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Targeting Shopper Tactics For Craft Beer/RTD

Last week I showed how Craft beer has a challenge with some drinking occasions,

specifically the “beer-with-a-buddy” drinking occasion, and ways craft brewers could tackle this with a focus on specific shopper marketing and product tactics. You can read more about that here if you’re interested.


In that article I talked a lot about different shopper activation strategies. The numbers are drawn from the adjacent chart. And I think it may be worth digging into these in general

to understand how they work with different product types and consumers.



First thing you’ll notice is that there are a lot of things you can do. Probably even more than are listed here. But there are patterns. Generally, we can bucket these activations into 4 types:

  1. Stock/Listing Details: These are things like price, package, shelf location, etc. The details that get figured out when you get listed with a retailer.

  2. In Store Promotions: These are things like price promotions, endcap displays, tastings, etc. Special activities you need to coordinate (fund) with a retailer.

  3. SWAG: These are contests, free merchandise, samples, etc. that you can add directly to your cans and packages.

  4. Reviews/Recommendations: This is word-of-mouth marketing that could be informal (heard from a friend) or more formal like professional reviews. It also captures recommendations coming from store staff.

  5. Media: This is classic advertising, social media, billboards/bus ads, videos, etc. that most people think of when they think of marketing.

If we summarize the previous chart with these categories, then split it out by craft and non-craft brands, we get the below chart (comparing National and Ontario views because its neat).



There are a few things that pop out immediately:

  1. These numbers don’t add up to 100. That’s because respondents can be influenced by more than one activation, and can also answer “non-of-these”. I’m just not including “none” here to simplify the graph.

  2. Stock/Listing Details are far and away the most influential factor, while similarly being the greatest challenge area for craft brands. The good folks with the Ontario Craft Beer Association are particularly focused on closing the gap here as a large part of the disparity can be attributed to the regulatory/retail environment in Ontario.

  3. SWAG and Reviews/Recommendations notably trail In Store Promotions. This speaks to the value of working directly with retailers to move product.

  4. Media seems suspiciously low. In this case, it’s worth noting that Media usually works to raise awareness, and high awareness tends to lead to higher sales. It would probably be fair to attribute more the “none-of-these” respondents to media. But that also speaks to just how costly media can be…

So what should a small brand do with this information?


Well, it’s worth noting that different consumer groups and different product types tend to resonate differently with each type of activation. Maybe it’s not possible for an individual brand to move the needle on stock/listing details. And maybe the funds aren’t there to support in-store activations. But in your specific case leaning on word-of-mouth could be the right choice, even if it is not effective in most other cases. How would we know?


This is where we can start thinking strategically about who our customers are and what would really speak to them. Let’s start high level: What do they usually drink and how does that relate to how they shop? We can see this in the below correspondence table. For those who haven’t seen tables like this before, the simplest way to interpret them is types of alcohol and shopper activations located closer to each other are more closely related, and those further apart are more different. Any nerds in the audience might enjoy this more detailed summary.



Here we see that people who drink more Wine are more receptive to reviews/recommendations. This makes sense given what we’d think about when we think of Wine consumers. Beer sits closer to the stock/listing details, which reflects what we’ve seen above. And Seltzers skews strongly to Media. Given the hype machine that’s surrounded Hard Seltzers for the past couple of years, this also seems intuitive.


What does this mean for Beer marketers?


If you’re selling a Beer that drinks more like Wine, meant to be enjoyed with food, with complex flavours, and a premium price then maybe leaning on reviews and recommendations may work for you.


If you’re joining in on the Hard Seltzer trend, media is going to be more important than ever. You better be prepared to make some investment there, as you’re going to be up against some well funded competition.


But let’s take this further. What if you’re targeting specific consumer values?


We can get much of the same result looking at consumer attitudes. Media and SWAG seem to cluster together with tracking popular trends and impressing others, speaking to the need to spend on advertising if you want to join in on the latest hyped category. In contrast, people valuing ethical and environmental considerations are leaning more on reviews/recommendations. So, if you’re pursuing an organic or new ethical production philosophy, getting those reviews in would be a priority.



OK, but not everyone wants to save the world when having a drink. What about just having a good time?


We can explore this too, by looking at drinking motivations in the moment, the strategies start to differentiate even more. Now SWAG has a pretty strong relationship with making a good impression, perhaps because it offers the opportunity to show up to a party with more than just drinks in hand. Media continues to be focused on those with social motivations. While In Store Promotion seems to help lift people’s moods – perhaps there’s something to be said about a good promo to get people excited about a brand.



We could go on, but you probably get the idea. While the category could face some topline challenges with the high dependence on stock/listing details, there is room to maneuver for individual brands if you know who your target consumers are and what motivates them. From just this overview we can see:

  • Media is best for buzz-worthy categories adopted by people concerned about social considerations and tracking popular trends (e.g. Seltzers)

  • Reviews/Recommendations perform well with Wine consumers who would pay attention to a Beer’s taste/flavour notes, environmental/ethical impact, while still wanting to have some fun

  • SWAG checks boxes for making a good impression and is probably good for sharing/showing off to others

  • In Store Promotions tend to lift people’s moods, resonate with folks buying local, and with Beer/RTD’s in general

  • Stock/Listing Details are most associated with Beer overall, but especially those looking for familiar options to relax and reward themselves

Getting the focus right, to maximize the impact of marketing efforts, tends to involve a bit of investment in research upfront. It can be very tempting to go with the gut and put every dollar of budget against the campaign. But those dollars could go further if put to right use. Would you have thought Reviews/Recommendations were connected to just 4% of brand choice? It’s worth exploring some options before jumping into any campaign with both feet, as it may reveal some much more efficient strategies down the line.


*Data sourced from Rapport Research inc. 'Beer Study', n=813, national sample LDA+, online interview, field October 26, 2022

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