The craft beer boom is forcing Big Beer to reexamine its marketing techniques.
“If you look at millennial brands that today are at the top of their preferred list, most of the time the advertising budget of those brands is zero,” Jorn Socquet, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president of marketing, told Bloomberg.
When it comes to “cool” beers, craft is king. Even though big beer companies AB InBev and MillerCoors still make up 72% of all US beer sales, as beer sales have dropped in recent years, they’re looking at craft as genuine competition.
So, Big Beer is on an buying spree, with acquisitions such as those of Ballast Point & Spirits and Lagunitas. However, the question remains — when a craft beer company is no longer independent, can it maintain its desirability? Or, is staying small key to success?
“People are genuinely concerned: Are the big brewers starting to even monopolize craft brewing?” Darby Hughes, trends analyst at food and beverage brand-building boutique Quench, told Business Insider.
In response, major beer companies are attempting to adjust marketing to mirror craft beers’ low-key cool. Bloomberg cites a video on MillerCoors-owned Saint Archer Brewing Co.’s website, which is 98% black-and-white footage of skateboarding, drumming, and surfing, plus 2% of someone drinking a beer while wearing a shirt with the brewery’s name.
Instead of Super Bowl commercials, breweries are marketing brands like AB InBev’s new Best Damn Root Beer with “stunts,” experiences reminiscent of when it turned a small ski town into Bud Light’s ‘Whatever, USA.‘
Even the presentations of brands built by major beer companies are changing, with Bud Light getting a recent makeover to emphasise authenticity and attract millennial customers.
However, “cooler” marketing doesn’t allow these brands to capture the independence of small, craft breweries.
The outrage following Camden Town Brewery’s acquisition by AB InBev in December was, at this point, expected. Some suppliers eschew Big Beer-owned brews, with Scottish Brewery BrewDog cutting Camden Town Brewery beers after the acquisition.
According to Bloomberg, six out of 10 drinkers believe a brewer’s independence is important when picking a craft beer.
With that in mind, cutting marketing may in fact be the best way for big breweries to keep brands “cool.” Not being linked to AB InBev or MillerCoors could be craft brands’ best hope for maintaining perceived authenticity.
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