Beerlines

Insights on beer marketing & PR by a beer-war vet

Archive for the 'Beer marketing' Category

08 March
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Beer provenance revisited: lack of transparency still a hot issue

On the matter of beer provenance I must highlight and hat tip the role Matt Kirkegaard, arguably Australia’s leading beer commentator and blogger, has played in bringing this issue to prominence.

After penning my previous post I came across an earlier post and podcast by Matt about beer provenance concerns. I urge you to read and listen to this interview with Dr Chuck Hahn by clicking on the RBN pic immediately below. Maybe miss the preamble and start 10 minutes in.

rbn chuck

While contacting Matt, beerlines took the opportunity to quickly interview him on beer provenance and secure an update on his thoughts.

Beerlines: “As Editor of Australian Brews News is provenance becoming more important? If so is there any variation between small and big brewers?”

Kirkegaard: “It’s an interesting question.

“As our shelves become more cluttered with a wider array of beers, consumers are looking to brand values as much as flavour to aid their selection.

“It’s here that provenance can really matter. It’s also here that large and small brewers can be pushing things a little too far and muddying the provenance waters.Byron_Bay_Pale_Lager_Carton_6_x_4_330ml

“While it’s very easy to point the finger at beers such as CUB’s outright deception with Byron Bay Lager, or LION’s highly dubious labelling of Kosciuszko Pale Ale, they can quite rightly point their fingers at smaller brewers who have taken the ‘we don’t hide it, but we just don’t advertise the fact’ line when it comes to own their own contract brewing.kosciuszko

“It really doesn’t matter to the quality of the beer, but the unwillingness to be open gives everyone the right to hedge a little and that hurts craft.

Unwillingness to be completely upfront .. lowers the craft bar
“While in one sense I can understand their thinking, it’s the craft brewers’ own unwillingness to be completely upfront that allows the debauching of the craft beer market by the likes of Coles’ Steamrail brand for example: indeed one beerlines used in earlier posts.

new dan murphys_1480

“When Coles can point to their product and say, quite honestly, that it comes from the same brewery as Mountain Goat’s Steam Ale and Summer Ale, and Mountain Goat offers nothing to differentiate their beer .. well, it lowers the craft bar. Read more…

09 February
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Does beer provenance make a difference?

The title of this follow-up to ‘Australian owned: does it make a difference?’ was going to be ‘Australian made: does it make a difference?’

But I’m diverted by growing rumblings of a more fundamental issue: and that’s provenance.

Often used in connection with wines, the provenance of a beer, I understand, relates similarly to transparency over where and how a beer is brewed and, sometimes, who brews it.

I hear of a growing number of beer outlets where the owner/manager is choosing to serve only beers with very clear provenance.

Priggish about provenance
Indeed, some are taking a strict, verging on priggish, line on provenance.Soup-Nazi

This will surely upset some brewers both big and small.

For big brewers like CUB/SAB-Miller and LION, provenance concerns may rule out serving a beer brand which was not brewed at its home brewery: preferring brewery of origin as it were.

This may apply to a few global brands sold in Australia: Stella Artois, Heineken, Becks brewed in Australia or Asahi brewed in Thailand are candidates.

Concerning the big guys also, this thinking may extend to brands like Matilda Bay’s (i.e. CUB) Fat Yak ‘craft’ brand which, I understand, outgrew Matilda Bay’s new Port Melbourne home and is brewed at scale at CUB’s large Yatala Brewery in SE Queensland.

For smaller brewers this strict interpretation of provenance might rule out those who own a brand but choose to contract brew or cuckoo brew elsewhere via commercial arrangement. The craft brewer Doctor’s Orders admits it is a cuckoo brewer for example.

Breweries are the equivalent to terroir in wine making
“What I offer is breweries and all that goes with that. It’s like terroir with wine. I’m much less interested in the wine maker or the brewer in this case,” said one hotelier who was particular about this.

Faux craft fail whales
I don’t think there are any surprises that provenance concerns were quick to exclude contracted ‘craft’ brews by big retailers like Coles and Woolworths.

Often with cartoon-like branding, the thin credentials/provenance of many of these brews clearly deserve disparagement as ‘faux craft’ beers.

new dan murphys_1480

Does provenance make a difference?
For me: yes.

My time in brewing exposed me to many prolonged frustrations experienced by brew teams trying to match beer brand tastes from one continent to another.

Have you ever tried Foster’s in England? Ok – probably not. QED.

Or even within Australia; Castlemaine Perkins’ brewers for example could never brew Swan Premium at Milton – it always tasted like XXXX (funny that). And VB or Carlton Draught in Queensland are decidely different to their Victorian-brewed equivalents: to my taste anyway.

And let’s face it: why is there such a strong parallel import market for the original Stella and Becks and other global brands?

It’s because those who loved the original taste aren’t getting it. And ‘yes’ of course, there is the issue of knowing that it’s not the ridgy-didge original anyway.

Brewers always say drink fresh local beer. I fully endorse that.

However I’m also fine drinking a Heineken or Guinness if it comes from the brewery of origin – aged though it may be.

Transparency rules: inform inform inform
There will always be purists and ‘beer nazis’ who will never rest. From a marketing communications perspective however, what the consumer wants most is transparency.

Don’t try to be tricky with me. Don’t make the print small. Don’t hide stuff I might be interested in.

Be open; make a clear effort to over-inform.

Little Creatures Geelong
Provenance, as I said, relates to transparency. I’ve appreciated the openness and transparency which Little Creatures has displayed in opening a like-named brewery in Geelong. The label is up-front about its Geelong origins.

But it begs the question.

I wonder what those who are very particular about provenance think of Little Creatures having multiple breweries. Is it any different to Stella being brewed under licence here?

Cheers!

01 December
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CSR: Cavalier Social Responsibility 2

Excuse my returning to this initiative which I raved about earlier.

But it deserves it.

Despite their scale, Cavalier Brewing has punched well above its weight with its Cavalier Courage. Indeed there are some CSR lessons here for the big brewers .. well, any company really.

Cavalier Courage
It’s an easy drinking craft beer just in time for summer: just released in a 330 mL bottle. More importantly it’s been created to raise awareness and funds for Motor Neuron Disease.

There’s lots about this effort that’s commendable for obvious reasons. However, I was especially impressed that the Cavalier team designed the label too. Courageous: but it’s worked (in my view).

In case your not up on your Greek myths, the label features Sisyphus, who was punished and condemned to roll a boulder up a hill only to see it roll down every time. As there is no cure yet for Motor Neuron Disease there are unfortunate parallels in Sisyphus’ plight and those suffering with MND.

Cavalier Courage is a 4.5% ABV Blonde Ale brewed with summer Saaz hops; they provide a fruity bitterness perfect for the summer to come.

Cheers! Again, well done Cavalier. Congratulations for this courageous effort.

PS: I was privileged to be invited to the launch of the beer at Virginia Plain in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane.

08 September
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CSR: Cavalier social responsibility

Victorian Cavalier Brewing company deserves a quiet pat on the back.

They have demonstrated that you don’t have to be big in brewing or sponsorship to make serious socially responsible efforts that make a difference.

Cavalier has just launched an initiative to help raise research funds for, and awareness of, motor neurone disease (MND).

Central to this effort was an approach by Dr Ian Davis, who has MND and loves his beer, for a fundraising brew. Cavalier readily agreed to the special brew and have, appropriately, called it Courage Ale.

The beer will be launched in early 2013 raising funds for MND and me and Zo-ee: two Australian organisations active in the MND cause.

Dr Ian Davis

Cavalier’s Courage Ale has already attracted serious attention from media including several 3AW interviews with Justin Smith and profiles in Melbourne’s Sunday Age and Herald Sun newspapers.

Apart from being a worthy thing to do – and I know this was not the objective – from a PR/reputation-building perspective Cavalier has shown that genuine humanity and compassion can go a long way in building reputation. This ain’t no typical ‘corporate’ cheque handover/grip ‘n grin; they are clearly and passionately involved.

And doesn’t that empathy shine through?

CSR usually means ‘corporate social responsibility’ but I’d like to think this case of ‘Cavalier social responsibility’ will catch on.

Cheers!

PS click here to find out how you can help MNDandme and Zo-ee.

12 August
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Building craft beer brands online: beerlines vodcast interview with PR Warrior Trevor Young

Beerlines kicks off its ‘beerviews’ vodcasts with an interview with well known social media and online communications commentator Trevor Young.

Trevor’s online identity is better known as the PR Warrior. He’s been a vocal advocate for building brands online, notably via social media, for many years.

Beerlines interviews Trevor for his thoughts on how craft brewers, many of whom are setting up new brands, can use online conversations and social media to help.

The PR Warrior highlights the human-scale advantages that craft brewers and their brands have over the big guys.

P.S. “Yes” beerviews vodcasts will get better as this multi-layered medium is mastered.

Cheers!

29 July
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Speak beer: speak human

Beer marketing is changing. For over a century its been exclusively – expensively – the province of big-brand breweries.

Big everything. Big commercials; big sponsorships; and all that. They can afford big.

But as markets go online and social media empowers direct conversations between brand and consumer, ‘big’ ain’t cutting like it used to.

Conversation is king

The emergence and growth of craft brewing has relied heavily on word-of-mouth.

With social media this conversation is turbo-charging into what some call ‘world-of-mouth’.

Enlightened craft breweries get this. They’re becoming mini media outlets in their own right. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about broadcasting; it’s about narrowcasting. Read more…