I have been somewhat reticent about writing up this post, although it has been pottering around my head for a while, but what the heck.
Marketing is part and parcel of business, you simply can't get away from it. Why is Windows the dominant operating system for PCs? Because its predecessor, MS-DOS, was marketed so well and became the dominant pre-Windows OS - back then there was a raft of other available operating systems, some better than MS-DOS, that went to the wall. Windows built on the success of MS-DOS and ran with it.
So it is with breweries, industrial breweries have larger, more loyal, customer bases, not because of the quality of their beer but because they have better marketing. Now, of course, this is something that in many ways is a circular argument, of course they have better marketing, they have more money, and because they have more money, they have better marketing. Having said that, BrewDog, I am fairly sure, doesn't have the marketing budget of AB-InBev, yet they do a very good job of marketing their beers, whether or not you agree with their methods.
One thing though that constantly shocks me, and I say this with a professional interest, is that a large number of craft brewers and brewpubs have piss poor web sites, their beer may be great, but their web site lets them down. When I say I have a professional interest, I should declare here that I am the Business Development Director for a web design studio here in Charlottesville, so I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at web sites. To be horribly blunt, many a small brewery's web site looks as though it was designed by someone's nephew, whilst sat in a basement listening to Rammstein or some such. Not just ugly, but with poor navigation and a lack of interesting content, not to mention the regularly broken links which really irks me, taking BrewDog though as my example again, they have a well designed web site, which sells their vision, beer and merchandise very well.
It is too easy for a small brewer to say "I can't afford a fancy web site", but I am not talking here about having a fancy website, with videos of swaying barley and the like. Something that is clean and professional looking, rather than being as spotty and horrible as the nephew that built it, is really not all that expensive. While every brewery has its core, local, customer base, the growing number of beer tourists makes a good looking web site all the more important, because the web site is the gateway to the beer, as well as being a gathering point for the existing customer base to learn about new products and events.
Without good marketing a company will fail, regardless of how good, innovative or drinkable the product is - if people aren't spending money, then you aren't making any, and a good web site will help you make more money, which despite all the "I am in it to make great beer" shite, is the real reason a person starts a business - they want to be richer than they were when they started.
Just a small aside, at the weekend, I was the featured blogger over on the Beer Wench's blog, so pop along and have a read.