How to Growth Hack the Beer Industry

You are wondering how Beer and Growth Hacking fits together?

The only thing you might think of is probably the following: “Growth Hacking Meetup XYZ…(Free Beer & Snacks) — a digital meetup event where they try to catch you with “FREE BEER”.

A typical MeetUp Growth Hacking Event with “free beer”

BUT…

Growth Hacking and Beer have way more in common than you might think!

One famous example are the guys from BrewDog (a craft brewery from Scotland) that growth hacked the beer industry by disrupting it in non traditional ways.

“BrewDog was the fastest growing Food &Beverage company of the UK in the last 5 years “

They call themselves the “post-punk-apocalyptic motherfucker of a craft brewery” reaching from stunts such as filling up beer in bodies of dead animal bodies or launching the biggest crowdfunding campaign in history.

Brewdog’s Co-Founders James Watt, Martin Dickie

But before we dive right into our “Beer” Growth Hack of the last decade. I want to clarify some terms first.

First of all — What is Growth Hacking. As the godfather of Growth Hacking Sean Ellis describes “Growth Hacking is experiment-driven marketing”. It basically covers the whole process of how to use existing digital resource by easily growing your customer base in a high scalable matter. Going beyond — Growth Hacking also requires to think outside of the box.

Nevertheless, in this article I am going to extend the definition a bit by focusing more on the disruptive factor of Growth Hacking…

So let’s get down to business — BrewDog started as a two-man (+ dog) beer geek show and turned itself into a global player with a valuation of multiple millions.

But how could these two Scottish disrupt the beer industry within 10 years?

The Story

It basically started with the fact that, two friends Martin and James were bored of the industrial brewed lagers that were dominating the beer market. From the very start they were inspired to brew American-style craft beers — sweet-tasting ales with high alcohol levels and very large amounts of US hops, which gave them a bold, fruity, even perfumed flavor.

Being just 24 at that time, they invested their whole money into buying cheap used brewing equipment. The outcome, brewing beer in tiny batches, filling up the bottles by hand and selling them in an old beat up van. Always focusing on their mission — make other people as passionate about craft beer as they are.

How BrewDogs journey began

One year later with an MV(B)P Minimum Viable (Beer) Product they joined a beer brewing competition of the UK based supermarket giant TESCO. Unbelievably — they not even won the competition, better they also ranked 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

After winning the competition Tesco wanted to put the beer in 500 shops by buying 2000 cases a week. At this time, they were still filling up bottles by hand — but of course, using a poker face they said yes and the rest is history.

So let the numbers do the talking…

Exponential growth and 2016 looked even better

BrewDogs Growth Hacks

Growth hackers need to be creative, able to attack problems in new ways and constantly be pushing the product team to try new ideas for growth — this exactly matches the two cofounders James Watt and Martin Dickie.

So what can we learn from BrewDogs enormous growth?

1. INCLUDE YOUR COMMUNITY

What is the best way to retain your customer? Make them part of your company and success.

After the two founders were declined any bank loan, they came up with their Program Equity for Punks. A game changer offered people the opportunity to buy shares in the company online (Lifelong discounts on BrewDogs beer, exclusive access to bars, a voting right in the company and many more). In the first round over 1,300 invested.

Equity for Punks — everyone can become a part of BrewDog

Today, after the fourth round more than 40,000 Equity Punk investors “fanvestors” helped to raise more than 19 Million pounds. A bold move from BrewDog making it the biggest crowd funding in history.

BrewDog achieved not only to raise money by meeting their funding goals. They achieved even something more remarkable — combining the passion of people by making them part of the company and maximize the customer lifetime value. A new business model was born.

2. BE PROVOCATIVE

Traditional advertising is dead — experimenting with new media it is! Over the last decade BrewDog has upset variously drink industry associations, health organizations and rival breweries publicly.

In 2008 — among the first ones was Britain’s self-regulating alcohol industry watchdog aiming for the language used on one of their labels (containing a “an aggressive beer” phrase, the word aggressive is seen more likely to be applied to the drinker). BrewDog had to change the label but was shortly launching a new one called SpeedBall (which is a named after a combination of heroin and cocaine) but was banned immediately.

Promoting a new beer while driving with a tank through the streets

Besides focusing on flavors, the two founders invested time to create and irreverent image of the brand. For example, by naming the beers in a special way such as Dead Pony Pale Ale, Dogma and Hardcore IPA or celebrating a new beer launch with a tank ride through a small British village.

Nevertheless — the Hacks were successful… the public attention the company gained from them was huge. These kind of acts continued over the years playing a new version of cat and mouse.

Compared to big global players, BrewDog was lacking in terms of marketing budget. However, being loud, provocative and going in between the lines enabled them to outperform their big beer brand competitors.

3. BE EXTREME

It is better to be weird than to be ordinary — ordinary is boring! This was probably one of the guiding principles of James Watt and Mick Dickie. Just to give you some examples of their whole pallet.

  • Brewing the world’s strongest ever beer, Tactical Nuclear Penguin at 32% or later on Sink the Bismarck a response to the Germans
  • Aged beer on the deck of a fishing boat
  • Smashing loads of industrial beers by fitting them onto fireworks
  • Projected themselves naked into the houses of parliament
  • Made a special beer for the Olympics (Featuring LGTB and Putin)
  • A bottle of the world’s strongest beer wrapped inside taxidermy road kill
Beer wrapped in a dead animal body

Going Further, a month after launching Equity for Punks IV, Watt and Dickie promoted the fundraise by hiring a helicopter in London and throwing stuffed cats — “Fat Cats” — over the City — CAN IT GET ANY CRAZIER?

The (new) way of advertising

TAKE AWAYS

Just to recall — growth hacking is finding new ways of how to use existing digital / resources by easily growing your customer base in a highly scalable manner.

In this article I used a fundamental different view on Growth Hacking by not solely focusing on the digital channel rather than looking at the whole picture.

BrewDog works as a perfect example for a Growth Hack! In an old industry where (digital) marketing progressed in a slower pace, they found a way to outperform the big giants by leveraging their customer base with incentives programs and creating a WOW moment.

James Watt and Martin Dickie rapidly changed the image of two brewing nerds into a lifestyle brand by embodying a “hands on and fuck off” mentality.

After just opening their first brewery on US soil — We can be excited to see how BrewDog will successfully grow by smashing the horizon of small minded people!

The story of the successful Growth Hack is likely to be continued

Cheers, 
Patrick

P.S. If you are thirsty now and liked the article leave me a ❤ here!

P.P.S. If you are also a beer lover drop me a message, visit my page!