What if all we ever knew was big-name lager? Here's how UK-based craft beer is taking the lead in the brewing game.
When it comes to drinking craft beers, it’s much more about the journey and the experience, than about the destination (getting tipsy).
It’s Not Just Hipsters
In the UK, we can feel that the beer industry is transforming. And it’s happening rather quickly. Just over the last few years, we can all see that we have a much greater variety of local craft beers available in pubs, and even on supermarket shelves, than ever before. People who drink beer are changing the way they drink beer, which is changing the offering needed for success.
The growing trend in craft beer is enabling the industry to shift from a ‘goods and services’ to an ‘experience’ offering (“The Experience Economy”).
It’s shifting from:
A) Good and Services Offering: Distributing to consumers who seek some different flavours at low prices.
B) Experiential Offering: Engaging with enthusiasts who seek unique experiences, through story and emotions.
Your Local craft is on the rise
In the past five years, the number of craft breweries in the UK has increased to a hearty 825 institutions. On the contrary, while established beer brands, such as Heineken and Stella Artois, show no signs of leaving the market, they are expected to decrease their volume output for lager and keg ales.
Every one of the hundreds of craft-happy breweries operating in the UK offers a unique sensation for the beer enthusiast's palate. But, what has led to such a leap in success for these malty misfits? I'm certain, that it has a whole lot to do with the fans' perspectives on what's trendy and how to ‘support local’.
An Artisan Vision Destined for the Taste Buds
According to data from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA)—the self-proclaimed "voice of British independent brewing"—craft beer remains on the rise. The pattern, however, is an interesting one. It seems that beer drinkers are beginning to relish in the artistic factor of craft beer, solidifying its position as a luxury item suited for celebration.
No longer is craft beer merely a niche choice of early adopters. Craft beer, as a vertical within the beer industry, is on its way to crossing the chasm over to gaining mainstream appeal. Already there are numerous noteworthy, but more modern, craft breweries distributing large volumes, such as Meantime, Brewdog and Beavertown.
Moreover, the biggest consumers of craft beer tend to be drinking less (with about a five-percent decline in the last two years by volume). However, when they do drink, they drink better—which is exactly how they end up sipping craft concoctions, such as London Beer Lab, Reunion Ales, 81 Artisan and so many more.
Nearly half of all beer drinkers are pleased with the prospect of paying more for beer that deserves their money, rather than settling for mediocrity. So my point, that beer is increasingly seen as an art form, or experience, instead of a basic beverage, continues to ring true.
Marketing Craft Beer with Art in Mind
As craft beer is solidifying its status as an art form, it only makes sense that the continued success of the independent hoppy genre would incur an equally artistic marketing tactic. For craft breweries, prioritising a creatively branded persona through strategic photography, solid copy and quirky motifs, is all just as much a part of the product, as the beer itself.
Cloudwater Brew Co. is one of London's most popular craft ale companies, and a quick waltz through their Instagram feed highlights their authority. The synopsis of their account (which has captured the attention of more than 50,000 fervent followers) includes curated photoshoots, authentic captures and an overall approachable aesthetic. It's no wonder they're on the rise, along with hundreds of other independent breweries throughout the UK.
Photo-centric content is king
The key to greater distribution is to engage with your fans by telling your unique story in a visual way and showing what you’re passionate about. Tell your fans about how you:
founded the brewery
source the ingredients
brew the beers
experiment with flavours
design the bottles, cans and glasses
entertain and socialise with fans at your taproom
and so on…
In other words, talk about your journey and encourage your fans to post UGC. Then, you will be able to build on stronger discovery, engagement and brand awareness, and thus, turn content into returns. Showcasing all these experiences through photos and videos gives you an edge in marketing. That’s how photography can help you create business change that matters.
A Snapshot of Success
The process of analysing the UK's craft beer flow is a multifaceted endeavour, and one that goes much deeper than the can. Still, seeing the market for what it is—an art-forward arena with a distilled consumer base—can only grant more clarity in an otherwise unfiltered batch. With photographic marketing tactics just the beginning of the story for craft breweries, I end on a note as bright as those Citra hops I’m such a fan of: the craft beer trend throughout the UK shows unending fortitude in the face of such established incumbents.