Beerlines

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

27 October
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Brand building versus brewing

Not sure I like hearing ‘brewery’ and ‘brand building’ in the same sentence. There’s a clash.

But that’s what happens when beers, and their brands, go corporate. Brands become company assets and brand building is a tune played for shareholders and investors.

Don’t get me wrong. My concern is about letting that tune (the C-suite?) get too loud in consumers’ ears.

I know how critical and strategic the brand development process is, or rather must be, for beer brands to succeed. I am in awe of it and those who do it well.

But …

While I know that consumers buy brands, I’m not sure how engaged they are, or want to be, in branding per se: in the science and conceptual landscape that is ‘brand’.

When brewers call themselves ‘brand builders’ I can’t help but think beer lovers put their fingers in their ears and yodel “la la la la”.

The trick is to keep the audiences separate: consumers and their beers on the one hand and investors and their brand building on the other.

Easier said than done.

Heritage & Tradition
Does the process of building a brand mean that a beer should lose its heritage and tradition?

I raise this query after reviewing the website for Australia’s biggest ‘beer brand producer’, LION. It’s now a food and beverage corporation, and tell a good F&B story.

However I’m not sure after viewing their website I’d warmly call LION ‘Australia’s biggest brewer’ – as it is.

LION’s website states: “We are a brand building company, focused on growing our strongest brands and markets. We recognise the importance of clearly differentiating and developing our brands, to excite and engage our consumers and grow returns for our customers.”

The lyrics of beer & brewing 
To my ear LION’s tune is missing the lyrics of beer and brewing, the bricks and mortar stuff, you know, where the beer comes from. Warm and fuzzy – well probably ‘cold and fizzy’.

Yes I know it’s a corporate site. Maybe they need to sing those words elsewhere. Maybe as my colleague Michel Hogan (who knows more about brands than most) suggests LION provide an online space for those who love beer in preference to brands.

To be fair LION has an Our History timeline noting the business is: “Formed by the amalgamation of some of Australia and New Zealand’s most celebrated food and beverage companies, Lion has a rich local heritage.”

But somehow ‘rich local heritage’ are not the words I’m hearing. Rather: I hear the bass beat of ‘brand building’ loud and clear.

I don’t think I’m alone in wanting to also drink the heritage and tradition that goes along with my beer of choice. I like the reality and the geography that goes with ‘my’ Castlemaine Perkins Limited, or my Swan, West End, Tooheys and CUB. Just as I like it with my Cavalier and Mountain Goat.

I believe beer drinkers love that stuff and want to hear it in preference to brand building aggrandisement.

Consumers or shareholders: website as shopfront
It’s an almost impossible job confining corporate language to the Boardroom and C-suite. But nowadays your website is your shop-front.

Choices are made to put that corporate language out there – front and centre.

Maybe LION’s website needs a separate ‘tradesman’s entrance’ for investors and equity houses as many other corporate websites have.

Speaking of appealing to investors to the exclusion of consumers: one hopes LION learned from its infamous corporate shift to Bond Brewing.

Just as it would appear CUB has learned from its brief use of the ugly tagline ‘Building Great Australian Brands’ and – more ugly – changing its name to Carlton & United Beverages.

And ..really? When was the last time you heard anyone say they ‘consumed beverages’?

Cheers!