Saturday, September 25, 2010

National Happy Hour

Image found at Bjs Brewhouse

This past week I came across an article that mentioned Budweiser has announced that they are planning on sponsoring a national happy hour on September 29th as a means to attract more of the under 30 beer drinking crowd (which is not as into Bud as they'd like), and to help Budweiser regain lost ground in the beer market (sales were down 9% last year and are down the same this year according to the Beverage Marketing Corp). This happy hour will be preceded, on 9-27-2010, with the campaign's kickoff with the slogan "Grab some Buds". In case you are curious, the free samples on 9-29 will either be 6 or 12 oz of Budweiser.

After reading this I began to think about a few things.
  1. Would I care if Budweiser, Miller, Coors, InBev, etc ceased operation (for whatever reason)?
  2. How much success/repeat business can this campaign bring Budweiser?
My answer for #1 is no. It has been quite some time since I purchased their product. So the absence of their product from my local's shelves would not affect me in any way. Sure, there may be some price changes at my local due to the absence of the 'big boys', but i would not miss the Bud, Miller, Coors, or InBev product lines.

For #2, it is probably safe to assume that people will take free samples of beer (is there anything better than free?), but will free samples be enough to hook customers for the long term? For a product to be successful in the beverage industry, few things are more powerful in swaying public opinion than positive reviews via word of mouth or opinions/reviews posted to pertinent websites (for beer, & for example). Unfortunately for Budweiser, they do not have a product that gets discussed because it's a great beer. Rather, it is discussed more for the commercials in their marketing campaigns (I really enjoyed the real men of genius commercials). Jeff Wuorio, a freelance business writer proposed 7 tips on keeping customers for life in an article for Microsoft business.
  1. Deliver what you say you're going to do
  2. Expect the best
  3. Go beyond the usual
  4. Watch your customer, not your bottom line
  5. Nurture lifelong employees
  6. Make customers want to stick around
  7. Be picky about lifelong customers
After reading these seven points of advice, I feel safe in writing that craft brewers who make it in the long run adhere to all 7 of these points without fail. How the big brewers (i.e. Bud, Miller, Coors) do it is beyond me.

As a comparison, here is how I think the craft brewer v. big brewer address each of the 7 aforementioned points:

  • Big brewer = The do not deliver a beer of any appreciable substance, and there are never any real bikini clad women around when Budweiser is imbibed. There are occasionally cardboard cutouts, but they have no discernible pulse
  • Craft brewer = Delivers a beverage that is an expression of their creativity. For example, Dogfish Head's 120 IPA, and Mikkeler's single hop IPA line. I doubt any of the big brewers considered such an approach or project.
  • Big brewer = Budweiser doesn't expect as much as they hope a shit ton of people will purchase their product over-and-over again.
  • Craft brewer = Every day beer leaves a craft brewery they (the brewer(s)) expect it to live up to the expectations they have for it. They expect people will appreciate the time, effort, and love that went into making their product good enough to be considered sell-able to the public at large. More than anything else, they expect people will enjoy the beer they purchase.
  • Big brewer = I do not think I would be remiss in stating that the products of the big brewers define 'expected' in the beer industry. There has been no change at all to their product. Instead, their big changes come to their product line.
  • Craft brewer =Continue to push the envelope of creativity. Whether it be with unique ingredients or re-invigorating once forgotten styles, craft brewers are the most creative individuals in the beer industry.
  • Big brewer = I have never seen a big brewer rep discuss their product with a (potential) customer. As long as the product of the big brewer is purchased, the rep is happy.
  • Craft brewer = To gauge the passion and love that brewers have for their customers, look at the close relationship some have fostered with the AHA, the time they spend engaging with their customers at events such as the GABF and the Great Taste of the Midwest. Craft brewers care about their customers, and their developing tastes. It shows in the brewers continuing effort to bring new beers to market to maintain an interest in their brewery.
  • Big brewer =I cannot find any information on employee turnover at the big brewers.
  • Craft brewer = I have never heard of someone quitting the beer industry to get into another industry. Rather, it's often a brewer leaves one brewery for another, or to start their own.
  • Big brewer =If they could keep customers around, they would not need the 'Grab some buds' campaign.
  • Craft brewer = See opinion in #4 above.
  • Big brewer = Will take anyone.
  • Craft brewer =Does not want anyone that will put down the work of a craft brewer. Whether it be their own product, or that of a fellow craft brewer. They want someone who is open to new taste experiences, and someone who is interested in learning more about the beer.
The big brewers are in trouble, and I think they know it. I will be curious to see what lasting effect the national happy hour will have on Budweiser, and the big brewers as a whole.

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