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What Small Brands Teach Us

Beverage World:

By Bill Anderson

Small brands are a great teacher. There are a few lessons we can learn from them that can’t be replicated easily by large brands.

Sociability.  I’m always a bit surprised by how a check-out clerk wants to tell me what her favorite craft beer is, or how almost any visitor to our office wants to describe his favorite bourbon or healthy sports performance drink. Consumers today want to tell each other about unique experiences they’ve had with newly-discovered brands. While they may be true to major suppliers’ core brands, what they really want to talk about are unusual beverage brands they’ve tried recently.  The more unique the brand or the taste profile, the more vocal and social the consumer becomes.  Highly social is good.

Favorable Marketing Angles. Highly social is also relatively cheap. It’s not about billboards or TV ads anymore. It’s about word of mouth, highly targeted social media campaigns, and disciplined utilization of celebrities and causes.  Small brands don’t need to spend much in marketing dollars to reach a tipping point with the right influencer consumers.

Authenticity.  More than anything else, small brands are true to their core.  They don’t cover up or lie about their ingredients. They’re not gimmicky. By being authentic, fun and non-corporate, they create brand stories that are highly relevant to today’s millennial consumers. Brands with a differentiated story make a lasting impact.

Craft beer brands may do this better than any others. The rich detail behind the brewmaster’s recipes, the disciplined roll-out of new styles adding to the brewery’s portfolio, and the very creative tradenames and labels all lead to unparalleled brand development and ultimately consumer buzz. Craft beer brands are redefining brand authenticity.

An Extra Dose of Craftiness.  At the end of the day, consumers want to know the founders behind these brands have taken the time to tailor something just for them and have made products that are extra artisanal, extra regional, and in a sense, very much hand-made.

The successful small brands today don’t fit in easily.  They stretch us to rethink categories and taste profiles and functionality, and then of course we start talking about them.

Small brands may continue to be nothing in the shadow of the mega brands, but they have a lot to teach us right now. It’s all about small, and there are good reasons for that.