Can wine industry marketing learn from craft beer? Why design, story-telling and social media matter

Bottles of craft beer

Can wine industry marketing learn from craft beer? Why design, story-telling and social media matter

Can the wine industry learn a thing or two from the way that craft beer approaches marketing, design and social media? A recent visit to London Wine Fair raised the question is craft beer leading the way in innovation in the drinks industry – from bottle design to Facebook ‘likes’.

Design first

Let’s start with the aesthetics. Beer labels are cool, artistic and resonate with a growing army of bearded hipsters who love to sup on the latest craft beer upload images on their social media channels. It’s just not hipsters though – craft ale is mainstream with beers available in outlets from Aldi to Waitrose.

The last few years has seen a revolution in label and pumpclip design and as a result of the innovation and creativity the category has attracted a new vibrant demographic of drinker. Craft is cool. And that is testament to the fact that beer marketing is working.

Labels don’t have to be over designed or artsy to look cool either. Take Kernel Brewery for example, the simple, plain and anti-design labels are a hit with the cool crowd. Not to mention the beers taste pretty damn good too.

The Kernel Brewery, Pale Ale

Simple design creates standout on the shelves for Kernel Brewery

Great design and taste go together hand in hand. This is something the craft beer world gets and is exploiting through their marketing activities and something wine industry marketing needs to make more of.

Come on wine, keep up!

Story telling

Any half decent drinks brand has a good story to tell, they just need to learn how to tell it in a convincing and engaging way. And it’s no surprise that craft beer does storytelling well. From hops to malt and brewers to brewery tours beer aficionado’s feel like they know the brand, they feel loyal, they become brand advocates, they spread the word on behalf of the brands. Beer marketing gold dust.

The wine has an equally good story to tell but with so many wines available these stories can all blend into one and make consumer loyalty a big challenge. Sure the fine wines have their story sorted, they’re aspirational and have heritage.

But we’re talking about those small to medium sized producers who are trying to get their voices heard and product on shelves. This is a major challenge for wine industry marketing.

In recent years English Wine Producers (marketing association for UK wine) has done a good job of raising the profile of independent British wineries. They’ve told the story that’s helped brands like Nyetimber build consumer loyalty.

But there are still things wineries all over the world can learn from the craft beer marketing. Be genuine, be open and start a dialogue with your consumers.

Social media

Beer advocates are vocal. Simply look at the hundreds and thousands of beer reviews all over the web. has 4.84 million to be consumer reviews.

Craft beer is winning when it comes to social media marketing. Players like BrewDog are using social media to spread their message without the high costs of above-the-line ads. They’re savvy, conveying personality, telling their story and creating an army of online fans (see case study of how we did this for our client Hobgoblin).

To prove our point we did a little experiment while at the London Wine Fair. The esoterica area was billed as ‘a haven for new wines’ and was also home to the festival’s Brewhouse. We took a random selection of wine exhibitors and compared their Facebook audience to that of five beer brands who were all present at the fair.

And the results weren’t that surprising, the size of the some of the wine’s audience was so small we couldn’t get them to feature on our pretty chart.

Ok so this isn’t Clarity’s usual in-depth social media analysis however it is an indication that wine is missing a big opportunity when it comes to social media marketing.

The thing we find most disturbing about these stats is that most of the wine importers/distributers mentioned sell their product online. Surely they should be using social to build brand and then convert these into sales.

Our approach to social media evaluation shows consumer conversations in a sales funnel – moving through brand awareness, intent and purchase.

In conclusion…

What can the wine industry take from this? In short wake up to a world of design, take some risks and push the boundaries not just with flavour but with design too.

Tell your story through every channel you can. Listen and engage with your consumers and convert them into loyal customers who’ll be your brand advocates. Social media marketing is ideal for drinks brands. If wine wants to ‘win’ like craft beer it needs to get social, and quickly.