The most successful craft breweries in America produce incredibly varied offerings, are largely regionalized in different corners of the country, and depend largely on word of mouth for marketing beer to new drinkers. These are big challenges, but in a market that shows substantial growth, breweries are reaching target audiences not through the beer, but through a well-executed brand strategy.
Any brewer can develop a recipe that is palatable, perhaps even exciting. Once someone tastes the beer, they may enjoy it. However, there isn’t much incentive to try the brewery’s other offerings without some sort of brand familiarity to bridge the gap. Good beer alone does not a successful brewery make, evidenced by tens of thousands of home brewers nationwide producing great tasting beer who have failed to reach any market outside of friends and family sitting in a basement bar on a Sunday afternoon.
One needs only to take a cursory glance at a successful craft brewery’s offerings to see that consistency of style in branding, packaging, and marketing leads to strong relationships with consumers who will choose that product time and time again. Dogfish Head, known primarily for their excellent 90 Minute IPA(India Pale Ale), produces 60 Minute, 120 Minute, and special 75 Minute versions which hit the store shelves and quickly disappear due to the rabid loyalty for the brand. Clipper City Brewing Company, makers of Heavy Seas, a “fleet” of offerings built upon a pirate theme, also has a devoted brand following. When a new Heavy Seas brew is released, the unique packaging and marketing drives sales with devoted customers eager to try the latest offering from a brewery they know and appreciate.
These and many other craft breweries have earned the trust of target audiences by maintaining a uniformity of brand image key to the success of any brand, regardless of the industry. Against a 1.0% decrease in overall U.S. beer sales in 2010, the craft beer market managed to grow by 11% in volume and 12% in dollars. Beer is an industry of fiercely loyalist tendencies. It is evident that strong brand value and a well executed marketing strategy can generate the high level of consumer confidence earned by craft breweries across the country.
In an age where competition is as high as consumer expectation, building confidence through a unified brand and well executed strategy is priority.