Current Beer Market
By Tom Dougherty
4 September 2020
Adapting to the current beer market
The Current Beer Market
The beer market is as fragmented as any market in the world. Large beer producers dominated the beer market for many years. Today, it is splintered into many beer brands. One report claims 19,000 brewing companies worldwide in 208 countries.
No doubt, 19,000 is an undercount.
I won’t spend any time talking about the transition from a few powerful brands to thousands and thousands of brands. But this phenomenon is a natural part of markets. Before prohibition, there were many small and regional breweries.
Someday, the market will contract again. That’s because market economies naturally seek efficiencies.
”So what’s the problem? In a word, the problem is the customer.”
What keeps breweries up at night?
Microbrewers pretend to be collegial. They form organizations and initiatives to raise their craft. But they are all businesses. And businesses, even breweries, need to sell their beer. Like any business, they want to grow. And someday, they want to sell the business at a profit.
So what’s the problem? In a word, the problem is the customer. There was a time when beer drinkers were the most loyal of customers. Like cigarette smokers, they only drank their favorite brand of beer. Not any more. Today’s beer drinker has little loyalty, and breweries know it.
”Customers are Pavlov’s dogs, as breweries taught them to regularly drink many beer styles.”
Blame the beer market on micro-breweries
Customers are Pavlov’s dogs, as breweries taught them to regularly drink many beer styles. And the training took. They are no longer brand loyal because you trained them to feel like they were more discriminating. The standard American lager was for the unsophisticated.
Welcome home, all the chickens you hatched
Think about this scenario in the beer market. It was unheard of 15 years ago. A group of friends stop into their favorite bar, order a few beers. Drink them and then order a few more rounds.
OK, so that is nothing new. But what is new is that the friends drank different beer brands at every round.
Zero loyalty. The group of friends drinks everything from a chocolate stout to the ubiquitous India Pale Ale.
“Have you adapted your offerings over the years or stubbornly stuck with a beer rejected by customers?”
If you are happy owning a brewpub, it’s all good.
Brew Pubs are restaurants. It’s good enough if the customer just likes the beer. They do not need to love it. Unlike more traditional breweries, customers come for the food and the experience. Not the beer.
Sorry to insult anyone. It’s just true.
But I don’t think the brewmasters in these restaurants care to admit this. They consider themselves artists, and they want to perfect their craft. Beer makers are attached to their beers. They want to become bigger because market share growth is how we measure success.
If you disagree with this, don’t read another word of this beer market study because I am about to get personal.
“We start at the foundation and rebuild. Often in that rebuild, we can salvage some elements.”
Growing your current beer market
Growing market share is not for the faint of heart. It is only for people who are open to change and willing to sacrifice any sacred cow. No matter how much the old bovine is loved.
So, ask yourself. Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to instigate growth and larger beer market share? Do you love your customers? When they don’t love one of your beer styles, do you blame them for lack of sophistication or your recipe?
Have you adapted your offerings over the years or stubbornly stuck with a beer rejected by customers but embraced internally?
“Put everything on the table. Everything. Get your sacred cows out of the way.”
Here is how I would go about it
Put everything on the table. Everything. Brand name, logo, style selection, and all the sub-brand names. Even your basic recipe should be fair game.
Doing this hurts, I know. I’m merely telling you how we would go about creating a beer market strategy to steal market share. We start at the foundation and rebuild. Often in that rebuild, we can salvage some elements. But if they are defective in any way— out they go.
This is why beers can win in the battle for market share. Because most breweries will never do this. They have sunk deep in the whole of constantly rotating styles to encourage drinkers to buy them.
What’s next in the beer market?
So once all the elements are on the table, the process is not that complicated. We start with research. The research must be predictive beer market research.
We are not too interested in what they drink—what brands they prefer or any of the standard usage and attitudinal studies. We want to find out about their lives today.
So you start with the brand itself. Make the values and brand narrative reflect what the research has shown. Reframe the brand in the emotional aspirations of the target market.
Are brand names meaningful? If they are just clever for the sake of cleverness, you should change them. At the very least, stop naming them after trite ideas.
“Make sure everything supports the strategy. In today’s beer market, you cannot afford a single misstep.”
Challenge your assumptions and initial thoughts
Your brand may not be working hard enough for you. Think about our process.
- What are your long-term goals?
- Diagnose the problem and identify the barriers
- Figure out a solution for every barrier
- Change everything that needs adjustments
- Make everything work together
Create a marketing strategy that implements what you have learned. Make sure everything supports the strategy. In today’s beer market, you cannot afford a single misstep. Wasted resources are anything out of step with strategy.
It’s not just about the beer
No brewer makes beer that they think tastes terrible. And everyone has different tastes. You cannot convert prospects on taste alone.
But remember this: Anticipation and expectation change what we taste. That’s right; the act of marketing something creates an expectation that effects what drinkers believe they taste.
Why do you think wines will describe the taste with terms like… a hint of chocolate and blackberries… because the suggestion leads you to taste that suggestion.
It’s always about the customer
It’s not about you. Build your messaging and marketing strategy upon the wants and needs of the customers you must influence. Not on taste alone.
Today, remember that you won’t find the loyal customer of the 1960s. The goal today is to become a regular part of the rotation of chosen beer. Just understanding that might be enough to think about how you should do things differently. Call me. But only if you’re serious.
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