I have been thinking about beer + branding in the last couple of days since reading Matt Kirkegaard’s great articles on Australian Brew News. There has been recent reports of a slowing down of beer consumption in Australia and it raises some interesting points about beer marketing, the image of a beer drinker and how these things have evolved (or not) over time.
Traditionally beer has been branded in Australia as a cold lager devoured quickly and in significant quantities. The Australian beer drinker is shown to be men who are blokey, beer-bellied and bearded looking like some version of Santa on a beach holiday. They are shown standing around a BBQ, playing cricket or just sitting around an esky. I acknowledge stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason however these images are not particularly alluring and now outdated, certainly not anything like the beer drinkers I know nor the beer drinker I am. We are beer drinkers, not a target market.
The single and flat image of the average beer consumer is such a violent contrast to the reality of beer. What captured my attention in beer in the first place was it’s rich history and endless stories surrounding individual beers, breweries and people and the incredible diversity you can find.
There have been oh-so-many occasions whilst I was working at the bar and been pleasantly surprised at a drinks order. You just can’t spot who will order a Brewdog Hardcore IPA, Saison Dupont or Stone & Wood Pacific Ale because the picture of a typical beer drinker is evolving into a hybrid of personalities and appearances. Could you imagine a police sketch artist trying to draw your average beer drinker? It conjures up a strange image in my mind of layer upon layer of different facial features, ending in a mess of pencil marks and crossing outs.
My favourite story to illustrate this occurred at Five Bar where I was taking a drinks order from a group of 6 men and 2 women. Everyone was engrossed in the beer list, searching for something new. I had assumed that the petite Asian girl who was rather soft spoken would get a glass of wine but instead asked me about Schlenkerla Marzen. I enjoy this German smoke beer and liken the flavour to that of the rich cured meat aromas that hit you when you walk into The Re-Store. That’s precisely how I described the beer to the customer and she loved it. It was wonderfully unexpected! It’s the same as being worried you’ll run out of 4 Pines Kolsch because you put a group onto it and they continued to order it for a number of following rounds.
For me, my first experiences with beer were as a kid. I remember Dad working away at something in the garage with a tinny of Emu Export. I remember the red and white cans and the can crusher he would let me use to turn his empty beer can into a small disc, tossing around on the ground. As a family we would go to the Fremantle Markets on a Saturday and drop into The Sail & Anchor where Dad would get a tall glass of Redback Wheat Beer with a slice of lemon.
From there my relationship with beer took a bit of a holiday as I did the usual foray into sickly sweet vodka pre-mix drinks as a teenager (18 years + of course) but found myself a part of the opening team at the Belgian Beer Cafe Westende. That’s where beer and I were reacquainted and we’ve not parted ways since.
I am Asian and a girl. I like Doctor Who and Bruce Willis movies. I have a little red car that I picked partly because red goes faster. I like stinky blue cheese and I make a killer risotto. I’m rubbish at making desserts. I go a little mushy at new born babies and puppy dogs and I have done a few years of martial arts training. I have way too many dresses and tend to wear them all with my favourite black peep-toe heels. I like American IPAs and Black IPAs, Imperial Stouts and Porters, Vintage Cider and Ginger Beer and a lot more. So where do I fit within the image of an Australian beer drinker?
Clearly I don’t fit in and thankfully beer lovers take up Twitter and Facebook to start conversations around beer. Brewers are accessible, friendly and happy to have a chat both online and in person. Foodies are looking at beer and discovering another element in their dining experiences. Everyone is sharing ideas and helping each other out. It might not be a Carlton Draught Big Ad but we are all paying attention when our favourite brewer announces a new limited release on Twitter or posts details of a beer & food matching event on Facebook. And maybe it’s that conversation and sense of community that matters more than a TV commercial or major advertising campaign.
- ‘What is Beers Brand Image’ by Matt Kirkegaard at Australian Brew News
- ‘Beer’s Brand Image, Part II’ by Matt Kirkegaard at Australian Brew News
- ‘The Craft of Beer Marketing’ by Blogger, Leon Sammartino at Tipples, The Evolution of Bee
- ‘Beer Marketing Guru Explains Why Foster’s Went Flat’ by Richard Gluyas and Blair Speedy at The Australian