The folks at Brekenridge Brewery have a whole media campaign that revolves around the most ridiculous end of the brewing industry: the marketing department.
You can check out their video's on Youtube but here's a quick one that just makes me smile:
What gets me thinking about this is the seeming total lack of respect for beer lovers that some "breweries" have for their customers. I put the "breweries" in quotes because many of those that fall into the most heinous offenders group don't even own a brewery.
They are simply marketing companies.
They could be selling auto parts, insurance, or even weapons of mass destruction, but instead they have chosen to sell beer. AND, to add to that point, they have chosen to give over control of their bread & butter product to another company, who for various reasons cannot sell enough of their own beer to keep them busy enough to allow maximization of their investment in equipment and time.
Does this sound like an intelligent business strategy to anyone?
"Let's have a brewery who can't sell enough of their own beer make something for us. We'll just have to market the beejesus out of it so it will sell".
What some of these marketing companies have figured out is that if you put some lipstick on these pigs, and dress them up in a craft beer disguise, you'll likely be able to sell said beer at a markup above and beyond what standard domestic beer goes for.
Marketing Co's pay a premium for the privilege of having their beer brewed at another facility! So they can't afford to put out a beer that has any real character - it has to be a safe, predictable, standard yellow beer that 90% of the world buys like sheep, and 99.9% of the advertising world LOVES because the marketing department has to throw thousands, sometimes millions of dollars at them to push it.
So suddenly, in a circle jerk of stupidity, the marketing company is paying a lot more for something that isn't really worth what it's costing them. Both in product AND marketing.
...And then they realize that craft beer lovers aren't as gullible as they thought.
This begs the question:
Has this scenario ever worked in the craft brewing arena? And the answer is yes, it works all the time. Samuel Adams is a great example of a marketing company that worked. However, they eventually did figure out that to exact a full measure of control, they would need to build their own facility and increase their controlling stake in the companies that brewed for them.
From this example, the real question is if contract brewing works over long periods of time? The answer is most assuredly, no.
And the worst thing about duping your target market into buying something is that they will remember this when they are standing in the aisles at the store and making a decision. So the returns are diminishing, since more advertising needs to be spent to push the ever increasingly expensive product.
But what does it matter when you could just as easily call one passe contract brewing company closed and within a week, have the same damn beer out with a new label on the shelf under a different name?
And while I'm at it...
Large, multi-national breweries have figured out that to compete in the ever growing category of better craft beer, they are ill equipped and ill prepared. So, rather than putting their name proudly on a beer that came from a real brewer's passion, they set up faux companies to market their faux craft beer.
The ill equipped breweries are designed to make beer at a standard alcohol content, with a standard amount of hops, water and yeast. Any deviation from this norm throws the whole system into chaos, resulting in garbage beer, lost production time, and losses to the bottom line. And hey, when you're trying to minimize your losses so the boss can continue to drive his Bentley to his million dollar mansion in the suburbs, every cent counts, no?
The ill prepared breweries are used to marketing the beer world's equivalent of Wonder Bread. The product development panels are made up of yes men, and quite frankly a dying breed of beer drinkers; The Company Loyalists. Craft beer (being the only growing concern in the brewing world) understands that beer lovers these days are anything but staunch company loyalists. Nor should they be, because if you can't brew world class beer, you shouldn't expect a pat on the back for a job well done.
Real beer lovers bounce around, trying anything and everything in their path. There's a huge world out there, so why shouldn't we? There's plenty of beer in the world and more being made every day, by passionate people who know how to conduct the symphony of ingredients so it comes out tasting like a masterpiece.
So much so, why would you waste your time/money on something less?
Does all this sound like preaching to the converted? Probably, but you'd be surprised how many times you've been duped into buying something that was crafted by a marketing department rather than someone who had a hand in the actual process of brewing. Check your labels folks - Canadian labelling laws dictate that where the beer is produced must be on there somewhere. Read the label, understand it, and know that if it sounds like something is trying to be glossed over or hidden, it probably is.
Edit, February 26: More info on where your beer comes from
Labels: ranting, the business of beer