My previous post expressed my frustration about the lack of concern amongst many on-sale beer emporiums failing completely to have any concern about putting the correct beer brand in the correct branded glass. Some readers might think I've gone a little over the top on this one, and clearly, for most drinkers, it is really something that is of little concern to them. Drinking a pint of quality real ale, for instance, out of a major lager brand glass is no big deal, the beer tastes no different just because the glass claims to be for a different beer.
I find it curious that in the beer enthusiasts world there is a faction that harbors an objection to any form of proactive brand promotion. I'm getting really quite interested in the reasons for this objection. To me it is very simple; a product sells well because people want to buy it. They will not want to buy it if they are not aware of the brand.
I'll start with an analysis of my survey. From a beer drinkers perspective it shows, that really, glassware doesn't matter much; the majority (68.2%) either don't notice, notice but don't care or only get a little irritated by incorrect glassware. From my own experience of people in pubs this is probably about right. I'd even go as far as to say that some drinkers would actually get irritated if service was slowed up due to bar staff spending a few moments looking for the correct glass.
I can turn all of this on it's head however. Very few respondents, one actually, reported that they never notice beer being put into the wrong branded glass. So, 68 of you do notice, even if you don't care. That is 98.6% of the people who responded at least notice the branding on the glass that they get their beer in. From the perspective of someone, me that is, who wants his beer branding to be noticed this is a very, very important fact. Branding on the glass is a key and important part of brand awareness; drinkers notice it.
When we launched Hardknott as a stand alone brewery, as opposed to one that was attached to a pub, we knew we would have to be much more proactive with our branding, marketing and sales. We would no longer have a guaranteed outlet and we would need to sell a lot more beer to be able to make a living at the job. We engaged a design company1 to help us out.
One of the key briefs to our designers was to be a little like BrewDog, without it being obvious that there was any copying going on. Some say that there was a failure in that last part, but then I'm not sure I care and neither do I think that BrewDog do, especially as we have a good relationship with that brewery.
Moreover, there is even more reason why copying ideas is not only acceptable but even the right thing to do. If it works then why change something if you don't have to? BrewDog after all have already copied what Stone have done. Using similar graphics, fonts, prose or any other form style copying, be it deliberate, or often subliminal, is nothing new at all, either in the beer world or for branding in general.
Take the curvacious shape of a Coca Cola bottle, or glass; it's representative of the curves of a sexy lady, so I'm told. Think of the shape of a Weissbier glass, spooky eh? You can find that curvaceous shape all over the place if you look, sexiness sells, as does controversy......
....I have had a go at BrewDog myself over the naming of Sink!. I think a few of us middle aged beer geeks were a little outraged about this. But perhaps this is just Punk marketing, shock tactics. Some commentators would like to say that it won't work, BrewDog are not going to continue to grow with this approach. Perhaps there is a limit, but currently they are brewing 50 barrels a time, 11 times a week and are turning over approximately £4M a year. That's a tripling of turnover in 12 months. They are a £4M a year business, I almost feel I need to say no more, but of course I will.
So you don't care? What you want to do is sit in a nice pub with a nice pint of real ale, no fuss, no hype, no branding and nothing to clutter up and confuse your enjoyment of a good pint. I'm with you all the way. Good beer, that's all we want. Some of us would like to see more real ale available. Some would like to see a more diverse beer styles, strengths and some way-out innovation, but that's just my personal view. Whatever our choice of beer we don't want it all cluttered with this silly commercialism that takes over the world.
CAMRA's main aim is to maintain and perhaps grow the availability of real ale. The Cask Report would seem to suggest that indeed the real ale market is quite healthy. The very same report also suggests that more could be done to grow the cask market and presumably CAMRA and real ale enthusiasts would be pleased if this happened.
If you are reading this blog then the chances are that you do not need to be told that cask beer, and more generally craft beer, is a fantastic drink; I would be preaching to the converted. Despite the fact that much of the beer that I and presumably you, the reader, drink is a far superior, and often better value for money beverage than mass produced brands, the big brands continue to be the best sellers.
Take Carling2, which I estimate to have a market value of over £1 billion3. Why has it been Britain's number one lager for over 30 years4? Branding and marketing, that's why.
Branding is crucial to growing and maintaining a product market. Branding, marketing and advertising, which are different but related activities, and to be honest I get a little confused about where one leads into another, are all important. Of course, that tacky homemade cardboard pump clip might well send a message to you that the beer is handcrafted in a shed by someone who has more time for caring for the beer than for branding. It might well be that you don't care that you got that beer in a Carling glass, or that the beer mats on the table are for a brand that the pub doesn't even have on sale at the moment. Why should you care? Perhaps you shouldn't. But the reason that your hand crafted beer is still made in a shed and the brewer is living from hand to mouth and probably unlikely to gather together enough money to buy an annuity5 when he retires is because he didn't invest in branding and so grow his business.
The reason Carling is successful is because you got served your micro-brewed ale in a Carling glass.
PumpClipParade concerns itself with poor beer branding. Perhaps it is overly concerned about branding that is objectionable to the instigator of that site, after all, there are people who like that sort of silly joke. But to be fair, the proportion of the population that will buy a product because it comes with a silly joke, badly designed graphics, or even in some cases grossly offensive sexism is rather small.
So, you may not care about the branding on the glass you drink out of, but you do notice, don't you? You might not care that the beer mats and bar towels in the pub are provided by and carry the branding of a major corporation, but you do notice, don't you? You might not care that the pump clip looks bloody awful, in fact you notice and you like the fact that the unprofessional style makes it obvious that it's made by an amateur, don't you?
All those people who don't drink real ale, but you think should, also notice too.
1They are, like us, doing well enough for their website to be a low priority. I expect that as our increased brewing capacity will soon necessitate our web presence to be improved.
2Yes, take it, take it a long way away as far as I'm concerned. But it is not going anywhere, really, not without strong brands that compete with it.
3That's a reasonable estimate of the value to the owner of the brand, Molson Coors. Based on 5 million barrels per years and a brewery gate price of £200 per barrel. If all that volume was sold through pubs it would be nearer £4 billion as total contribution to the UK economy. Moreover the contribution to reducing the deficit is over £500 million per year. I suspect Molson Coors put a shed load of £millions into branding too.
4At least, that's what I believe. Heard it somewhere, can't think where.
5I hope to be able to live a reasonable life when I retire. For this reason I am greatly concerned that my brewery is successful. If that means I have to copy stuff other people have done then I think I may well do so. To have a reasonably comfortable retirement I may well not need a £1 billion business. I may not even need a £4 million business. However, I will probably need to be a lot closer to that last figure than I am now, and to do that I'll have to work on branding.