Here in Cincinnati, OH, brew pubs are becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks.  And just like Starbucks, rarely do you hear of one closing.  Though some like MadTree Brewing Company and Rhinegeist Brewery have grown securing broad retail distribution, others like Fretboard Brewing Company and March First Brewing survive primarily based on their clientele and local restaurants.  Curious how these brew pubs prosper in the midst of stiff competition, I asked several beer connoisseurs what is it about the beer that makes you choose one place over another?  Interestingly, they all confirmed it really isn’t the beer, as each one has their own version of the craft staples. They choose an establishment based on the vibe they are craving.  In other words, what differentiates each establishment is an emotional pay-off from the experience…beyond the buzz.   Brew pubs who persevere and prosper understand this critical point:  they may be putting a price tag on a product, but what they are really selling is a higher-order emotional benefit.  

Why is this an important distinction?  Because virtually all products are commodities.  Even ones which are thoroughly enjoyed like beer.  Commodities are driven by the bottom-line, i.e. driving out all extraneous cost so you can offer the cheapest price.  Even if you have a superior product, your competition is others who are “good enough” at a cheaper price. This tends to dilute the category creating a blood-bath as everyone fights for margin.  So, it makes sense then that brew pubs, who are in essence selling a superior commodity, must elevate what surrounds that commodity to a higher-order emotional benefit in order to drive the top-line.  This allows you to charge a premium which reflects the quality of the beer PLUS the value of the emotional driver.  

There are three primary ways brew pubs cultivate emotional connections:

  1. Create community to foster connection:  The establishments become on-line and off-line social gathering spaces.  Those that are intentional in this will target a demographic by creating a certain ambiance in the décor and layout.  Their social channels will make this target feel part of the inner-circle. They will sell merchandise so the community can signal to others they are part of a tribe.
  2. Encourage interaction that forms memories and forges relationships:  Many have social games like cornhole and foosball which allow for no-stress interaction.  Most also offer special engagements that encourage networking. Tours are popular for telling of their story which they hope inspires you.
  3. Offer entertainment you enjoy:  It could be your favorite band, trivia night, or a tailgate around a sporting event.  It could be special tastings and seasonal offerings keeping you coming back. They know what you like, and they offer it to you.

Audit your businesses’ emotional equity as you contemplate the following:

  1. What are you selling?
  2. How does this differentiate you from your competition?
  3. How can you better cultivate these emotional drivers so your consumer keeps choosing you?

You just may need to visit several brew pubs for inspiration!

Anne’s Note:  As always, I hyperlink to brands I love so I can share the love with you.