Beer. I love it. But not just any beer. I noticeably scoff at the mere idea of a PBR or Natty Lite. But thankfully I live in Indiana – a state where microbreweries reign supreme and are not in short supply. In fact, Indiana ranks 15th in the nation for the number of craft breweries, and we produce over 225,000 barrels of that fabulous fermented wheat water every year. I, myself, have frequented many a brewery in my day. My permanent roommate works at one of the most successful breweries in the state (what’s up Big Lug?). On top of that, I currently live across the street from what I consider to be the best brewery in the world – Black Acre Brewing Co.
Nevertheless, over the past 3 years of (legally) drinking and frequenting various watering holes, I have been struck by the different marketing tactics taken by miscellaneous breweries. Essentially, I’ve found that breweries in Indiana follow one of three tactics, which I will refer to as: Loud and Proud, Craft Country, and Local Yocal.*
Loud and Proud
Marketing Tactic: create the same beers year round, in addition to a few wildcards, season-dependent. Can/bottle and distribute to liquor and/or grocery stores throughout the state (and surrounding). Have one or two large locations in the state, often spread out.
These are your big name breweries. The ones that people take borderline religious pilgrimages to, and think of when you say “Indiana Brewery.” The single (or minimal) locations allow for low overhead. But the large locations do mean higher labor costs. Due to their increasing popularity, they also have high expectations to live up to. If these expectations are not met, the fallout can mean a negative review, or a onetime customer. They also attract a moderately loyal customer base due to their relatively consistent menu – if you want a Cream Ale, Sun King will have it at all times. Better yet, if you live in Bloomington and want a Cream Ale, you can go to your local liquor store! This is what really sets apart these breweries. They have chosen a widespread distribution plan. In other words, if you want your growler filled, great, but Kroger will also carry cans of their beer. By diversifying their distribution, they have less risk if one store chooses to stop selling their beer, since individuals will still come in, and many stores will continue to sell.
Marketing Tactic: beer menu can be either diverse or rather stagnant. Little to no canning and bottling distribution. Storefront(s) in relatively rural locations.
God bless the people who put a brewery in a town of less than 10,000 people. They deserve great beer too! The rural storefront is what makes these breweries so exceptional and sets them apart. The great thing about being one of the Craft Country breweries is this: if people in their general location (and likely agrarian society) wish to go out for a beer with their friends, they have one choice. This leads to an incredibly loyal following. It’s the kind of place where the locals head to for a beer after work and recognize everyone when they walk in. Moreover, the overhead of a storefront in these towns is remarkably lower than that of a store in the city. Most of these breweries don’t have excessive labor costs either. All that being said, you have to know what you’re doing in this situation. You can’t just pop a brewery in a town of 5,000 residents and hope for the best. If the beer or food are even slightly inconsistent or off, you could be out of business within the year.
Marketing Tactic: sell their delicious super water out of their storefront almost exclusively, and they have one (relatively citycentric) storefront. The beer menu changes often.
These are the breweries that are just about everywhere. Their beer is pretty much only sold out of their own storefront, and they’re in a moderately or highly populated area. Their menu changes regularly, with maybe a few that stay on the menu year round. They have both a loyal customer base, in addition to individuals from other towns who purposefully seek them out. Nevertheless, due to the highly saturated market, they’re competing for the same customer base, while also having decently high overhead and high labor costs. The competition is steep, customers can be hard to attract, and costs can skyrocket before you know it. But if these breweries can differentiate themselves in some way, they’re sure to have a loyal customer base in no time.
Moral of the Story
Breweries are all over Indiana. Whether their marketing strategy is similar to Loud and Proud, Craft Country, or Local Yocal, they’ve got some pretty stiff competition in this saturated market. All in all, how they choose to market can essentially make or break them, but we can only expect an increase in breweries over the next few years. Now that you’ve read this excessive post, and I’ve finished writing it, I think it’s time for a beer.
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*I am absolutely certain that the marketing tactics breweries have chosen have real, valid names. But since I haven’t actually had any formal education in marketing, I have taken the liberty of coming up with my own terms and phrases.