With more than 6,300 breweries competing for consumer mindshare in today’s crowded beer environment, standing out is a “constant battle.”
That’s how Neal Stewart, vice president of marketing for Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, described the difficulty of differentiating a craft brand in 2018 during last week’s Brew Talks meetup, held during the annual Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
“You have to be active year-round,” he told a crowd of nearly 300 beer industry professionals attending the event. “It’s not like the old days where you could scale-up your marketing efforts during the summer months, or whenever you’re selling a higher percentage of your beer. It is a 12-month battle, year in and year out.”
Stewart — who joined Boulevard Brewing vice president of marketing Natalie Gershon and Trillium Brewing co-founder Jean-Claude Tetreault in a discussion on marketing strategies for craft breweries – shared with the crowd how Dogfish Head selects the types of opportunities it wants to participate in.
“We have a term that we call the four-way win,” he said.
For Dogfish, that means any sponsorship or partnership opportunity needs to make sense for the brand, consumers, its own employees and its retail and distribution partners, Stewart said.
“We have to check the box in all four categories,” he said. “When we find something that does, we start to look at what ROI does that deliver, [and] does it meet certain metrics that we think are attractive to the brand.”
Stewart added that companies should “stand for something or you stand for nothing,” and said Dogfish has been “very thoughtful about what consumer segments we are actively targeting.”
Meanwhile, Gershon, who acknowledged that finding “organically, authentically fitting white space” is difficult, said Boulevard looks to either create an occasion with its Smokestack Series of beers or sponsor an existing occasion with its core offerings.
“There isn’t a non-beer selling or non-beer drinking season,” she said. “So I think it is about pushing on the right levers, with the right beers, at the right times.”
Identifying which occasions make the most sense for a brand often comes down to trusting your natural instincts, Tetreault added.
“Trillium is still very much in its infancy,” he said. “Even though we are quite new, I always have an eye to what I would want if I were a customer of Trillium.”
In the video above, Stewart, Gershon, and Tetreault also discuss mainstream sponsorship strategies, how brands can maintain authenticity as they scale, recent developments in the craft category that have surprised them in 2018 and advice for emerging brands.