Here's how craft beers are all alike, brought to you by the people who brew them...
Like its big competitors, mega-brewer, Constellation Brands (Corona, Modelo Especial), opted to get into the craft-beer business by acquiring an already up-and-running small brewer. For a staggering $1 billion, Constellation got Ballast Point. The price included a host of standard craft-beer marketing assets: small, artisan brewery, well-regarded beers, interesting home town (San Diego), solid regional following, oddball brand names for its many beers (including EvenKeel Session, LongFin Lager, Fathom IPA, and the largest, Sculpin), a host of ingredients and recipes, and on and on. In other words, a lot of the same or similar stuff all the other craft beer brands also had going for them. The real challenge--made more urgent when Ballast Point's sales trend turned sour just after the purchase--was how to register distinctiveness in this sea of craft-beer competitive sameness.
Choosing a strategy means eliminating many others
There's a temptation that ensnares many a craft brewer, especially those who are new to marketing. These newbies are often so enamored of all that they do to make what they consider a special beer, that they try and tell their prospects the whole story. But as one old ad guy used to put it: "Telling' ain't sellin.'" The adage "less is more" was never better applied than in crafting marketing strategy.
Great marketers focus on uncovering the single key aspect of their product's distinctiveness that can win the greatest number of converts. Of course, no one such aspect will win over everyone, but diffusing the message to add multiple points of distinctiveness reduces, not increases, the odds of success. (See "less is more," above.)
You can't ask much more from a selling strategy. Choosing among the literally hundreds of craft-beer brands cluttering retail shelves is daunting, even for the most geeky of beer geeks. Ballast Point just made the task easier for many of those beer shoppers, even as they made it more likely to result in more of those buyers choosing this new-to-Constellation brand.
Craft-beer brands, take note: In an over-crowded category, smart marketing can be a competitive advantage.