What is the Future of Connecting with Craft Beer Consumers?

Conveying a message across multiple platforms or finding niche target audiences can be a game of chance for a craft beer brewery. Depending on size, scope and influence a brewery may already have can change policies in connecting with customers.

It seems as technology has changed, which is now constant, reaching a consumer base is different almost as with the download of an app or creation of a social media platform. Before technology, traditional means of broadcast outlets and word of mouth with possible guerrilla tactics thrown in was about the scope of scoring with consumers. Now with eyes on screens and an influx of new apps or social media platforms, finding new ways to connect and get brand loyalty can be more of a challenge than ever before.

For Madison, Wisconsin’s Ale Asylum, the first eight years of the brewery relied solely on grassroots campaigns with no monetary backing or marketing budget.

As the brewery grew and expanded into neighboring Illinois, Hathaway Dilba, the brewery’s director of promotions, said public relations needed to evolve.

“As the marketplace grows and we grow with it, we approach our messaging as if we just opened our doors for the first time and put our best foot forward in an introduction,” she said. “You can’t assume because you’ve been around for 10 years and have been blessed by wonderful press that every single person knows your brewery or brands. We strive to keep our connection strong with all of our customers and straddle that challenge of being interesting to the hardcore craft beer enthusiasts and the newbies alike.”

Ale Asylum Tap Pour 800x300

The marketing manager for Cincinnati’s MadTree Brewing, Sarah Gast, says that the brewery relies on social media to expand the brand’s name. Tied with the brewery’s website, Gast said that information laid out there and in the brewery’s taproom is key to successful customer interaction.

Gast pointed to a stat that states that 78 percent of male drinkers that go to a craft brewery are more likely to buy that brand in the future.

“This supports my opinion that aside from social media, we have a huge opportunity in our new taproom/brewery to personally connect with our guests,” she said, indicating the upcoming opening of the brewery’s new facility that will more than double the space it has now.

“A challenge we face is growing rapidly and having enough staff to create an infrastructure that can support events,” Gast added.

Recently, the brewery did a “Beer School” program that had some limited success.

“I think that if we had the staff and organizational structure we could continue a program like that and have it vary from beginners in terms of beer knowledge to serious homebrewers,” she noted.

Ale Asylum connects with customers outside the taproom with print ads in alternative weekly magazines, having a promotional relationship with a local radio station in which a member of the brewery visits monthly on the station’s morning show and gives away swag.

Gast pointed out that free beer tours help educate and given the company face-to-face interaction with consumers while other functions like beer dinner can be helpful.

Another idea that MadTree has worked on is having vendors come and be a part of the interaction, such as when craft chocolatier Maverick Chocolates came in for the “Rubus Cacao” launch for the brewery.

“Paul from Maverick explained the chocolate making progress and brought in samples of chocolates that were used in the beer along with other samples that paired with the beer,” Gast said.

Boosted social media posts, online ads and poster placements all cost some dollar amounts, but on a limited budget even, it can be successful.

“We highly believe in the quality of information versus the quantity,” Dilba said. “Posting two to three times per day on Facebook was not impactful for us and gained little to no traction. We focus on strategic messaging with an edgy or tongue-in-cheek appeal.”

For Ale Asylum, that means using its “Seek Asylum” branding image.

“We are hoping it evokes an urge to seek out brands within our portfolio and connect with our content at the same time,” she said.

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