The big boys are entering the craft beer game – and doing a better job

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

5 August 2013

Craft beers could learn a thing or two from the big lagers

Having worked with many craft beers as a brand consultant, I’ve learned two important tenets of the industry: 1, craft beer drinkers are loyal only to the category of craft beers, not to a specific brand and 2, the craft brewers themselves are rarely interested in taking market share from each other.

Both of those would seem to be positives as the craft beer segment is the only beer segment that is growing. The problem for the individual brands, though, is that the list of beers keeps growing. The market share of most individual craft beer brands, therefore, is shrinking.

“As craft beers merely market themselves as unique, pure and as a craft beer, the drinkers rarely have a reason to be loyal to one brand.”

Considering all that, take into account the emergence of craft beers owned by one of the megabrews. InBev, which owns Budweiser, has its own list of craft beers and Blue Moon, owned by MillerCoors, has taken 15% of the craft beer market.

craft beerThe rise of Blue Moon, in particular, has outraged craft beer brewers, claiming that, because Blue Moon is owned by MillerCoors, it doesn’t qualify as a craft beer.

Maybe. But craft drinkers are drinking Blue Moon – and I know why. Craft beer drinkers are loyal to what’s new and available in the category. They seek out something they haven’t tried.

Craft drinkers are a unique group. They are driven as intensely by emotion as any consumer group around, but not in the conventional sense. They are the ones who ask, “What do you have?” Then pick something they haven’t had before, constantly seeking out new and interesting brews.

They have been taught to act this way. As craft beers merely market themselves as unique, pure and as a craft beer, the drinkers rarely have a reason to be loyal to one brand. There’s rarely a reason to be loyal to one craft beer brand over another.

But the megabrews are better at creating preference than craft brewers, who are often too collegial with each other for their own good. While the craft industry gets into a huff about Blue Moon, maybe the craft brands should take a hard look at why Blue Moon is taking their market share.

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