Brand Loyalty – Hard to Gain, Easy to Lose

I am thrilled to announce that I have been approached with a guest blog.  I am also thrilled to announce that not only did I accept, but it has spurred a new section of this website for guest posts, aptly named “Community Posts”.  Let me remind you that the purpose of this blog (and should be for any blog or journalism outlet) is to provide the consumer with information, recommendations, thoughts, and experiences.  Here at towineman.com we do that to help you all better appreciate wine and other alcoholic beverages.  Sometimes that takes being critical and sometimes that means singing the praises of things we love.  It is with all of that in mind that we launch “Community Posts”. If you’re interested e-mail us at towineman@gmail.com to discuss your idea or to review your post.  If approved we will post it to the site.  Please share with us both positive and negative posts and ideas.  This section is not meant as an outlet for frustration, it is meant as another means to enhance the readers experience.

With that I turn it over to our inaugural guest writer, Luke Doehn from Kitchener Ontario.  His experience summarizes how one bad encounter with a small craft brewery can drastically impact brand loyalty and ultimately lead to bad word of mouth.  But I will let Luke explain in his own words.

For the purpose of this post I will be taking you through an experience of mine with a local, small, craft beer company but the same principals I will discuss can be applied to any other alcohol products and companies discussed on this blog.

First let me set the stage for you which starts a couple of years back. I am playing rugby for my local club (Wilmot Rugby Club if you were curious, www.wilmotwarthogs.com) and we were in need of a new set of jerseys for our men’s and women’s teams. There are a number of other clubs that we compete with who have brewery sponsors and put their logos on the team jerseys. This can be a great way for a rugby club to offset a portion of the cost of the jerseys and can give back some advertising to the sponsor. The second key piece of information is that beer is closely tied with the sport and culture of rugby, which helps make this sponsor match so desirable. This tie is evident not only as a unified club of players enjoying beverages, but after each game the home team hosts a social where both teams attend.  They go back to the host teams sponsor pub or clubhouse and recall and rehash the previous game over a pint or two.  There are few things better than two squads having a hard hitting game then sharing a pint or two afterwards in celebration of a match well fought.

The post game beer-up is central to the social aspect of club rugby and therefore a beer sponsor seems like a logical choice.  So with that you understand the rugby-beer connection so I will continue. I set out to secure a beer sponsor that we could enter into a partnership with. Along the way I ran into a number of issues. Most of the bigger breweries were already spoken for and the smaller ones did not have enough money to invest in this kind of venture. This brings me to the business side of this equation. Why do beer companies advertise? Obviously they do it to attract more customers and increase sales. The trick is that not all money spent on advertising will translate into increased sales, and some advertising money is better spent than others. I believe that I put together a very attractive package for potential brewery partners and it goes as follows. I was looking for a $1500 sponsorship over 3 years (estimated life span of jerseys) and in exchange the sponsor would get their name and logo on our club jerseys (which are worn in games played from Niagara to Windsor) and beer exclusivity at all of our club events. Translation is that all the beer consumed by our club would be the sponsor’s product; a rough estimate has this around 10-15 kegs over a season.

After looking for some time I came in contact with Railway City Brewing Company located in St. Thomas, Ontario. Their product was new to our sponsor bar (The Blue Moon in Petersburg) and we thought it would be a good partnership because we would be able to help their product gain some traction in a new market. We had a few meetings and set an agreement that they would donate some cash to use each year for the 3 years of the deal.  This money would cover some of the jersey cost. Everyone was pleased with this at the onset. The brewery had a wide product offering and seemed open to the idea of a club tour of the brewery and pursuing a long, sustainable, and mutually beneficial relationship. Once the deal was made I was glad, especially because all of my time and effort had paid off.  I was buying Railway’s product when I went to the LCBO, took towineman there on my recommendation, and went for a 3 hour drive one day on a whim just to do a tour, see their facility and test all their products. I was telling friends about the company and their products and recommending it every chance I got. Word of mouth is powerful advertising.  It’ free.  But it’s also quick to react to changing winds.

After the first year of our arrangement with Railway our club had exceeded expectations for sales at our sponsor pub and everything seemed to be going well. When the start of our next season was approaching I contacted Railway to get the second installment of their agreed upon sponsorship and to touch base. To my surprise Railway informed me that they would not be sponsoring our club in the coming season. The only reason given was that there was no money available for it. This left our club with jerseys that had a sponsor’s name and logo on them for a brewery which was no longer sponsoring us.  This, as you can imagine, left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, especially when we had agreed on a 3 year deal.

Now we get to the heart of the matter.  At the end of the day Railway’s actions took an opportunity that was set to be very positive and turned it into a negative. If Railway City had fulfilled the 3 years and then decided not to continue my stance would be much different.  Now nobody from our club purchases Railway’s products anymore, at our pub or from the LCBO.  I no longer purchase Railway’s products, nor endorse them. When I am asked by those to whom I had previously recommended Railway I am quick to tell them of my experience.  I do not wish Railway any harm but I do have a negative perspective of them, one that I would not have had they fulfilled our terms and then decided to go their separate way.  I relay this story as a tale of brand loyalty and public perception gone bad. Small and new breweries have a difficult task to be profitable in a marketplace that is so highly competitive and has such large players that have seemingly endless amounts of money to spend on advertising. Public relations and good will can be a way to gain an advantage or even a foothold into specific markets. To begin with I had no knowledge of Railway but I do like small breweries and brands so they were neutral in my books. When they were sponsoring our club their brand was seen as very positive.  However at the end my brand loyalty and my perception of Railway had turned negative and that is the lasting taste this company has left in my mouth. Again, I do not wish Railway City any ill will, but I will also not be purchasing their product any time soon.

If you like this post, support our guest writer in his Movember efforts here.

For more information on Railway City Brewing, check out their website.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Somewhere the Beer Gods are cringing – Part 2

On Friday May 18th I wrote a pretty aggressive and negative post about what I deemed “gimmick beers”.  This was largely driven by the recent launches of Coors Light Iced Tea and Bud Light Lime Mojito.  Of course the gimmick beer list does not stop there, but they received the bulk of my wrath on that particular day.  You can read the entire post here if you want to refresh your memory.

This post was met with a lot of commentary on here, on Twitter, and elsewhere.  I appreciate all the feedback and I’m certainly happy the post did exactly what it was intended to do which is generate some discussion.  For the most part I found that people agreed with me and I appreciate that.  However I also appreciate that some people disagreed with the post and are in favour of these types of beers.  Of course I knew there would be those in favour, that doesn’t surprise me in the least, otherwise these products wouldn’t be created and wouldn’t sell.

The commentary which struck me most was from @jps_82 who argued this type of innovation is not new to the industry.  True.  He also pointed out that people all around the world, for centuries, have mixed beer with a variety of other drinks.  Beer margaritas in Mexico, beer in lemonade Germany.  True.  Heck I’ll even add one to the list as beer and tomato juice is hugely popular right here in Ontario.  But it’s not peoples desire to mix beer with other things that rattles me.  Go ahead.  I’ll admit these are not ideal for me, but the concept of mixing a regular beer with something else doesn’t get me as fired up as the aforementioned “gimmick beers”.

Here’s my issue with them – using Coors Light Iced Tea as an example.  It’s that I enjoy the production of beer using the 4 basic ingredients and appreciate the brewmasters work within this basic framework.
Coors Light Iced Tea:             Beer:
- Barley                                       – A starch (Barley)
- Hops                                         – Hops
- Yeast                                        - Yeast
- Water                                       – Water
- Blend of Tea Botanicals
- Lemon

The point of this blog is to educate my readers and to pass along my thoughts and recommendations on how you can better enjoy your experiences with beverage alcohol.  The point of “somewhere the beer gods are cringing” was not just to slam these beers but to continue to encourage the consumption of the wonderful craft beers this country has to offer.  To me that is where the beer experience is truly enjoyed and enhanced.  But here is where I went wrong… I gave zero credit to those out there who may enjoy these products and to whom these products will actually enhance their experience.  Or to those who may not like beer but these “gimmick beers” get them as close as they’re going to get.  So I stand by the notion that these beers are a marketing ploy designed to increase consumption and to steal market share from the growing spirit segment.  I also stand by the fact that to me they are not going to be on my list for enjoyment.  But at the end of the day there is one thing I know and appreciate more than anything else and that is that alcohol is a very subjective subject.  One’s favourite drinks can elicit strong support as well strong emotions and a sense of loyalty.  If Coors Light Iced Tea (or other) does that for you than I say enjoy.  It simply doesn’t for me.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Arrogant Bastard Ale – What a label!

Courtesy of a good friend I had the pleasure of drinking some wonderful craft beers on the weekend.   Mixed in with a couple Flying Monkeys Netherworld’s (@flyingmonkeys) were some amazing US based craft brews.  The best of which may have been the Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing based in San Diego California.  The beer was great.  The atmosphere and weather were great.  The label on the back of the bottle was outstanding!!

 

I know you can’t quite read the label so here is what it says.

Ar-ro-gance (ar’ogans) n.
The act or quality of being arrogant; haughty; undue assumption; overbearing conceit.

Arrogant Bastard Ale: This is an aggressive ale.  You probably won’t like it.  It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth.  We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory, maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beer will give you more sex appeal.  Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make a beer taste better.  Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.

The Arrogance Grows: Too many strive towards complacency as a goal.  They stop the urge and desire for discovery somewhere between youth and adulthood.  And when they find their complacency threatened they do everything to recover the warm, fuzzy feeling of that lost complacency as quickly as possible.  Throughout every culture, every country, and every way of thought you will find it.  We grow up thinking that the ability to become complacent is the equivalence of success in life.  True arrogant bastards know that this could not be further from the truth.  The real beauty, richness, and depth in life can only be found if the journey through life itself is looked upon as a constant chance to learn, live, and find life’s passion.  Passion threatens the complacent, and fills them with fear.  Fear is the new, the deep, and the different.  We, on the other hand, seek it out.  Endlessly, joyously… and aggressively.  To this end we bring you the “Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale.” Another reward for those seeking new sources of passion, and another point of dissension for those who are not.

Hillarious!

Check then out online: www.arrogantbastard.com or on Twitter @liquidarrogance

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Somewhere the Beer Gods are cringing…

Earlier this week they were giving away free Michelob Ultra beer at the corner of Bay and Adelaide.  People in my office were raving and Twitter was a buzz.  Then I caught wind of a few tweets yesterday that they were giving away samples of the all new Bud Light Lime Mojito at Queen and John.  Once again Twitter was a buzz.  To cap it all off this morning I grabbed a copy of the Metro and it was littered with ads for the all new Coors Light Iced Tea.  Then just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I read an article for “The Smirnoff Rocket.”  Yes ladies and gentlemen we can now get a mix of 50% beer and 50% Smirnoff Ice.

I guess people are excited but all I can think is that somewhere the beer gods are cringing.

I’ll even use this space to rehash a tweet I posted yesterday.

I mean if fruit beers weren’t already enough we had to deal with the rise to fame of wheat beers a few summers ago (Keith’s White launched in May 2009) and the lime beer craze also of 2009 (Bud Light Lime launched to fame in Spring 2009).  Is summer 2012 poised to be another summer filled with gimmicky, over the top, tacky beers?  Are we going to have to deal with these ridiculous beer launches every 3 years or so?

I’ll admit I have not tried any of the beers I am questioning here.  I would certainly try them all once, but I can virtually assure you that I will not like them.  I also understand that these beers are not targeted at me.  But whatever happened to the classic summer promotions for Molson Canadian featuring friends at the cottage, on the dock, enjoying a Canadian? Or even the “Brava… the beer of Summa” radio ads?   Say what you want about either of those beers they are still in another league all together than the “Smirnoff Rocket.”

If any legit brewer out there, anyone from the Ontario Craft Brewers, or just anyone who works for one of the fine craft breweries we have in Ontario (all Flying Monkeys, Muskoka, Creemore, Beaus, Great Lakes, King Brewery, or Mill Street employees I am talking to you) reads this blog I would be very interested in interviewing you for a future post.  I would be interested in getting your thoughts on the beers I mentioned above.  Together we can discuss if the beer gods are in fact cringing.

I’ll even go this far… though I have been overly critical at times of the basic Coors Light please pass one my way this summer!!! I’ll take a Silver Bullet over a Bud Light Lime Mojito any day of the week.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

Superbowl Beverage Of Choice

I posted a tweet earlier this week asking for suggestions on what I should drink during the Superbowl party. While seemingly very simple I consider this a very interesting and very important question.  See I don’t like football.  I go to a Superbowl party every year and rarely do I watch much of the game.  My favorite Superbowl memory is Bruce Springsteen sliding crotch first into the camera in 2009 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOhhEMn-8D8).  So I go to the parties for the social aspect.  I get to hang out with friends, drink, and eat.  The Superbowl simply provides a great excuse.  So what to drink actually becomes a very important question.  @brewersofcanada of course replied with “Canadian Beer”, @mikelillie claimed there is no option but to drink Bud Light (while that is one of my least favorite beers on the planet I can see where he is going with it), @beerhunter4u replied and suggested I pick up some Crazy Canuck and 666 Devils Pale Ale, and finally I caught another post that argued there is no place for wine on the Superbowl menu.

Playing the wine blogger and devils advocate I would argue you can very cleverly pair many wines with your classic chicken wings, chili or nachos (perhaps a riesling, chianti, or a cava).  Really any classic Superbowl munchie could be paired with the right wine.  However the realist in me also doesn’t see wine playing much of a role in the Superbowl festivities.

All of these folks make very interesting comments and in my opinion all are in a way right. If you’re going to go watch the Superbowl just make it a beer.  There is not much more synonymous with American football than beer.  But as much as I would almost always agree with the pro Canadian sentiments of @brewersofcanada I think I have to go American on this one.  But sorry @mikelillie I’m not going Bud Light I will be showing up with something quite a bit more tolerable… Rolling Rock it is.

Enjoy the game and whatever it is you choose to drink.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman 

The Toronto Festival of Beer

Perhaps it’s because we are in the midst of the calmest winter in recent memory but I discovered yesterday that despite it not yet being February tickets to the Toronto Festival of Beer are already on sale. Beerfest will run this year from July 27-29 at the Bandshell at Exhibition place. Say what you will about the inflated prices, the line-ups that often extend around the street to get in, or the plethora of 30 something’s acting like college kids, I love Beerfest. I’ll admit I am one of those acting like a college kid… even more so than normal.

Here’s the thing with Beerfest. You need to leave your beer snobbery at the door. Sure I hate Budweiser as much as the next guy, but that’s not the point. Even more so than the wine show Beerfest is not actually about sampling beer to decide what to buy later. So just embrace it. You’re outside with friends with endless beer at your disposal. It’s that much better than being parked in your own backyard with a case or two on ice.

Lets be honest you can’t really have a bad time at Beerfest. There was 2007 when it was boiling hot but gorgeous outside or the following year when it poured rain all day. In fact a game of soaking wet beach volleyball broke out. I think I saw a mud slide that the cops tried to shut down. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a blast.

So let the drunks have their fun… I’ll see you there.

- Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman

Follow Beerfest: @tobeerfestival
www.beerfestival.ca