Beer Marketing Awards

Last night saw the first Beer Marketing Awards. Brainchild of Dark Star’s James Cuthbertson, who teamed up with beer writer Pete Brown and beer sommelier/drinks marketing specialist Jo Miller to create the awards, they aim to celebrate the best beer marketing, raise standards of beer marketing and create something relevant to the whole industry rather than just one or two niches or those with mass-market presence.

Pete Brown at the Beer Marketing Awards 2015

Pete Brown at the Beer Marketing Awards 2015

Now, I’ve got to tell you most of last night’s winners* were big or multinational brewers/beer brands – although you’ll be pleased to hear Beavertown were recognised for Nick Dwyer’s fabulous artwork and BrewDog for their #MashTag social media campaign. Then again there’ll be those crying that BrewDog are huge and Beavertown ain’t that small either but the worry – or the thing niggled at me all night – was what about the genuinely small/microbreweries? Why isn’t their work being lauded?

I put this to Pete Brown and asked him if many smaller brewers had entered, “Not as many as we’d have liked,” he said. Everyone knows you’ve got to be in it to win it so what put those smaller breweries off? The entry fee of £125 may be part of the answer. Microbrewers are notorioulsy reluctant to part with cash for things that might not bear fruit. Whether it’s a competition entry, a trade stand, an advert, PR or a marketing budget you just don’t know till you spend the money if it is going to be worth it and for a small business, or an individual that is a business, that kind of spending can feel as frivolous as gambling.

But when it comes to marketing, publicity and branding the bigger gamble is not investing in it. This is a more serious issue for the industry than the lack of entries from certain quarters to these new awards .

For every brewer who takes marketing and publicising their beer seriously there is at least one other who thinks their beer will sell itself ad infinitum and all they need is a pretty pump clip and an interesting name. But with the market place flooded with brewers – three times more in the UK now that at the turn of the 21st century – the savvy business person needs a forward plan for how to keep selling their beer in the years, not weeks or months, ahead and that has to include marketing. Or as they put it at the Beer Marketing Awards making sure ‘the right beer gets into the right hands’ (or should that be mouths?!).

So my hope around the Beer Marketing Awards is it will get brewers talking and thinking about marketing, how to do it and how NOT to do it and why it’s worth investing in. As Pete Brown said at the Awards and as Melissa Cole has written about in a guest blog for Roger Protz – there are elements of the industry whose ignorance of marketing brings shame on the rest of us and damages the reputation of beer at a crucial time.

Here we are in the Golden Age, on the cusp of seeing beer more widely accepted as a classy beverage to serve with food and shaking off its undeserved beer belly and wife beater associations, and yet their are those who want to drag it back to the dark ages and ruin all the progress that’s been made. That’s the worst of it. The ‘best’ is not bothering to make an effort with marketing at all which while not as damaging as the line up the Daily Telegraph was able to run today is a wasted opportunity not just to sell more beer but also to spread the beer message.

So I won’t complain about the winners of the Beer Marketing Awards, instead let’s start talking marketing (and publicity and branding) – they’re not dirty words, and maybe this time next year there will be a wider field of entries blowing their beer-marketing trumpets – and we can begin to see the back of the sort of crap that makes beer look bad.

Pic courtesy Beavertown - their award-winning can designs

Pic courtesy Beavertown – their award-winning can designs

*The Winners of the 2015 Beer Marketing Awards

Best Branding or Design: Beavertown

Best Use of Competitions: Thornbridge and Waitrose, with BrewUK  – ‘Homebrew Challenge’

Best Use of Merchandise: Vedett Extra Blond – ‘Vedett Extra’

Best Use of Sponsorship: Budweiser – ‘FA Cup Open Trials’

Best Public Relations Campaign: Greene King Old Speckled Hen – ‘Old Speckled Christmas’

Best Stunt or Event: Wychwood Hobgoblin – ‘Hobgoblin Roadshow’

Best Business-to-Business Campaign: Heineken – ‘Our Shout’

Best use of Social Media: BrewDog ‘#MashTag’

Best Print Advertising Campaign: Fuller’s London Pride – ‘Made of London’

Best Broadcast Advertising Campaign: Shepherd Neame Spitfire – ‘Bottle of Britain’

Best Integrated Campaign: Marston’s Pedigree – ‘Live a Life of Pedigree’

Outstanding Individual Contribution: David Cunningham, Britain’s Beer Alliance

Overall Winner: Grand Prix 2015: Fuller’s London Pride – ‘Made of London’ 


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Probably afraid of craft beer?

Carlsberg Billboard 1[1]

Pic courtesy of Carlsberg

If mass-market lager brands were afraid of the popularity of craft beer they’d probably stage a publicity stunt in Shoreditch…

Carlsberg today unveiled a 3 m x 12 m interactive (meaning beer-dispensing) billboard at the Truman Brewery, in situ for one day only, to tempt passers-by to ‘discover and enjoy’ a half-pint of ice-cold Carlsberg (as if it were a beer that no one’s ever heard of?).

The question is, how calculated/deliberate was the location? Answers on a billboard please…

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Judgement Day: a beginners guide to beer competitions

What should you do if you’re invited to judge at a beer competition? Take it seriously. It’s not just a free piss-up – whatever some people think or say. Winning an award can mean a lot for a brewer. Not only is it nice to have your beer appreciated and recognised for its quality it’s also an excellent opportunity to publicise a beer or mention the award within publicity and other communications (including talking to publicans or other customers), on labels/pump clips and online. Plenty of beer buyers and drinkers will choose a beer they can see has won an award over one that hasn’t. Savvy brewers shout it from the roof tops when they win a medal or competition.

Judging at SIBA's National Competition

Judging at SIBA’s National Competition

As a beer judge – you are one of the people responsible for choosing which brewers get to shout. Always keep that in mind. If a beer tastes brilliant and is in excellent condition score it highly, but if it tastes unbalanced and is in poor condition then feel free to give it a low or even a zero score. Give feedback to competition organisers about any problems with dispense or beer quality during and after any competitions you judge at. Beer      needs      to      be   served    perfectly    if    it    is    to    stand    a    chance    of    winning    an    award.

All that said beer judging is also fun and enjoyable! You’ll meet interesting people, including brewers, and there’s the chance to learn by observing other people judging. Whether you’ve judged hundreds of times or it’s your first competition there is always something to be learned.

In the best competitions tasting is blind. This means you won’t know what the beer is. If you knew what you were sampling it’d be too easy to select your favourites and discard things you’ve disliked in the past – no matter how hard you try to be objective!

Samples are numbered to enable accurate recording of scores and/or comments for each competing beer. You will usually be given a score sheet and perhaps asked to mark beer out of 10 or 20 for various criteria (appearance, aroma, taste, saleability etc) or to rank the top three beers from each ‘flight’ (the group of beers you are judging – usually all of one style).

It is your opinion of the beer that counts. But in some competitions, such as the World Beer Cup, the table has to reach a consensus as to which beers deserve to go through to the next round. If this is the case you need to keep your opinions to yourself until all the judges have completed the flight. Sometimes it’s easy to reach consensus as the best beers are obvious – but sometimes it can result in heated debate about what does or doesn’t deserve to go through.

Beer X 2014
Beer judging is also an excellent way of learning about beer or keeping skills up-to-date if you’re already an expert. Some competitions only use experienced judges – some like the International Brewing Awards are judged only by brewers. Others benefit from a much broader range of skills and experience, especially when saleability is one of the criteria when it’s vital to have ‘average’ drinkers and pub-goers on the panel.

Whatever your level of experience here are my top tips for beer judging…

Be sure to have had a decent, preferably cooked, breakfast before you start (assuming you are judging in the morning – a decent meal if later in the day).

Do not wear aftershave or perfume on a judging day.

If you normally like smellies consider using unscented deodorant, soap, body lotion etc on judging days. It may sound a bit over the top – until you’re sat next to someone with overpowering scent on and all you can smell and taste is their perfume!

Sip water between each beer, eat a bit of cracker/biscuit/bread (these should be provided by the organisers) and have more water every few beers and whenever you feel your palate is tiring. This will also assist in terms of not becoming intoxicated, particularly if judging high ABV brews.

Have a decent lunch if judging/continuing to judge in the afternoon.

Form your own opinion of the beer before discussing with other judges.

Try not to share your opinion until other judges have had a chance to form their own (it helps if you have a good poker face!)

Do not let on if you think you know what beer it is you are tasting.

Trust your instincts and senses and mark accordingly – don’t be kind if a beer isn’t up to par.

If judging for saleability think beyond whether or not you would buy it. Think about how popular it might be with the average drinker and how quickly a pub might turn over a cask. I quite often give high marks for saleability to rather boring beers!

Learn from the experience, by listening to the opinions of fellow judges but don’t be bullied or swayed if you think they are wrong. Some judges are more skilled than others and the best judges know there is always more to learn.

Take it seriously but don’t forget to enjoy tasting the beers.

Images courtesy of SIBA

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