With an infinite amount of information at our fingertips and the ability to contact almost anyone via social media, it has never been easier to reach someone. But being in contact is not the same thing as making a connection. So why are many breweries struggling to connect with their customers?
In this digital age, it makes sense that breweries rely on digital marketing strategies. These usually involve throwing dollars at catchy names and beautifully-designed labels on cans, bottles, and growlers in an attempt to outshine the competition. While packaging is still very important for brand recognition and Instagram likes, great artwork by itself doesn’t help create brand loyalty. This is not to say that great artwork and packaging doesn’t sell; sexy will always sell. The problem with sexy is that there is always something sexier around the corner.
The goal of good marketing is to create meaningful, lasting relationships with customers, going beyond just occasional visits. Customers who feel an emotional connection to a brewery will visit the brewery again and again, seek out its products in the store, and recommend them to friends.
The most effective way to create an emotion connection for customers is with human interaction. And the ideal place to have that interaction is in brewery tasting rooms.
Humans are a social species, with a natural desire to connect to others. Recent studies show that experiences help people connect better with their friends, their community, and the environment around them. People want to spend money on doing things with others. In fact, studies and surveys show that most people would rather spend money on an experience or event than on buying material objects.
A tasting room is a “live experiential” marketing strategy. It is the place where consumers can experience a brewery’s ethos and connect to it in person. It’s where all the facets of a brand’s “personality” come together. This may sound obvious, but few breweries actually take this into consideration; many treat the tasting room as a design afterthought.
Marketing differentiates between a place and a space. A place is a physical area that exists; it becomes a space when a person or group develops an emotional connection to the place. Spaces are personal and create lasting bonds between people and their physical world. Spaces are where regular customers turn into passionate, raving fans. Brand loyalty happens in spaces.
Every brewery with a tasting room provides a place to drink their beer. The breweries that give people an opportunity to connect see their carefully-curated places become beloved spaces. Every element of the place—the artwork, the music choices, the entertainment, the staff, and even the glassware—contributes to the creation of a “space”.
People in a successful brewery space feel emotionally connected with one another, their community, and, most importantly, the brewery itself. This emotional connection is more powerful than any sexy design on a store shelf. The connected customer’s purchasing criteria is no longer about how great the label looks, but on how that beer makes them feel—how it brings back the feeling they had in the tasting room that time. Statistically, customers who have a great experience in such a space don’t just purchase a brand’s product more often, they spend approximately 140% more than people who have a neutral experience or a bad experience with a brand.
The craft beer industry is getting more competitive. Space on store shelves and in consumers’ minds is finite and can only be divided up so many times . There will be shifts in beer styles, packaging, and who knows what. The only constant is the human desire to create and maintain meaningful connections. Breweries that understand this and focus on their tasting room experience will be the ones that weather the storm.