Craft teaching big brewers how to market beer: Pete Brown

Beer drinkers no longer respond to “big flash marketing messages”, according to UK beer writer Pete Brown, who says small brewers have demonstrated the value of genuine connections with consumers.

A former advertising professional, Brown told Radio Brews News that the media landscape is now vastly different to when he worked on campaigns for big brands such as Heineken and Stella Artois.

“When I first started working in advertising, beer ads were the best thing on television,” he said.

“You made these 30 second pieces of comedy gold with a product at the end and if it was a really good ad, the product itself was the punchline to the gag, so you didn’t just remember the ad, you remembered the brand name as well.”

He said attitudes to alcohol have changed and advertising regulations have tightened such that this style of marketing is no longer appropriate or permissible.

“We live in a fractured media environment as well, where you don’t all gather round the same TV programs anymore,” he added.

L-R: Pete Mitcham and Matt Kirkegaard with Pete Brown

L-R: Pete Mitcham and Matt Kirkegaard with Pete Brown

Brown said that meanwhile, craft beer has emerged, bringing with it a more authentic, grassroots approach to marketing, “by virtue of necessity because they don’t have these multi-million pound budgets”.

“What we’ve seen over the last few years is the emergence of ‘meet the brewer’ events, tap takeovers, proper conversations on social media where you have brewers talking to the people who drink their beer… you see these incredibly loyal brand relationships,” he said.

Beer lost its way
In a follow-up interview, Brown told Australian Brews Newsthat craft brewers are getting beer back to what it is supposed to be, after many years in the wilderness.

“I’m seeing this broad trend across beer and pubs that’s about refocusing on great beer and great conversation, with beer as the glue that facilitates bringing people together,” he said.

“Big marketers persist in this belief that people don’t want flavour in their beer and they’re seeking big brand reassurance and want to be spoken to as big, faceless hordes.

“As and when they acknowledge craft beer, they’ll often see it is a hipster fad that’s image-led and fashion-led rather than having anything to do with what’s in the glass.

“Craft beer isn’t for everyone and there are some people who make choices the way the big brewers think they do, but when you’ve got people who are looking for more flavour and more integrity in bread, chocolate, coffee, cheese, curry, whatever, craft brewers are pointing out that it applies to beer too,” he said.

Social media vexes big brewers
Brown said it is instructive for the big brewers that individual craft beer personalities such as Stone Brewing’s Greg Koch have more Twitter followers than big brands such as Stella Artois and Carlsberg.

“They know that they need to engage people on social media but they don’t seem to know yet how to do it,” he said of the big brewers.

“I think some of them see ‘conversation’ as another marketing term that doesn’t mean the same thing it does in normal speech.

“So they’ll invest in an ad and judge it on the number of Facebook ‘likes’ it gets because it’s a metric they can use and they think it means something.

“They’ll put the TV ad on YouTube and Facebook and use these sites as cheap broadcast media rather than genuinely two-way channels.

“For the price of shooting an ad they could employ social media teams who talk to people on a one-on-one basis, or at least get more granular about the channels they use and forget this idea of people as a big, homogeneous mass,” suggested Brown.

If you missed Episode 83 of Radio Brews News, it is available to download here.

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