craft beer

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I like beer. More accurately, craft beer. The wifus was at Costco a few days ago and asked if I wanted a case of Kirkland craft beer. I’d seen them in the store but never paid them much mind. “No thank you” I texted back, but was too late. In the fridge last night looking for a Fat Tire or Montauk, Session IPA there was that case of Kirkland. Doh! So I tried one. Wasn’t bad.

I thought I’d heard somewhere that Kirkland was white-labelled by a more famous brewery. After checking the label it turned out the beer was brewed by an unfamiliar company in Minnesota or Wisconsin. A Google search suggested, based upon where your Costco is, it could also be brewed by Saranac or Gordon Biersch. What evs. Not the point,

The point is, what is the brand name on the label?  And what it says to the brain and the taste buds. Kirkland makes underwear. And olive oil. And batteries (maybe.) It therefore can’t make beer.

The smart men and women at Costco headquarters have to know this. They have a chance to establish a strong new brand in a not insignificant category. Let’s get to work on a new name.  The beer is spoiling.



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What would you rather have, one really good cup of strong, aromatic, nose curling coffee or 3 cups of watered down convenience store swill? How about one beer with a lovely malt taste, not over-hopped, and a rich, clean aftertaste or 3 PBRs. Last one, a plate of pasta with fresh backyard tomatoes, skinned and deseeded, a nice touch garlic and basil, sprinkled with Locatelli or a jar of Ragu?

If you favor the former, you are an appreciator of the craft economy. Where less is more, flavor is key and, sadly, the cost may be greater. It is mass production versus batch made. I’ve written this week about the craft economy and how it’s trickling into packaged goods. And how consumers are taking on more responsibility for preparation and doing it themselves. The craft economy allows us to remove unhealthy practices, preservatives and ingredients. It allows us to take more pride in our role in health and sustainability. In the craft economy we reuse more. We create more from scratch. It takes time. And as a result we may watch less TV, be less sedentary — and learn as we develop craftsmanship. Always be learning.

The craft economy helps us appreciate each other more, ourselves more and the planet more. It’s here to stay – and for all the right reasons.



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Sales of Coca-Cola’s flagship product, the carbonated sugary drink we know a Coke, dropped 3.5% last quarter; proof you can’t go against a cultural tide of healthier living and expect sales to hold forever. Coke’s parent has been doing a great job of diversifying its portfolio the last 10 years by adding juices, milk-based protein drinks, waters and energy drinks. Even with the tide receding for flagship Coke, earnings have been surprisingly okay. Looks like that is not the case anymore.

If you follow the tech sector as I do, you will know that product innovation can completely change markets is 3-5 years. The beverage sector has lots of innovations, according to Beverage Digest, but they are really incremental. Coconut water, craft beer, energy concoctions, and cold pressed juices are nice ways of redistributing marketing wealth, but haven’t fueled the big ass innovations we’ve seen in tech.

Coke needs to think differently. I’ve posted before about how they need to send R&D people into the jungles in search of the next cola nut…something with healthy properties. But Coke also needs to think about pricing and delivery. Why 12 oz. cans? Why cans and bottles? Why not explode the price point for a six pack? How about an annual subscription fee? Coke’s head is so tied up in its bottler arrangements, distribution networks, store detailers, fountain business it can’t think like an agile start-up. Sure they can buy 49% of the next Honest Tea, but can they be the next SnapChat.

My bet is they can. But not if they follow the innovation courses of GM or the financial industry. Follow the tech paradigm. Peace.  

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hopsIn craft brewing hops are the “it” thing. We’ve been hearing about them for years in beer ads, they are not new. But they have favored status these days in craft brewing. (Did you know Upstate NY was once the hops capital of the U.S.?) Some craft brewers are too heavy-handed with hops and the industry has gone a little hops crazy but we will get over it.

In brand planning, insights are the it thing. Insights never get old to the brand planner…they are just so tasty. A personal example: For a web start-up in the art gallery space, I presented an insight deck called the “thirteen conundrums.” Number 2 was:

#2 Art is personal and subjective, yet having people around with opinions (and credentials) adds value and a level of comfort.

We presented 8 conundrum/insights to the client but in the end we had lots of insights, no idea. To get to the idea we had boil down the insights. Insights are ingredients. Just like hops. You have to do something smart with them. You need to seek out a brand strategy both product-based and consumer desired. Something poetic, memorable and that which predisposes a consumer to buy.

I recently read a deck on SlideShare containing 30 or so planner definitions of the word insight. All were correct. Here’s mine: And insight is not a behavior, it is the observation of the cause of a behavior. Senior or director-level planners are the ones who look at 13 insights and see the operative one. The one to be spun into a brand strategy. Finishing off the metaphor, where the beer gets the credit not the ingredient. Peace.

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I like to write about trends that impact marketing. One such, is the craft economy. It’s an exciting movement that is slowly taking hold and can be seen in craft beer, home-made pasta, woodworking and the neat site Etsy.  What makes the craft economy a trend worthy of notice is the bigger phenomenon that has lived here for too long: the junk economy.  Junk food, junk games, mass produced-low quality gear. When ladies can go to Target and pick up a blouse for $6.00, something is wrong.  When it makes more sense to buy a new laptop than fix the old one, something is wrong. When a TV only lasts 5-6 years rather than 15, something is wrong.

I love old stuff.  I am old stuff. I have tee-shirts older than my 20 something kids.  My old Poppe Tyson softball tee just ripped.  Pissed I didn’t buy a better weight of cotton Hanes back in the 80s.

Junk is bad, craft is good. Market with that thought in mind and the messages and customers will follow.  Eric Ripert has built an empire on fighting the junk economy. He is an inspiring hero.  Lose the junk. (Not that junk Terrence. Oh, and Terrence, Pearl Jam is coming to Philly.) Peace.



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One of my first insights as a young planner while working at Poppe Tyson on a brand called Ravensburger, maker of wooden puzzles and educational games, was the insight that competitors who were flooding the market with what we called “junk games” borrowed from the term junk food. 

Some might disagree with me on this, but I’m afraid a good deal of the products we consume today can be classified as junk. Products for most of the populace are not build to last. Clothes, sneakers, outerwear purchased for under ten dollars at discount stores start unraveling on the way home. But what the heck, they didn’t cost anything.

Carlota Perez, an economist interviewed by Fred Wilson at Web 2.0 last year, says the way forward for our planet is to make products that use less raw material, last a long time and can be serviced by real people earning a wage. This mentality is what I’m calling the Craft Economy.

If we make and consume craft products, we’ll take better care of them.  Craft beer isn’t swilled the way mass market pasteurized beer is.  It’s savored.  Refrigerators that last 25 years, a pair of shoes that are resoled rather than tossed – these are the things of a craft economy. Let’s lose disposable everything. Razor blades. Paper towels. Let’s use more natural products and think sustainability.

The craft economy is coming. And as a trend it will grow faster as economists start building cases for the inherent savings. More Etsy, less junk. Peace!

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