Bulk commercial beers are a good example of how marketing allows what are largely identical products to position themselves in their market. Heineken, Stella, Becks, Carlsberg, and other European lagers for that matter have no discernable difference over one’s palate. Take away the label, the shape of the bottle and remove the celebrity du jour who’s doing the drinking of these in the TV ads, and they’re just the same lager. Blind testing will confirm this. The fact that these businesses do so well is all testimony to the power of great advertising and promotion.
Tobacco companies used to be able to do the same thing. Indeed tobacco companies largely wrote the book about the power of branded identity and how to make this work. Their products were largely identical, but the market segments they reached through their brand advertising were anything but. Major sporting and cultural events were synonymous with tobacco brands. Once regulators decided that this had to stop, tobacco sales suffered.
I’m a great believer in supporting businesses that are prepared to take a stand and do something different to what their competitors do. I’m attracted to businesses with a strong and active interest in what their customers and prospects want or enjoy, who set high production values, and deliver reliably for a reasonable cost. These can be local businesses, they can also be global businesses. These days market reach is largely determined by the nature of the product or service being sold.
Last New Year I decided to become a beer snob. I had tired of tap beers at most licensed hostelries all tasting the same and was also a bit annoyed at the prices being charged for these. Unlike big bulk brewers, craft brewers actually care about producing something that consumers will not only enjoy but will talk about. Craft brewers rely heavily on word of mouth endorsement for people to try their beer. That’s a marketing channel that the bulk brewers lost generations of drinkers ago.
I’ve become a convert to craft beers, although I discovered along the way that I have much to learn to become a “snob”. I’ve met some people over the past year who are extremely well versed in intricate comparisons between different types of hops and the countries in which these are grown. I just enjoy a really good beer, and I think that shall be the end of my pretentiousness.