitiser
When Good George Brewing owner Jason Macklow couldn’t get hand sanitisers for his team because it was all out of stock, he decided to take matters into his own hands. The brewing company switched some of their distilleries to make hand sanitiser in response to a shortage across New Zealand. The first batch was free of charge and was distributed across their teams and to the Good George pubs, where customers can use it, and to locals in Hamilton who might be in need of sanitiser.
Emerson Brewery’s Tiny Pub
With gathering restrictions in place, Emerson Brewery’s Tiny Pub was a genius idea. Measuring roughly 10 square metres, the fully kitted out tiny pub has enough space for two mates and the bartender. The tiny pub toured New Zealand, offering 27 minutes of one-on-one time for friends to catch up over a cold brew.
Corona’s supply chain pivot
The Corona team quickly adapted their supply chain ahead of a production slowdown. They redirected perishable brewery inventory destined for bars and sporting venues into producing more 12-packs and other best sellers to meet anticipated growth in online sales.
Support your marketing efforts with brewery software
Before we dive into some marketing strategies, you need to make sure your brewery is equipped to handle more demand after you’ve launched your marketing efforts. One of the fatal mistakes for any businesses is not being prepared for growth. Even the greatest of marketing strategies can fail if you aren’t ready to meet spikes in demand. An efficient way to manage brewery inventory is with cloud-based brewery software.
Leveraging the best brewery software will maximise inventory control and optimise production efficiency. The continuous cycle of innovation can improve cask and distribution management, order management, invoicing, and payments. Its success is easily tracked and measured.
Effective brewery software will provide brewers with Bill of Materials (BOM) functionality to help determine the total costs of a finished brew. Beer recipes are recorded in a BOM. With anticipated yields and additional ingredients added to subsequent BOMs to determine an accurate cost of what it takes to produce your finished beer.
Different beer styles will use varying quantities of brewery inventory and batches will produce variable yields. Brewery software will track and account for changes in production costs including recipe adjustments, labour costs, production yields and overheads. Accurately tracking margins by SKU, brewery software helps to protect profits and avoid budget blowouts.
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5 beer marketing ideas for 2023
1. Content Marketing
Content marketing is one of the best ways for breweries to build brand awareness, attract new consumers and to strengthen brand loyalty with existing ones. Content should build engagement and trust with your audience and provide them with something of value. Great content should inform, inspire, entertain, and engage. Content such as:
One of the easiest and more common ways of providing branded content, blogging has the added benefit of providing a storytelling platform, driving more traffic to your website, and boosting SEO rankings. Write about topics that relate to your business, and yes, talk about your products, what is new, what’s brewing, discuss some of the challenges that the lockdown has caused, and how that looks moving forward. Blog posts are a great way to add educational content to your website and can be easily shared across social media platforms and in your email marketing campaigns.
Good George Brewing has a blog where they post updates about new brews, beer venues, and most recently, lockdown musings.
How-to guides and product pairings
Craft brewing is a specialised skill and offers an opportunity to share knowledge about your beer with prospective and existing customers. Creating free how-to guides and product information material is a great way to establish a connection point that builds brand loyalty.
You could write a guide about how to serve and taste certain beer styles for full enjoyment, or how to pair individual beers with different foods. For example, a dark stout with hints of chocolate and coffee is an excellent match with chocolate cake and goes equally well with fresh oysters. Be adventurous with fun or novel ideas. A splash of ginger syrup and a scoop of vanilla ice-cream can turn your cider into a cider-spider for an adult treat on a hot summers’ day.
Video is currently one of the most popular marketing tools. It consistently performs better than any other form of media across multiple marketing platforms. Brand-focused videos can be a great way to connect with your target audience.
Don’t let video intimidate you. It doesn’t have to be swanky or professionally edited and it’s not even necessary for you to always be in front of the camera. Create a few behind-the-scenes videos of the brewing, bottling or labelling process. For a bit more substance, you can create a series of steps the production team takes to brew the latest release, or discuss your various brews and demonstrate how to properly serve different styles.
The great thing about videos is that they can be used on your website, across all social media platforms, and even embedded into marketing emails.
Epic Brewing Company creates videos showing off their newest products, behind the scenes, and on-brand humour
User-generated content is any piece of branded content not created by you. This can include tagging, testimonials, reviews and even hashtags that mention your brand. Media or social monitoring enables you to monitor mentions to interact and engage with your audience.
Great user-generated content can be repurposed and shared on your own platforms. Acknowledging the creator further strengthens their connection to your brand. Social media channels like TikTok are ideal platforms to encourage user-driven content and calls to action.
Great marketing content should educate, engage, entertain, or inspire your audience in some way. The key to success is to take time to really understand the wants and needs of your target audience.
2. Incentivised engagement
Strategic incentives motivate loyal customers already positively engaged with your brand to share experiences and pass on information. Whether your fanbase has a physical or online presence, you can create positive tangible experiences for your devotees. For example:
- Offer loyal customers early access or exclusive invitations to private events
- Offer complimentary drinks or food at your brewpub
- Offer discounts on online sales or free shipping
3. Direct to Consumer
Lockdowns and ongoing uncertainty encouraged many brewers to sell direct to consumers. For your eCommerce store to really pay off, you need to have the right brewery software to manage your products and manufacturing processes. When the orders come pouring in, make sure you have your order fulfilment processes in place or you will quickly lose customers to a competitor who does. Don’t forget, contactless delivery is the new normal for online shopping and home deliveries.
4. Conscious marketing initiatives
In recent years there has been a shift in demand for more environmental, social, and ethically sourced products. The growth in the craft beer industry has been a perfect example of consumers seeking out beers produced with quality, local ingredients. The good news is that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable beer, according to NPR.
Breweries are also embracing renewable energy sources. Victoria Bitter uses 100 percent offset solar for its brewing process. Renewable solar energy is a good brand fit for Sol beer and there are many other smaller independents, brewpubs, and micro-breweries such as Sierra Nevada, Arizona Wilderness Brewing and the Maine Beer Company all adopting solar.
Conscious marketing is the way forward for engaging with conscious consumers. Seek out ways for your brewery to get involved in conscious sustainability like how Wanaka-based B.effect recycles spent grain to provide animal feed and compost to local farmers.
5. Tap takeovers and collaborations
Tap takeovers often form part of a marketing strategy that enable craft breweries to showcase a larger range of beers by temporarily taking over more taps than the number normally offered by pubs and bars.
Takeovers are popular with craft beer enthusiasts and those new to craft as it gives them the chance to sample a greater variety of craft flavours and styles. As restrictions ease and hospitality venues reopen to larger numbers, tap takeovers are a smart way to engage with socially thirsty punters new and old.
Another great way to leverage another company’s fanbase is to collaborate with them — they don’t even have to be other brewers! Kiwi brewing company, Behemoth, has partnered with some notable brands such as Emersons, Fix and Fogg Peanut Butter, Flight Coffee and many others.
Behemoth collaborated with NZ Cheese to host a virtual beer and cheese event
6. Promote seasonal and short-run beers
FOMO or the fear of missing out is a great driver of sales. Seasonal and short-run batches are extremely popular with craft enthusiasts, creating a natural form of scarcity marketing. Seasonal beers offer something new and generate a level of anticipation.
Seasonal examples include collaborations with other brewers that prove to be a popular strategy for one-off, short production runs. Others are those traditionally brewed once a year such as Saison that uses the last of the summer barley crop or heritage ciders, hand-pressed with locally sourced apples. Seasonal offerings can also be tied to community initiatives such as the Garage Project’s Talk to the Hand brew in its second year of release. Talk to the Hand is a partnership between Garage Project and Deaf Aotearoa that supports NZ sign language week.