Marketing & Branding

Quality Over Quantity: What Craft Beers Are Doing Right

Have you ever heard of brands like Sierra Nevada, Dogfish Head, Goose Island, Great Lakes, or Bear Republic? If you haven’t, don’t worry, because it’s very likely that you will eventually. They’re just a few of the up-and-coming beer brands that have enjoyed a steady climb in popularity over the past several years, and they’re in a category all their own—a category called “craft beers.”

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy kicking back and relaxing with a rich, flavorful, full-bodied beverage once in a while, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. Actually, with Americans consuming 20 gallons of beer per capita on a yearly basis, I know I’m not alone! The thing is, I like my beer to have a little character, which is why I normally opt for some of those above-mentioned brands when it’s time to quench my thirst.

Fact: pale ales are delicious.

“But what’s a craft beer?” you ask. The short answer, of course, is that it’s the only type of beer worth drinking (in one blogger’s humble opinion, that is). Really though, a craft beer is just a brand that gets distributed on a much smaller scale than its industry competitors. Craft breweries ship less than 6,000,000 barrels per year, which, all things considered, isn’t very much. Budweiser ships roughly 30-million-plus barrels of Bud Light annually, and that’s just one of the beers in their brewery’s line. There’s really no getting around it—beer is big business. While some of the biggest brands on the block (Budweiser, Miller, and Coors, among many others) hold a majority of the market share, it’s important to know that the underdog brands—the craft beers—constitute a significant portion as well.

Craft beers are often notoriously higher in price because of their limited distribution and exposure, but offer a whole lot more bang for your buck, as brewers in this niche market usually strive to deliver a better product overall. These beers are well known for their complexity in terms of taste. They offer a good deal of subtlety, intricacy, and unique flavoring. In fact, craft beers tend to earn a great deal of notoriety among beer enthusiasts for their sheer flavorocity and deliciousnessness (those misspellings are intentional). This gives them their distinct classification as “upscale.”

Happy kegs make flavorful beer!

The most interesting thing about craft beers isn’t their superiority in flavor, however, but their continued rise in popularity. As evidenced by sales figures, the “growth of the craft brewing industry in 2010 was 11% by volume and 12% by retail dollars.” That’s no small feat. And by the way, the overall market share of craft beer jumped from 5.4% to 8.7% between 2005 and 2010, if that’s any indication of the direction that this portion of the market is headed, which by the way is up.

Heck, even Heineken is opting for a more sophisticated approach to brand marketing these days, with a video campaign that looks like it’s designed to appeal to the more savvy beer connoisseurs out there. If an already popular brand is looking to boost its sales by gaining esteem among beer drinkers in a more upscale market (as is the approach of craft beer brands), then others will likely follow. Take a look at Heineken’s ad:

Maybe we’re seeing the beginnings of a more refined era of beer marketing, and maybe that’s a good thing. One thing’s for sure, the craft beers have a lot to do with influencing the future of their industry. The most surprising thing about it is that they’re doing so without the benefit of multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns that include expensive video advertisements. They’re doing it by remaining delicious and dependable. They’re always a step ahead in terms of quality, and as any intelligent business owner already knows, a company’s success is contingent on the quality of its product or service.

Want to stay competitive in your industry? Take a hint from craft brewers: make sure that your brand is focused on delivering quality. When you’ve got that in the bag, then you can go ahead and focus on quantity.