Beer Marketing in a Crisis

Marketing ideas for the craft beverage industry

As the coronavirus has spread, some beverage companies have been lucky to find their products in high demand — but others, particularly those in areas with fewer people or intense competition — have found obtaining orders to be difficult. People are still drinking, but how do you get them to choose your brand when there’s so much going on?  

1. Set up your online storefront for pickup and/or delivery orders.

This is a non-negotiable — with other companies making it easy to buy products online, you’re missing out if your customers can’t order this way. Online searches for terms like “beer delivery” and “wine delivery” have skyrocketed since the start of the crisis in the U.S. Even if you can’t deliver, an online storefront allows customers to complete their order with minimal contact by paying online and  picking up their products from your facility. Do everything you can to ensure purchasing your products is safe and convenient.

Google Trends graph showing interest in the terms "beer delivery" and "wine delivery" over time

Want to set up your own online store? Check out the vendors mentioned in this post.

2. Post to social media as often as possible.

Social media is your best friend right now. With things changing so quickly, many consumers are turning to their favorite brands’ channels to stay up to date on operating hours, pickup policies, and available products. Keeping your accounts updated is easy — and no, you don’t need fancy graphics or a degree in marketing to create interesting and useful content. At a minimum, simply aim to keep your customers informed: post at the beginning of each day with your hours, methods of purchase (online, phone, in person), and available products. We suggest posting many times per day, but once is the minimum.

Facebook and Instagram are the two most popular platforms among U.S. adults, but Facebook tends to favor posts by accounts that users typically interact with (family, friends, etc.). We suggest making Instagram your focus, with Facebook and Twitter as additional outlets if you have the capacity. Instagram stories are great for quick updates, and if you have at least 10,000 followers or have a “verified” account, you can add “swipe up” links to your stories (e.g. to your online storefront or website). If you have a decent following but worry about beating the Instagram algorithm, put a small budget — even just $30-50 — behind boosting a post to your followers to ensure it gets seen. Many of the other strategies in this article are best distributed on social media, so keep reading for helpful content ideas.

3. Create FOMO.

Create a sense of urgency or “FOMO” (fear of missing out) on your social media profiles by encouraging pre-orders from your online store. Marketing releases in a way that suggests scarcity can help you create a buzz and get engagement on your posts, which all contributes to the hype around your products. Asking customers to tag you in their posts of your products is another great way to create FOMO, as you can then share those posts on your own profile and show potential buyers that other people are enjoying your products.

4. Offer to-go meal deals.

Does your business offer food in addition to beverages, or are there popular food trucks, restaurants, or caterers in the area that you have a relationship with? Create a bundled “meal deal” with food and a crowler for a set price at a slight discount (for family-sized meals, you could offer a 4-pack instead). Make it fun by having customers choose a category (IPA, lager, etc.) and then surprising them with a selection. If you can’t find a partner for food, you could offer a percentage discount off beverage purchases when customers show a recent receipt from a local restaurant.

5. Show your personality.

These days, people buy your products because they like them, but also because they identify with your brand. Think about your team: would you describe yourselves as fun and creative? Funky and quirky? Serious about your products? Whatever your point of view, zero in on a “voice” and use it to craft content on social media and anywhere you communicate with the public. People love to see what your team is really like, so take photos or videos on your phone that show what you’re up to: loading up the van with crowlers, cans, and kegs; sitting at your curbside to-go table waiting for customers; sanitizing the production area to maintain cleanliness; or (if you have one) showcase your mascot doing everyday things (check out this fun example from Saugatuck Brewing).  

6. Tap into your customers’ desire to help others.

For some who find themselves in a relative place of privilege, there is a strong desire to give back. Facilitate this in a way that helps your business by starting a campaign around “paying it forward.” Specifically, you could encourage people to purchase a pint or two for folks on the front lines to enjoy when things return to normalcy and on-site consumption is permitted once again. If you have the means, you could partner with a non-profit or healthcare organization in your area to donate some of your proceeds — but it’s understandable if that’s not in your budget right now.

7. Get repeat purchases.

Image from mkebrewing.com

Setting discounts to get purchases quickly (e.g. 10% off crowlers on Mondays, etc.) is a short-term strategy, but ensuring repeat business should be your main goal right now. If you have an exclusive membership program, think up  extra incentives you could offer to encourage purchases now and later. Invite customers to join by offering a free pint (or bottle) when your retail location reopens, early access to exclusive  releases, or extra rewards points on online purchase. If you don’t want to manage a rewards program, consider a subscription option. Make it exciting by having customers tell you the styles they like and surprising them with 2 or 3 different options on their doorstep each week.

8. Include extra goodies in pickup and delivery orders.

Is your facility making hand sanitizer? Do you have heaps of toilet paper and paper towels in dry storage that you don’t need right now? Are there merch items you could give away? Include an item in each order on certain days or for a limited time. This will encourage sales and help customers get hard-to-find and desirable items. You can also use this strategy to amp up brand interest and loyalty at grocery or beverage stores where you have displays — include stickers, bottle openers, or any other small promo item to give buyers a piece of your brand to hold onto even after they’ve consumed your product. And don’t forget to work with your retail partners to ensure you have the best display location and setup possible.

Other Helpful Content

Driving Revenue to Your Craft Beverage Business During COVID-19

How to Start and Market Drive-Through Alcohol Sales

How to Start a Local Alcohol Delivery Program

Financial Relief Resources for Craft Beverage Businesses During COVID-19

COVID-19 Community Forum for Ekos Users

Creative Sales & Marketing Ideas for Craft Beverage Companies During COVID-19

Becca