'Rule 1 – Don’t mention the beer.’
We’ve all seen them – big budget, big brand beer ads that tell you absolutely nothing about the beer. Traditional beer marketing avoids the product, pushes a fictional back-story, and, if not overtly sexist, is pretty blokey. It also emphasises brand loyalty, defensively implying there’s something wrong with shopping around.
Many craft brewers have built their business on the opposite values – inclusive, authentic and informative. Their budgets are distinctly small too.
Moa is an excellent case study in beer branding. It started as a typical craft brewer with a good range and a talent for bottle conditioning. It’s marketing told us about the product and didn’t set out to offend.
That all changed in 2010 when founder Josh Scott sold to Geoff Ross’ Business Bakery. Ross had built his 42 Below vodka brand on brash advertising. He was quick to introduce Moa ads that offended the LGBT community, Pakistani New Zealanders, and, with the infamous share float prospectus, just about everyone else.
Ross wasn't interested in craft beer or craft beer drinkers. “From a brand point of view, New Zealand should have an international lager” he told Fairfax in 2010. The results are written in the NZX charts. Moa’s shares floated at $1.25 in 2012 and the Bakery failed to rise. Today Moa’s shares are sitting at $0.31 but no one’s even looking.
I’m reliably informed Moa's marketing plan was swapped for a very big and vicious dog. The dog’s job is to snarl at CEO Geoff Ross every time he has a brilliant idea, and it seems to be working. The beer’s mentioned in the ads again, it’s winning prizes, and Josh Scott is New Zealand’s first Certified Cicerone. If they work on the basics the share price might follow.
So its disappointing to see DB Breweries is falling back on bullshit back stories about Morton Coutts. Coutts was an extraordinary man – the Albert Einstein of New Zealand brewing. Now DB is telling us it has summoned the Morton Coutts spirit, had a couple of beers, and come up with new innovations. So far the innovations are:
- Adding fruit flavourings to DB Export
- Using fermentation to produce ethanol
Perhaps drinking better beer would give them better ideas.
And that’s why I was surprised this week to see an ad promoting DB's Tui Pilsner here. Surprised because Tui has long been the master of 'Rule 1 – Don’t mention the beer’. Tui talking about flavours and brewing techniques? Yeah, that’s right!