Opinion: Mindful Events

I recently attended the Beer Marketing & Tourism Conference (henceforth referred to as BMTC) in beautiful Boise, Idaho. First, let me reemphasize something that might have been lost in my opening statement: Beautiful Boise. The gem state’s capital is a hip, walkable city with an abundance of diverse restaurants and 22 breweries within the greater city limits. Also, the poutine is divine. You can ask me why directly. I respond promptly to emails.

BMTC featured a mix of breweries (from Montana, Texas, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, to name a few), writers, tour guides, marketing agencies, thought leaders, and many more. Some of the common themes of the presentations and discussions swarmed around craft beer’s modest spike of 1% market share in overall alcohol sales YoY (sales of beer in the U.S. overall in 2018 continued a downward trend against spirits and wine).  

The resonating messages were centered around knowing your brand and knowing your customer. This provided ample opportunities to discuss regional beer trails, marketing strategies, and taproom draws.  One of the most collaborative and diverse workshops wound up revolving largely around the idea of event marketing. This is a broad term.

Breweries have evolved from production facilities with occasional tours to painstakingly-designed spaces where people actually want to visit with friends and family, drink fresh beer onsite, and enjoy the atmosphere. As the shift continues away from offsite consumption to taproom experience, many breweries are coming up with new ways to entice and retain a growing contingent of enthusiastic craft beer consumers.  

During the brainstorming session, we discussed some of the various successful - and unsuccessful - events that the collected breweries in the room had attempted: from wreath-making (a hit, according to the rep from Odell Brewing) to weddings. It was interesting to hear how many breweries had couples reach out to them to plan their weddings in their taproom, and were all told a very similar story, paraphrased to: “You can do it, but don’t forget this is a functioning brewery.”  

In fact, a theme we all kept returning to during the discussion, whether it was about allowing dogs or kids into the taproom, or hosting a wedding, or setting up some kind of hands-on quilting workshop, was this: Set Expectations (and Don’t Forget Who You Are). It made me think about the fact that, while a brewery space may seem like a wonderful place to make a quilt, you need to remind yourself that while the short-term revenue for ticket prices are enticing, you have to ask yourself: “Are these our people?  Are they coming to my brewery merely to make a quilt, or will they actually buy a beer (or two) and —  more importantly —  return on a non-quilt night?”   

The bottom line on events, as with many of the ideas that were discussed at BMTC, is this: whether it’s event marketing, or PR, or social media, start at the top — Does this align with our brand, and by doing this, are we alienating or further engaging our people?