• Laura L.

Austin on Tap: "Beers to That" Review

A marketing campaign funded by Beer Institute, National Beer Wholesalers Association and Brewers Association - does this make you as anxious as it makes us?!

It’s no surprise. We are suckers for a good craft beer marketing campaign! On September, 18 2019 the Beer Growth Initiative, comprised of Brewers Association, National Beer Wholesalers Association and Beer Institute, launched their first campaign “Beers to that.”

While overall U.S. beer sales were down 1% in 2018, craft brewery sales continued to grow at a rate of 4% by volume, reaching 13.2% of the U.S. beer market by volume. To increase consideration for beer as a whole and defend its position in the alcoholic beverage market against recent contenders like wine and spirits, the members set out to launch a first-ever brand agnostic marketing campaign for beer. Allegedly 4 years in the making, Beers to That claims its objective is to “help you recognize all the moments that make life more fun. (Oh, and to celebrate them with a beer.)” The campaign features a consumer focused website, digital advertising, influencer marketing, experiential events and point of sale materials. Brewbound noted that Paul Gatza, senior vice president of the Brewers Association said, “Right now, it’s about trying to project beer as a fun, interesting part of vibrant lifestyles, while targeting a younger legal-drinking-age consumers in the market with imagery that resonates locally.”

The campaign is a marketing test, launched in Austin, TX, that if successful could be extended to other markets in the future. At the very minimum, the Beer Growth Initiative is hoping to see a shift in the way beer is embraced and purchased both by consumers and the channel. While the campaign itself is comprised of mostly higher-level funnel activities, it’s clear the end goal of this campaign is for consumers to choose beer over wine and spirits when given the chance, regardless of whether it’s craft or macro. While we can appreciate the importance of being a team player with others in the industry, the question we are asking today is will this truly move the needle for craft beer sales in the Austin area or is it a fetal attempt to acquiesce the Beer Institute? Not only are we wondering how it will or will not impact sales, but we’re also curious as to how this potentially affects the relationships between key players in both craft and macro beer. To say it will be an interesting test to analyze postmortem is a gross understatement.

Since the campaign won’t wrap up until December 10, 2019, success is yet to be determined. In the meantime, our marketing minds are eager to unpack what we see happening from our viewpoint in this campaign.

Let’s take a look.

As the Beers to That campaign is centered around the consumer-facing landing page, that is where our unpacking begins. Upon first load of the Beers to That website, we’re presented with a multi-section landing page, with a lively looping video gracing the top of the page.

It only takes a viewer 0.5 seconds to realize who this campaign is targeting. With all three scenes featuring females and moments of celebration like “laundry night” and “girls night,” it’s no coincidence that Beers to That is hoping to capture the mindshare and dollars of millenial women. In 2018, female craft beer drinkers made up 31.5% of the average craft beer drinking population, and they continue to be the fastest growing market segment of craft beer. This makes them a prime target for beer marketing campaigns like #Beerstothat as this group has the highest potential to generate significant ROI.

Scrolling down the page, the #Beerstothat hashtag reminds viewers to celebrate life’s moments with beer (and snap a pic, post to IG and use the hashtag). A bit of a miss as there is no opportunity to share or engage with any content.

Further down, the viewer is presented with a Beer IQ quiz with no real call to action or reason to take it, another miss in our opinion. Had there been some incentive, like a sweepstakes entry, coupon or even digital trophy for bragging rights, this would have been cool. However, it’s hard to get a busy reader (hopefully someone who is not currently purchasing beer) to stop and take an eleven question quiz on beer trivia without some kind of incentive. With that said, the questions in the quiz are pretty intriguing. They are not interesting because of the trivia itself, but the decision on what types of questions to include are quite fascinating and further reinforce the skew toward targeting young female millenials throughout this campaign. A few blatant examples include:

“The first brewers were men.*” - True or False

“Beer makes a great hair conditioner.*” - True or False

Also..why the asterisk? Hmm..are these not actual facts, just questions designed to agree with a female’s world view and therefore feel more favorably about our favorite sudsy bev? Maybe.

Once the reader has passed (or given up on) the Beer IQ quiz, they’re called to see what others are toasting to, and are presented with 3 campaign snapshots from the 0:07 YouTube videos that all link back to the Beers to That Instagram page. In our opinion, what would have made this section more authentic, and therefore engaging, is if the creators had embedded a live Instagram feed of all posts including the #beerstothat campaign hashtag so, you know, we could actually "see" what people are toasting to. All we see right now are the branded elements. At the very least, they could have linked the Instagram logo to an Instagram search of the #beerstothat hashtag.

And finally, we’re presented with what is one of the coolest aspects of this campaign - the murals! As part of the campaign, a “handful” of #beerstothat murals are scattered about a portion of the downtown area. Three murals are shown here, but it’s not clear if more exist or plan to be painted throughout the campaign. Furthermore, we note and appreciate the seemingly-alternative female artist being featured finalizing a painting. (hello, target segment!)

You already know we love all the murals! They’re great for so many reasons, and are a perfect fit for ATX culture. We’re always amazed at the incredible vision and talent of the artists, and love that the murals themselves feel larger than life. The murals are so fun and we’re dying to see these pop up on Instagram, and are hoping the users don’t forget to use the #beerstothat hashtag. We’re also curious to know how the surrounding businesses were or weren’t involved in the process - inquiring minds want to know!

All in all, this campaign is super interesting to us from both a political and a craft beer marketing standpoint. While success is yet to be determined, one thing is clear - the beer industry loves its female shoppers! With that said, if female conversion is in fact one of the main objectives of this campaign, we believe there are better ways to execute a female-focused campaign in a more authentic way. Some of the elements of the campaign seem a bit trite and could possibly have a negative effect on its female audience. In our opinion, this campaign still doesn’t answer the foundational question of this whole campaign “WHY BEER?” Sure, we can all talk about the fun times, boring times and monumental times and say #beerstothat, but none of the buyer’s concerns, challenges, objections were addressed or answered. So for us, jury’s out on whether or not this will be as successful as the Beer Growth Initiative hopes. Time will tell!

In the meantime, we have so many questions still...a few we'd love to get your thoughts on:

  • Why would Brewers Association lend their name (and dollars) to this?

  • Macro beer has actively advertised and proactive stances against craft beer, and now wants to piggy-back on the communal spirit of craft beer for its own gain...why?

  • Do you actually think this is going to benefit craft beer sales?

  • Would you like to see more of these co-op marketing campaigns that blur the lines between craft and macro?

  • Should females be the target of these campaigns? Are they the decision-influencers or the actual purchasers of the product?

Bonus Material: Why Austin for the “Beers to That” marketing campaign

The more we explored, the more we had to share (that's a good thing, right?). We felt that the selection of Austin for the launch of #Beerstothat was, while seemingly a perfect fit, interesting and worthy of further analysis.

First, let’s start with the demographics of beer drinkers in general on a national scale. The Brewer's Association put out their "habitual craft drinker" demographic analysis in 2018 showing that nationally, the breakdown is about 30% female and 70% male. While that breakdown is at a very high level and makes some fundamental assumptions, let’s roll with it - 70/30 men to women. This is almost the exact make-up of the Austin area craft beer crowd, where the ratio of beer drinkers is 65/35 men to women. While Austin checks that first box, plenty of other cities fit the mold as well, after all that is the national average. So what else drove the Growth Beer Initiative to select Austin?

If Austin matches the desired demographic breakdown, then how does its beer scene, both craft and macro (since they are teaming up on this) compare nationally? There are currently 50 craft breweries in the Austin area (more included in the surrounding Central Texas region) and while this has been growing at an amazing pace over the last decade, this growth has mirrored the growth of the city. Currently the per capita breakdown for Austin is 0.05 breweries per thousand people, which is the lowest of the booming beer towns, places like San Diego (0.06), Asheville (0.3), Denver (.16) and Portland (0.16). This would suggest that while Austin's beer scene has been growing at a crazy pace, it still has plenty of room for newcomers in the market and growth from current market members, which may be an interesting stat to track through, and after, this campaign, if brewers are able to unlock the female segment of the market, does that increase the growth in breweries or overall production? Things to think about. Just for a point of reference, the US per capita (per 1,000 people) is 0.002.

Additionally, Austin is the live musical capital of the world, is home to a booming art scene and is a bachelorette party locale of choice. This obviously lends itself nicely to the #beerstothat campaign which has art and events sprinkled throughout.

- #Cheerstothat