In today's highly competitive craft brewing world, creating a brand that resonates with drinkers - and keeps you in business for the long haul - takes more than just making good beer.
It requires tapping a very particular lifestyle and lifestyle image.
"What differentiates us from the commodities that everyone goes out and buys, whether that's toilet paper or milk, is really the experience that we can provide," said Anna Nadasdy, a Certified Cicerone and former sales and marketing director at Great Divide Brewing Co. "Beer is really an emotional product for people. They develop emotional ties to the brands that they're drinking."
What sells a beer, mega or micro, is the stories it evokes, ones "told in the packaging or the way people ... encounter (the beer), be that (through) a rep or a brewer or an owner, or the experience that they're having in the taproom," said Nadasdy, now operating partner at the MBM Group, a training and consulting company that focuses on the beverage industry.
Nadasdy was one of four craft industry veterans who spoke at a panel discussion about brand creation and consumer loyalty in the closing session of the 23rd annual Rocky Mountain Microbrewing Symposium, Feb. 16 at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Selling a sudsy fantasy of Colorado craft to America is one thing; making it hit home with local audiences calls for a more personal - or, at least, personal-feeling - approach.
"Denverites work hard, and play even harder. We respect oxford shirts and dirty shorts alike. We love adventures and four-legged friends," reads the pitch on Denver Beer Co's website seeking "ambassadors" for its Explorer Program.
The program, launched when the brewery started canning its beers about four years ago, challenges customers to head out, take a DBC beer and a pic.
"We put coordinates for cool sites around the state and invited people to go to those sites within Colorado, experience our beers, take photos with the beer at these sites and send them back to us," said DBC sales director Brian Weslar.
There are schwag giveaways, and photos get featured on the brewery's website. A chosen few are picked to be Explorer Ambassadors, representing the beermaker and its philosophy at events and in marketing campaigns.
While it's "tough" to measure how, and whether, the program has affected sales, Weslar said, that - based on response - it's had the intended effect locally, and as an image campaign at large.
"It gets those people to be super loyal to us, to be representatives of ours, so to speak, and also provide us with cool content," Weslar said.
"I think it puts our message out there, tells people what we're all about, and drives home the image of what we're trying to give people in terms of our overall lifestyle."