In case you missed our Denver Startup Week panel on craft beer branding, “It’s Past Beer Thirty: How To Differentiate Your Brand In A Saturated Market,” (or had one beer too many during it), we’ve rounded up the main highlights and takeaways for you. This is broken down by major themes, challenges, and strategies that came up during the panel.
PANELISTS AND HOST:
- Matt Neren, Owner and Account Services Director, Cultivator Advertising
- Chad Melis, Marketing Director, Oskar Blues
- Grant Babb, Co-founder, Joyride Brewing
- Shannon Berner, Marketing Manager, Great Divide
- Steve Baker, CEO, Brandfolder
MAJOR THEMES – Local presence and feel
No matter if it’s craft beer newcomer, Joyride Brewery, or 21 year-old veteran, Great Divide Brewery, the idea of being and staying local was brought up throughout the session. Especially in the realm of craft beer, this is typically how a brewery sets their foundation and grows a loyal following. As Shannon from Great Divide brought up, there’s always going to be people who want to experience something that they know that not everybody else can have.
- Authenticity of lifestyle
Matt from Cultivator and Chad from Oskar Blues Brewery both iterated on the point of authenticity. Chad pointed to this as the reason why Oskar Blues has its hand in as many projects as they do; because they’re are truly “living the lifestyle [they] believe in”, much like the brand he noted as an influence, Red Bull. Matt followed up later by stating that Cultivator does not work with everybody because of authenticity; that they look for brands who have “authentic stories to tell the world” and that this is must be evident from their people, processes, and products.
- Passion for the craft
- There are not too many industries where passion is quite as necessary as craft beer. When Steve asked Grant about his experience using Kickstarter as a means to start Joyride, it essentially boiled down to utter love and passion. He noted that Kickstarter was a means to solidify the idea, and ensure there was belief and support in the brand. Matt hammered home the idea that p__assion is the key ingredient for any successful brand__, no matter if you’re the new brewery on the block or New Belgium.
- Staying small and feeling local
Craft beer is seeing record growth but how does a craft brewery balance growing in recognition while not outgrowing the craft name?
- Balancing growth with a great brand experience
Oh, the age old debate of quantity versus quality. Most breweries are like startups, meaning they have limited resources and everybody does a bit of everything. So, how do you ensure everything you do helps the brand grow but also stay consistently great?
- Standing out for the right reasons
- When asked about upcoming trends in craft beer, Matt replied that the beer name well is running dry. When there are over 4,000 craft breweries in the U.S. and most have at least a few different beers, it’s becoming harder and harder to be unique while also staying true to your brand and consumers.
STRATEGIES (AND TOOLS) FOR BRANDING IN CRAFT BEER
As Shannon mentioned (without prompting!), Brandfolder is the one-stop shop that helps her marketing team of one ensure a seamless experience for Great Divide. When you’re dealing with dozens of vendors and/or retailers, it’s essential to have a tool that’s “simple (to use) because you can just see all the assets of what you need to find.”
Digital Asset Management (DAM): When you have logos, ads, event posters, multiple beer labels, and more, this solution ensures you have all your correct assets in one place for anybody who needs them.
Grant and Matt both brought up quality when asked about what their digital strategy. Grant pointed out that at this stage in the game, he uses social media to drive traffic to their taproom and let their stellar quality and service win their consumers’ hearts and wallets. Matt followed up with the idea that quality is paramount in craft beer and that “being organized for small brands is even more important than in big brands because everybody does everything.”
Paid Media: Matt proclaimed that today, we live in a very different digital world. Even if you have a great brand with amazing content, you’ll still likely need to pony up in order to get enough of the right eyeballs on you. It helps that “Brandfolder helps small-to-medium businesses make effective changes.”
- Social Media Management: If you’re lucky enough to have a marketing team, a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite allows everybody to manage, update, and share across all of your social media channels from one place. It’s kind of like DAM, except for social media.
BEST QUOTES Matt Neren: “Success is when what you care about becomes what your customers care about.”
Chad Melis: “Your tribe of followers are the ones who will define your brand and make it unique.”
Grant Babb: “We’re here for the passion of it, the brewing, the love of the culture and the industry.”
Shannon Berner: “We’re trying to focus on the people behind the brand and how each of them are characters (of the brand) in and of themselves.”
*All professional photography courtesy of Leslie Van Stelten Photography.
If you’re a small-to-medium business or craft brewery, what do you do when it comes to branding? Comment below to let us know or feel free to share this recap on craft beer branding!
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