I can’t speak for everyone, here, at Quality Logo Products®, but I certainly love beer.

This week, a 70 year old California law limiting the use of promotional give-aways for beer retailers was changed. Formerly, beer vendors could only give away promotional items that had a value of under $0.25. The law NOW allows these vendors to use items up to $3.00 in value!

While this change is a nice step in the right direction, it makes me wonder what purpose the law had in the first place. While I understand limiting the marketing of alcohol and cigarettes if it’s for the health of our society (especially our youth), this law doesn’t really do that (nor was it intended to).

Some argue that unlimited promotional giveaways give large beer distributors (like Budweiser) an unfair advantage (over, say micro brewers) as their resources are greater to produce these items at a lower cost. This argument is thin, particularly for a product such as beer, where taste and brand preference seems to be so prevalent (especially for microbreweries). Not to mention, it’s anti-capitalist (call me a dirty Republican, right-wing, conservative if you must). Budweiser also has the resources to advertise more, too, but there’s no law restricting how much they spend on that, is there?

Here’s why this law makes no sense:

Tipping the scales with Promotional Give-aways

Beer is generally a matter of taste. If you don’t believe me, go to a bar and ask people what they prefer more: Bud light or Coors light. What you’ll find is either a strong preference of one over the other or an answer like: “I can’t tell the difference…I just drink whatever’s cheaper.” Occasionally, there’s the guy (or gal) who bites back: “GROSS! I wouldn’t drink either, are you kidding me?!?”

So when we’re talking Bud vs. Coors, a promotional item may occasionally influence the “undecided” crowd and rarely sway the brand enthusiast’s purchase one way or another. But that’s only because we’re comparing two relatively similar beers at comparable prices. The prospect of something free may tip the scales when all else is even, but that’s not really the purpose behind promotional products. You can’t bribe someone into liking your beer…

Microbrewers need not worry

What happens, then, when you ask what people prefer: a microbrew or Budweiser? The responses start to get much more polarized. There’s the brand enthusiasts who refuse to drink anything but Budweiser, the connoisseur who snapped at you before and only drinks “good” beer, and then the people who claim that it depends what the mood calls for.

If you’ve ever had a microbrew or if you enjoy them regularly, you’ll notice that it’s a completely different beer experience than say: Bud. Normally, you’re paying a decent amount more, and they’re certainly more difficult to find. But the real difference is the flavor. Microbrews are generally a treat for beer drinkers. Their appeal is that it’s something different and (usually) something better. Perhaps it’s a brew they hadn’t tried, or a seasonal they look forward to all year. The point is: flavor is the selling point and no t-shirt, mug, or koozie is going to sway people from enjoying that.

Your Microbrew is not Budweiser and that’s a good thing

I understand why microbrewers think this law protects them against larger brewers, but the truth is: it doesn’t. Small brewers will probably never compete with the large brands but that’s because their appeal is something totally different and they need to embrace that.

As a beer drinker (who regularly hangs out with other beer drinkers) and a marketer, I believe it’s a big mistake to treat a microbrewery business like a big brand brewer’s. Falling into this trap and playing the same marketing game they play is only going to fail. They need to let Bud and Coors fight with each other over market share for frat parties and beer pong tournaments and focus on their real market: the people who enjoy authentic beer flavor. (yup, I’m a beer snob)

The way I see it: lesser known Microbrewers have more to lose with laws like this. Giving away promotional items is a GREAT way to get your name out there and create brand awareness. This law only restricts the ability of microbrews to take advantage of that. I mean: who hasn’t already heard of Budweiser and Coors?

About the author

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten is a promo expert with a passion for branding . Her vast knowledge of promotional giveaways and marketing has led to several articles and published work for PPB Magazine, a publication from the Promotional Products Association International.