Craft Beer: A Sense of Place

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by John

The craft beer boom. For years, we’ve been reading about new breweries opening and their continued growth and sales in beer consumption trends. In 2019 alone, over 1,100 new craft breweries opened in the United States and, according to the Brewer’s Association, over 2,500 are currently in planning for 2020. This is great news if you (like us) love craft beer, but not so great if you are an owner of a craft brewery trying to maintain growth and break through the clutter.
Today, there are over 8,000 craft breweries across the United States. Craft beer is no longer a novelty and certainly cannot be viewed as a trend. It’s a $27.6 billion-dollar industry that is now facing the same challenges of any other maturing industry. Now, more than ever, it is critical to establish a clear and unique brand identity and, by doing so, differentiate the brewery brand from others. This differentiation applies not only to on- and off-premise sales, but also to continue to attract customers to the brewery’s taproom. There is a ton of great beer out there, but consumers want to know what makes the brewery different, what it stands for, and what is its sense of place. 
What truly differentiates one brewery from any other (and even more so when comparing to the macro brands) is this sense of place. For most craft breweries, this ‘place’ is their taproom.  These breweries and, in most cases, their taprooms, are hubs for gathering, catalysts for giving back to their local environs, and, most importantly, true depictions of passion and entrepreneurship. These are the stories that need to be told and reinforced to truly stand out from the sea of craft beer. 
One tactic that other industries have successfully utilized to effectively tell their story and differentiate their brand is experiential marketing. For craft breweries, experiential marketing is much more than setting up a table and sampling at a beer festival. Effective and focused experiential marketing makes a human connection, engages consumers and invites them to share their experience. 
For craft breweries, the heart, soul, and their ‘sense of place” is their taproom. It’s the place that presents the brand, unfiltered and true to its core. There is an opportunity for craft breweries to extend this experience beyond the taproom. Most recently, pop-up events and traveling taprooms have emerged as powerful marketing tactics to promote the brand story and engage with consumers. These tactics, now commonplace in the CPG category, will become even more important for craft brewers as off-premise retailers seek innovative ways to market the brands on their shelves.