Discover how a small Scottish craft brewery utilised marketing and sustainability to become an industry leading titan.
The craft-beer market has exploded in the last decade. From the drink of hipsters to the talk of the pub, people just can’t seem to get enough of some hoppy IPA-goodness.
Scottish-based beer legend, Brewdog, are front and centre of this change, setting an example not just for other breweries, but for all brands out there.
But how does a tiny company started by two Scots become the producer of one of the top 25 most valuable beers in the world and an industry titan worth 2 billion dollars with their own sustainable forest?
It’s simple. They took a sledgehammer to the stagnated alcoholic beverage market and destroyed it to rebuild the industry the way they think it ought to look.
The craft-beer ‘revolution’ is a result of consumers wanting not just to purchase beer, but wanting the brand they buy from to resonate and identify with them.
Brewdog is one of many craft brewers that seem to have successfully tapped into a consumer market previously neglected by alcoholic beverage corporations.
However, that isn’t to say Brewdog’s journey has been easy. They were turned down by the BBC’s ‘Dragon’s Den’ - a decision I’m sure the TV show now regret, figuring the 20% cut offered to them for £100,000 is now worth £360 million.
Brewdog’s success is underpinned not only by a clever and revitalised marketing strategy, but also a strong environmental message that resonates with modern consumers.
Crafting Beers and Brands
In an age of corporate monopolies dominating entire industries - one of the worst being that of beer - the success of small breweries is a strange phenomenon.
Within the past ten years, craft-beer breweries have taken off with great success. This is clear in Britain, where in 2015 there were more small breweries per head than any other country in the world.
What’s more, U.K. supermarket chain Asda has doubled down in it’s support of craft-beer breweries in the last few years, as it continues to grow as a retailer of the beverage.
But it’s not just supermarkets that craft-beers are forcing their way into. Pubs and bars alike are seeing more and more options, on draught or bottled, for craft-beer alternatives to typical lagers.
In this regard, Brewdog have done especially well, infiltrating a market that is, traditionally, very loyal with their choice in beer. Their golden-boy product, ‘Punk IPA’, witnessed annual pub sales increase by 19.7% in 2019.
Brewdog’s success is unmatched in the U.K. Their secret? Making unapologetically great beer and relating to their customers.
The result? Over £86 million in sales last year and some of the most brand loyal consumers ever seen.
But Brewdog’s appeal goes far beyond simply just taste alone. They proudly flaunt the fact that they aren’t restrained by the formalities of typical corporate culture.
Brewdog aren’t just another faceless corporation, they pride themselves on being a company of the people.
They relate to their consumers through lighthearted marketing and advertising, with an attitude that would make any corporate leader turn their noses up at them.
For example, their most popular beer in the U.S., ‘Elvis Juice’, was recently hit with a lawsuit from the lawyer of Elvis Presley’s estate, regarding the use of his name.
A traditional, corporate company would have done the simple thing: change the name of the drink and move on. But hey, where's the fun in that?
Instead, Brewdog co-founders James Watts and Martin Dickie both decided to legally change their name to Elvis before then asking for the lawyers to pay the licensing fee for using their name in their music.
It is this witty behaviour that has gained the brand such a loyal cult of fans who see Brewdog as so much more than just a beer, but a community with it’s own mischievous personality.
But Brewdog’s ingenuity means these stunts not only serve them for publicity and gaining popularity, but also for pursuing new avenues and products.
Earlier this year, British supermarket Aldi released their own IPA that was a blatant knock-off of Brewdog’s Punk IPA. Again, a normal company would pursue the legal routes to have this product removed.
But, yet again, where’s the fun in that?
Instead, the Scottish brewer released a new beverage called ‘Ald IPA’, clearly mimicking the supermarket’s plagiarising of them. Creating their own meme through marketing to further increase their success.
Simply put, Brewdog’s main appeal isn't necessarily even their product. It’s their brand’s identity and culture that make people love them (the beer is really just a great bonus).
But they aren’t just loved for their brand culture when it comes to humorous marketing campaigns. Brewdog’s commitment to sustainability and notion of corporate responsibility to saving the planet is what truly makes it a brand that others should aspire to be like.
Beer Chugging, Tree Hugging
Do you buy everyday products from a specific brand? For many of us, the answer is likely yes - though we likely don’t even realise it. For the most part, our loyalty to brands is mostly subliminal.
But why would we be loyal to boring, everyday products? Our frequent brand of kitchen roll, toilet cleaner or beer has no clear values for us to relate with.
Could you even begin to identify such values (if they actually existed, that is)? I know I couldn’t.
More often than not, we are loyal to brands for the simple sake of ease. We know their product and we are rather content with continuing to buy it. Though there isn’t much else compelling us other than fearing change.
However, our fear of changing our brand of choice isn’t as difficult to overcome as you may think.
Our preferences and habits can be changed when a new brand emerges and personifies the values we hold.
And what better example of a brand doing this right than Brewdog?
I’ve already highlighted their lighthearted, informal style that has consumers hooked. But, arguably, it is Brewdog’s dedication to sustainability that really cuts deep into the values of consumers.
Brewdog has grown massively since the late 2000s, pushing their way into an incredibly competitive market. How? They offer more than just beer.
Over a decade ago, Brewdog launched their sustainable campaign: ‘Equity for Punks’, allowing the public to purchase shares of the company, with all the money raised allocated to sustainable projects.
But why stop there? Brewdog proudly flaunts the title of being the first global beer brand to go fully carbon negative (yes, negative - meaning they will take twice as much carbon out of the air as they put in. Because neutral just wasn’t enough for them).
And, following the company’s purchase of 2000 acres of woodland in the Scottish Highlands, the ‘Brewdog Forest’ hopes to make this goal a reality by planting one million trees, starting in 2021.
Considering all of this, their success doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, it’s no secret that the sustainable movement has continued to grow exponentially in recent history, especially with younger generations of consumers.
Brewdog’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t only help protect the environment, it also reinforces their values, allowing them to act as a brand that consumers can truly relate to.
At a time when brand values matter more than ever, Brewdog’s unequivocal passion for sustainability makes them the type of brand all others should strive to be more like.
Nursing the Planet… And a Hangover
Brewdog's philosophy is simple: Let’s make sure we still have a planet to make good beer on.
The rise of the craft-beer industry is largely a result of consumers wanting more from brands. They don’t mind paying more for products if they relate to the values and style of other brands.
While many other notable craft-brewers are successfully creating laid-back brand cultures such as Brewdog, none are truly tapping into the values of sustainability that more and more consumers hold dear.
Their business model is something other brands should aspire to. They have successfully captured a market of brand-oriented consumers who love two things: good beer and the planet.
The best part about it? The ease for consumers who want to help protect the environment. Simply supporting Brewdog by buying their products also supports sustainable projects.
The only thing you need to do? Worry about that bloody hangover.
Now, if you don't mind, I think I’ll have myself a pint.
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