As a marketing guy I keep an eye on all kinds of marketing strategies and contemplate their effectiveness. An interesting trend going on in the beer marketing world is the shift in focus from “brand” to “style” marketing. This is much more in-line with how wine is marketed, by varietal rather than by brand. Instead of the focus being on the brewery or brand, say, Deschutes, it’s now more about a particular style first, say Black Butte Porter produced by Deschutes.
This marketing strategy shift in the craft beer industry brings up a question about the need for a flagship beer. I will discuss that topic in detail in the next blog post. For now I will look at the most prominent beer styles. The primary beer styles as I see them, in no particular order are: pale ale, IPA (Indian pale ale), lager, pilsner, porter, stout, wheat, and red ale. There are several secondary styles too such as: black ale, brown ale, black IPA, fruit infused ales, double IPA, bock, imperial stout, and more.
Overall brand is important, but beer drinkers are now looking for a style first, brand second. When I go to the market for beer I typically have a style or two in mind. In the winter I like darker beers, porters and stouts (although these are harder to find bottled and variety is lacking when you do find them), in the summer I like lighter beers such as pilsner, lager, and pale ales. Once I’ve determined the style I’m looking for then I choose to either try something new or pick a brand I’m familiar with and trust. A good example of this is the fact that Sierra Nevada has a great consistent brand. A few years ago I was in the mood for a brown ale and came across the newly bottled Tumbler from Sierra Nevada brewing company. I didn’t hesitate to give a twelve pack a try because Sierra Nevada rarely puts out a bad beer. Sure enough the Tumbler was great but I may not have purchased Sierra Nevada that day because I was looking for a style first.
I would really like to see retailers start stocking their beer by style just like you find in the wine section. You don’t see wine stocked by winery, you see it by varietal. I look forward to walking down the beer isle soon and seeing the beer stocked by style. For all you beer retailers out there, I suggest you give this a try. I think you will find it will be an interesting merchandising experiment and work well to sell more beer.