Craft Beer Marketing: The Strong Survive

Who would have thought that craft beer could have so much impact on the marketing industry?  Consider these facts:

  • Craft beer now comprises 17.2% of the beer market in the U.S. (as of 2013).
  • Barrels shipped in 2013 totaled 16.1 billion, having doubled since 2007. [
  • Marketing budgets for craft brewing are around 3.6% of revenue (7% for big beer companies), and marketing spending is increasing.

The story of craft beer has been Cinderella-like…

If The Shoe Fits - The Marketing Lush

Except, you know… with beer.

Craft beer was a new, but difficult, product to sell.  It entered a market with large competition and complex distribution laws that varied state-by-state.  Despite the challenging barriers and odds, it has seen a dramatic rise to glory.

Much of craft beer marketing has been about capturing that endearing underdog attitude.  How do they do it?  One beer company, Stone Brewing Co., perfected their marketing by pouring on the attitude, picking on the big guys, and capitalizing on what makes them unique.

Pour on the AttitudeArrogant Bastard Ale - The Marketing Lush

What do many people get when they drink?

They get loads of attitude!

This is something that Greg Koch and Steve Wagner of Stone Brewing Co. managed to apply to their brand, Arrogant Bastard Ale.  As of 2012, it was the 10th largest craft brewery in the United States and produced over 213,000 US barrels in 2013.

The partners took the rejection they received when they started out in 1996 and replied with attitude.  Calling their beer the Arrogant Bastard Ale, they used the tagline “This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it.”

For beer drinkers that came across the brand, it was a personal challenge many had to accept.

Pick on the Big Guys

If there’s one place for bullying, it’s the beer industry.   But just because you’re big doesn’t mean you get to pick on the little guys.  In fact, it’s typically the other way around.

Fizzy Yellow Beer - The Marketing LushKoch and Wagner actually targeted the big beer players with a series of marketing campaigns using the tagline, “Fizzy yellow beer is for wussies.”  Their overconfidence about their product combined with the shameless attack against industry giants has given them quite a reputation.  As a result, their following had only gotten stronger.

Be Different & Embrace It

Bottles - The Marketing LushWith craft beer, the product is already different.  There are many nuances that make each beer unique.  Brewers might as well embrace this and anything else they can do to break out of the mold.

This is what Stone Brewing Co. did when they released 22-ounce bottles to retail shelves at a time when everybody else was only producing 12-ounce bottles.  This allowed them to price their beers competitively, helping them break-even faster than anyone else.

There is no denying the fact that craft beer has paved the way for a more aggressive form of marketing, a challenge that only the strong can survive.

About the Author

The Marketing Lush’s staff writing team is a made up of a motley crew of freelance writers who love writing, beer money, or in many cases, both.


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