Simple steps to creating a loyal following of your craft beer and brewery.

Instead of the "shotgun" approach of selling your craft beer, try specifically targeting customer segments.

For the most part of the 20th century, much consumer behavior and branding research focused on how marketing efforts influenced the purchasing decision of customers. That is, academics and practitioners alike wanted to know the influencing factors (such as advertisements, product placements, distribution channels etc.) on a customer’s pre-purchase and product choices. 

Although this trend is still a big part of marketing today, more recently, consumption experience after a purchase choice has come into the spotlight. Apple is an excellent example of a reflection in this trend. If you’ve ever been in an Apple Store (I assume most people have), you have a unique “Apple” experience: Open spaces with hands on products, no traditional counters, blue shirted employees that process your payment through their phones. Regardless of whether an individual purchases a good at the point in time, they are left feeling good about the brand that often lead up to a sale.

Now let's focus on craft beer. If you’ve walked down the beer and wine aisles of any large supermarket or a liquor store (again, I assume most people have), it won’t take you long to be overwhelmed by the sheer diversity of brands presented. Thousands of different craft beer brands all packed in a tight spot together; labels all seem to look the same, branding is similar, tag lines are almost identical, etc. They may be totally different if looked at apart from each other, yet there's only so much shelf space and all packed together they give off the same appearance. Often, many consumers walk into a grocery store or craft beer shop with the intent on trying a new flavor or brand, although quickly wind up in visual overload and sheer frustration, that they wind up selecting the same one they always go to, or the featured (perhaps even discounted) bottles available to them. With that, decades of studies on consumer behavior in supermarkets focused on how promotions and pricing influenced brand choice at the point of purchase. Yet, growing evidence shows that not all customers act alike. 

Analyses in brand choice confirmed that customers can be readily divided into “planned” and “opportunistic” groups.  According to this two-state model, planned customers already have a fairly clear determination on what to buy, triggered by previous consumption's or other brand loyal influences.  On the other hand, opportunistic customers are those who have an inclination to purchase beer (or not even that), but undecided on which specific one.

To skip to the conclusion, comprehensive results showed that unplanned customers will be heavily influenced by external factors (pricing and promotions of the retailer), while planned customers will be resistant to such influences and choose the brand they’ve pre-determined.  How can craft brewers obtain more of such loyal “planned” customers?

For most, if not all, craft brewery owners simply don’t have the financial power to influence point of purchase promotions in large supermarkets. Instead of trying to compete on promotions and discounted pricing against deeper pockets, a preferable strategy is to get the customers to specifically seek out for your brew. One key tactic to achieve this is to present your brand as an exclusive treat. Instead of distributing the product as far and wide as you can, selectively and tightly controlling sales channels can deliver much more lucrative results in the long run. Furthermore, by specifically targeting customer segments by tailored messages for each type of brew (The XX Pale Ale, the comfort beer for young professionals), those identified can readily “plan” to consumer your beer. You’d be surprised how often people like to identify themselves and become loyal with the goods that they consume.

You may also enjoy: A Look Back on the Top 25 Craft Beer Marketing Tips & Tricks of 2016.