8 Reasons your Brewery Should Buy (MORE) Swag
First things first, I would like you to know that we know that the beer you make is probably delicious, and worthy of recognition all on it's own. We also know you could have no dedicated interest in "swag" to attract customers or keep them coming back, because their experience with your beer should be enough to keep them around--and yes, in an ideal world, you are right, but, you're still a business, just like us. There's nothing more fulfilling than getting paid to do what you love... but a big part of that whole "getting paid" involves competing and campaigning to help carve out a sweet little piece of the beer industry's massive pie, and there's no better way to do that than marketing (assuming you maintain quality beer, of course).
To give you some background, both of my parents have spent a very long time in the promotional products industry. Specifically, they helped out the big beer market--when all those breweries were independent themselves--and worked with some of the biggest players in the industry. Thus, I have spent my whole life (often begrudgingly) learning about these industries, and a little over a year ago I joined the family business and starting experiencing it for myself.
In the past, the job of a promotional product distributor/supplier went beyond simply offering a product to actually helping the customer think of ways and uses to market it. Today, there are massive marketing teams and ad agencies that work out the next big move and suppliers like us are not needed for this specific task.
However, while marketing techniques and trends do evolve (slightly), many factors have remained exactly the same... and we know you probably don't have a 30 person marketing team covering all your bases (in fact, you're probably ahead of the game if you have even more than 1), so we thought it might be nice to share some of our experience. After all, we really are here to help.
1. Marketing on a Budget
It is not that expensive to buy. When you look at the cost of equipment, ingredients or brewery upkeep, promotional items are pretty minuscule by comparison--and oftentimes you can make your money back or even turn a profit! Items can be as small and inexpensive as an opener, coaster or can cooler.
The cost of paid ads on social media platforms can get pricey, especially considering the conditional time restraints (say, $30.00 a day). But a swag item could last, well, forever! Or, at least a lot longer than you'll ever run an ad.
TV commercials? Radio? Billboards? Signs? Yes, the reach is wide, but the costs are astronomical, and I don't think we're quite there yet (financially or practically).
2. Targeting Craft Beer Drinkers
Speaking of a wide reach in regard to running ads, keep in mind that they are heard by everyone including people that are not necessarily in your target market. Yes, you can limit your ad reach on social media platforms to age range, or location, or people who have expressed interest in the generic label of "beer", but that doesn't help guarantee that even half the people who hear it actually have an interest in your craft beer. Yes, ideally we can hope that we turn the entire market into craft beer drinkers, but for now, efforts (and funds) might be better spent directly targeting people who drink your beer or visit your brewery.
3. Everybody Loves a Freebie
While there is lots of swag you can sell in your retail store to actually turn a profit, promotional items are also great as a giveaway at an event your brewery's hosting, or as an added value to a case-pack. I.e. throw in a free bottle opener when you buy the "seasonal winter 6 pack" for a limited time.
"Free" is a huge buzz word, and frequently helps sway people into either accepting an item or even attending an event. I can't tell you how much I learned about the Red Cross in university when they had their "free pizza for attending" nights. And who really turns down something they can get for doing absolutely nothing?
How many classic green Steam Whistle openers have you seen in your lifetime? Since they opened, they have been giving out 1 opener to each customer that comes for a brewery tour. Sure, you can buy them too, and people do, but how cool to get free swag (possibly included in the cost of the tour) just for checking out a brewery? There are few better ways to attract new customers than leaving existing customers with a memorable experience to tell their friends about--and adding a free item is all a part of that experience.
4. Customer Loyalty
Not only are people going to keep your item (even if it gets thrown in a drawer) but you are building goodwill with your likely already loyal customers, and maybe, even, you are creating loyal customers in turn. If a person visits (for the first time) two brewery taprooms in one day, likes both of the beer they drank, and had a good experience with the friendly staff, but one offered some kind of little momento as a "thank you" for being a first time customer, is it not possible that brewery will be the one they revisit next time? Again, memorable experiences build goodwill and good vibes, and no one ever shies away from something that makes them feel good.
5. Long-Term Memory & Brand Recognition
People don't automatically remember things the first time they hear them. Do you really remember every persons name after the very first introduction? Repetition of a name or image undoubtedly helps solidify something in a person's memory, which in turn helps bring it to mind more quickly. If I have been attending two local breweries back and forth, but one has more swag around the city (signs in bars, or touques on heads) that is usually the one that is more present in my mind and memory.
Not to mention, how many times do you find a take-out menu and say "MMM... I think I will get Chinese tonight"? People will never forget you entirely, but they're busy, over-worked and consumed by a million little details regarding things like work, friends or family. Think about how nice it would be to get that little reminder from your customized glassware in the cupboard: "Hey Sally.. We've got a fresh IPA with your name on it. Don't you remember how delicious it was? Come for a visit."
6. We are a Visual Society
With the technological evolution of the internet, social media, smart phones, 3D TV's and 4k resolution, we are becoming an increasingly more visual society.
According to studies on digital marketing, pictures with text on them are more frequently opened or shared than something that is simply text. And videos do even better than pictures. People want to be enticed, and engaged--with their minds and their eyes.
Look at twitter -- 280 characters to express your opinion? Make it short and sweet, because people don't have the attention span to read your fully formulated and well articulated opinion. It's not personal, it's just not how that (massively influential) platform operates.
What does this mean for you? People like seeing your logo. They identify with it. If they are in a bar, yes, they will read your beer on the menu, but if they see a tacker sign hanging on the wall (one you probably gave to an establishment for carrying your beer) with your logo, it is just one more push toward the desire to drink your beer. The human mind makes associations between images and feelings. When people see your logo, it will make them think of all the good beer they've drank and great times they've had, say, hanging at your taproom or sharing your beer with friends.
7. Help People Find You
A great example of this is Anderson Craft Ales' coaster which, in addition to providing a "free tour", has an actual map of the neighborhood on one side to show the exact location of the brewery. Yes, people can google you and find this information, but why not make it as effortless as possible by having a map or contact information (phone, address, hours of operation) on the swag you're giving out? For example, giving out a bottle opener with a magnetic backing someone can throw on their fridge that has your info. Not only is your information readily available, but with that product you know it is going to be put somewhere out in the open and easily seen.
8. People Love to Promote Things they Love
People love your beer and they love your brewery. It's likely that they WANT to rock a t-shirt or touque that reps it! If you don't offer any promotional swag, then no one can proudly promote your brand. Not to mention, having someone walk around with a "Crafty Brewing" shirt is FREE advertising. Does it get any better than that?
To summarize, the advertising specialty industry, now known as the promotional products industry, started as an advertising channel where customers purchased items to hand out freely to help be remembered. In the past 40 years, little has changed with the exception that the industry is now quadruple the size at 16 billion dollars and growing! The same goes for our customers in the beer industry who have been using our products since 1982: they still promote bottles, cans or draft beer either at retail or on-premise, and they still face the same challenge of standing out in a crowded marketplace, the only difference being that the marketplace is also triple the size.
We have seen a lot of things in both the promotional industry, and the beer industry, and our advice to you is this: you will likely be at a competitive disadvantage if you do not provide options for people to remember, reinforce, identify with and celebrate in your success and your brand! Whether it is for the people who already want to support you, or the customers you don't even have yet, swag is an essential and cost-effective tool for marketing that builds brand awareness.
What do you think? We'd love to hear from you. Even if it's just criticism. A wise human can acknowledge their own fallibility. A wise human also rarely acknowledges themselves as "wise" but hey, you can't win 'em all.
...Really though, let's grab a beer and discuss.