Stone Brewing’s Transparency

For those of you not intimately familiar with the Craft Beer industry, Southern California’s Stone Brewing is kind of big deal. They’re one of the hottest brands in the Craft segment and their Founder and CEO Greg Koch has become quite the celeb in beer geek circles.

Stone recently posted this video on their blog where they announced plans to explore brewing options in Europe.  From a pure business perspective, this is a big deal and makes some sense.  Contrary to 10 years ago, it is now the Europeans who are interested in American beer – not the other way around.  So building a brewery in Europe could open a lot of doors and present some substantial volume opportunities.

From a marketing perspective, I love the transparency that Greg is showing here.  He’s not making any promises or saying that it’s a done deal, but he’s floating the idea out there to consumers and letting them share in the excitement of the plans.  If they play it right, the entire RFP and brewery building process is something that consumers will get to participate in and follow.  It will also give them something to talk about the next time they recommend a Stone IPA.

I wish more companies would operate like this.  It’s easy to say you do, but not many pull it off quite like this.

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Do People Hate Marketing?

Seth’s blog post got me thinking about this today…

When I worked on PBR, we focused most of our efforts on word of mouth or “buzz marketing.”  Mostly because we didn’t have any money, but also because the young adult, hipster consumer resisted mainstream mainstream marketing and embraced brands that didn’t market.  The hipsters were the ones rediscovering, reinventing and advocating the brand.

Believe it or not, the concept of hipsters drinking PBR was a hard idea to sell internally back in 2001-2003.  You gotta remember that the brand was living on middle-aged, blue collar men who drank it because it was cheap.  It wasn’t sold on-premise and it was a forgotten brand.  So when it came to convincing all of the big shots that this brand had a chance with a new consumer base, we rationalized it by telling them that it was being embraced because these consumers resisted mainstream marketing.

Is that true?  Do even the most fickle and anti-establishment of consumers “hate” marketing?  Here we are, six years later and I say that it is totally false.  I think consumers LOVE marketing.  BUT, they only love it when it’s authentic and meaningful to them.  If it’s fake, consumers, whether they are cynical hipsters or not will REJECT it.

That’s the beauty of social media, sampling and experiential marketing programs.  All of these tactics are real because the consumer is interacting and having a conversation with a real person.

Coincedentally, when we scaled up the PBR program, we hired more people to go out there and have conversations.  Even the hipsters knew that these people were there to MARKET to them.  But they were totally fine with it. Why? Because it was REAL.