Craft beer in Australia – view from the other side

In an industry that has traditionally eschewed the hard sale and tried to remain local and independent in spirit, it strikes me as odd how so many breweries seem to overlook the basics of social media and marketing. The platforms businesses choose to operate on and communicate with their customers all come with unique rules of engagement that are worth paying attention to in order to incrementally gain traction. Otherwise you’re just spinning your tires in the mud.

This isn’t a ‘how to’ guide, that’s for someone else to write. It’s more of a ‘how not to’ from a customer’s point of view. What frustrates and fails when seen on the receiving end. There are several issues that crop up with alarming regularity in the industry that give off the impression of apathy and nothing more.

This collection of semi-random thoughts was triggered by this excellent piece from Rob Ruminski https://medium.com/p/1b1d0ace5fc1 that pushed me to coalesce all the little bugbears into black & white.

None of the following relates to the contents of a bottle, can, or keg. It is not a critique of brewing or brewers.

Don’t cross the streams

Cross-linking to one platform when using another. For example, tweeting a picture but using the Instagram link. Of course it’s quicker and easier for you, but Instagram loads externally-linked content at the speed of an oil tanker in syrup. Seconds matter because attention spans are short and noise is high. Plus, there’s no visible preview, just a link :

Why should I click on that? There’s nothing appealing or interesting. Stop making your customer do the work and and just tweet the picture direct. So what if it means you’re posting the same content two or three times. You’re in business and you’re trying to get your message seen above everyone else’s on multiple platforms. Make it easy for your customers.

Here’s a particularly egregious example :

Credit to Young Henry’s for this :


You said what now?

No, you can’t post your 140+ Instagram message on your 140-capped Twitter account. Well you can, but it will literally make no sense :


Beware of the big bad wolf

By numbers alone, Facebook is the most important social media platform you have. However plenty of independently minded people swear off it for a multitude of reasons. Related to the first point above, Facebook presents a special case :


Beer is a visual medium

Use pictures. Use good pictures. Don’t use low quality, low resolution, blurry pictures unless they reflect a unique, one-off situation and there’s no other choice. Don’t push out content that makes your product look unappealing. It’s bizarre that you would even think of doing so.


Consistency

When you re-brand, do it completely. These are the banners of Nail Brewing on Facebook and Twitter, screen capped at the same time :

As you can see the long-awaited and very welcome rebrand has only been updated on Facebook. This could change by the time I hit publish but I know it’s been this way for a while now.


Engagement isn’t a dirty word

Talk to your customers. Reply when they have queries. No need to engage in flame wars with aggro know-it-alls but this is a highly social and community driven business. Most people aren’t out for a ruck. Customer loyalty and repeat business is forged upon creating and fostering open, genuine lines of communication with your customers. Social media is not a sealed environment where you get to make all the rules, it’s a communal space.


Branding/Merchandise

You see it everywhere – people wearing tshirts with a brand/place inscribed on them. If you’re a brewery selling merchandise the contract on its most basic terms is this – your customer will pay you money to advertise your business. So use that gift. Logo, business name, location. Unless you’re Nike or Apple you can’t rely on a logo alone. Take this example from the otherwise excellent Eagle Bay Brewing Co :

It’s a hoodie with their distinctive logo. Distinctive to me that is. It’s screaming out for their name and location. Secondly the logo is off-centre, almost completely obscuring the salmon in the eagle’s talons. When I queried this I was told that’s the intent :

Creative choices such as this are their business but I’d wager if you asked most people they’d suggest re-aligning that print for clarity and impact.


Expiry dates

Off topic but can’t help myself. You can’t bang on about freshness if you won’t fix this. Stop putting them exclusively on carton packaging. Individual date stamps on all bottles and cans. That simple.


Grow a thicker skin

Competition is increasing rapidly from local, interstate and overseas breweries. Whatever your thoughts on perceived standards of freshness, particularly from overseas, customers will always like shiny new toys. They’re also more savvy and selective with all this increased choice and knowledge and have a keener sense of when they’re being bullshitted. Cheerleaders will only get you so far.

Times are looking good. The industry has been firmly consolidated in Australia and is no longer fringe or fad. Allied with necessary investments in quality control and quality assurance, there is no reason the industry can’t keep booming and knocking out amazing beers all over the country. Just keep a close watch on that shop window, the first thing all your customers lay eyes on.