Sunday, October 10, 2010

Speaking of Beer, Product Sampling Is a Time-Tested Way to Market.

Today’s post is driven by several elements, not least of which is an article in this morning’s Houston Chronicle business section. You’ll see it offers important facts on which I have based this…argument.

Then there’s the well-recognized technique of product sampling, a long-honored method of capturing the attention of would-be consumers.

Finally, there’s the note from an anonymous Facebook correspondent (alright, it was Donna Collum) which said, “Dang, u drink a lotta beer, dude!”

Starting from back to front: Frequency, yes. Recency, yes. Quantity, no. I have undertaken the consumption of beers out of a pure desire for marketing efficiency. I’m completely focused on sampling beers I haven’t tried before, on the theory that I am [a] determining which brands and styles of beer are…worthy…of future drinking; and [b] supporting the growth of an industry which is important locally, regionally and nationally.

Lofty goals! I don’t drink a lot of beer – I try a beer a day or every couple of days, usually one I haven’t tried before. I go back and “repeat sample” a beer whose various complexities are not firmly fixed in my mind. Sometimes, this takes two or three tries but you get the point. It’s all about discrimination and moderation.

Then, because mine is a scientific evaluation using this particular marketing tool, I carefully record each sampling on, one of several on-line beer-rating groups which allow true “crowd-sourcing” of beery experience. I am a minor sipper compared to other RateBeer colleagues. Virginian BeerandBlues2 has 3,700+ beer ratings, for example; the doughty product-tester has been hard at work since 2003.

When possible, product-sampling can play a big role in branding and marketing. Here’s sampling researcher Cindy Johnson:

Product sampling can often work on its own to convert a targeted group of consumers. If the trial experience is strong and consumers are convinced to purchase the brand, no further spending is necessary to win with that target…There’s no advantage to layering marketing tactics and spending more against the same target, if trial alone convinces them to buy your brand.

Micro-breweries and regional craft brewers put product sampling to use because they don’t have the tools (read: buckets o’money) that the national and international brewers do. It’s an underlying factor in “Swimming in Beer” by Chronicle writer/blogger Ronnie Crocker. He reiterates the point that craft-brewed beer business is booming, while the “major producers are hurting and sales of imports are down…”

Generating attention and “drinkership” via product sampling is the best way undercapitalized local brewers can gain sales and market share. Brock Wagner is taking St Arnold Brewing Company to a production capacity to 50,000 barrels a year through missionary marketing and pour promotions, not classic media advertising (which Wagner has historically disdained).

I started out to have some fun with this topic and have ended up more aware of a couple of key marketing points. One, I hope, is reinforcement of the idea that there are very many marketing tools and we – as marketers – ought to be familiar with most of them.

Thanks to friends and colleagues for highlighting and supporting my beer-testing. I doubt I’ll ever get to 3,700 beers. But I expect to enjoy those that I do try and do some brand-marketing good along the way.

PS: Will blog for beer!

1 comment:

Brock Wagner said...

Richard: Thanks for the mention! And yes, I won't advertise. Cheers!