As of October 2017, there were 178 craft breweries in San Diego alone. In the race to gain a slice of the craft brew pie, breweries need ways to increase brand awareness and, hopefully, brand loyalty.

Good–even great–products will only get you so far, especially in the craft beer world. According to Nielsen,  “younger, frequent craft beer drinkers are even more brand “promiscuous,” as 37% have purchased seven or more beer brands in the past year.” The fierce brand loyalty that defined macro-brews in the past doesn’t extend to craft brews. Living in an area with such a high concentration of delicious and innovative breweries like San Diego only makes brand loyalty more difficult to achieve.

One of the best ways to stay relevant to craft beer drinkers is through the use of merchandise and apparel are just the tip of the merch iceberg. Research shows that merchandise can play a big role in advocate marketing. According to Brandwatch, “the ROI on promotional products delivered a better return on investment than radio and outdoor advertising, and is equal to TV and print.”

Memorable merch will help expand your brand for less than traditional marketing techniques. Here are some of the top tips we give to our clients looking to grow their brand’s reach:

  • Highlight Merch with a Dedicated Section
    Merchandise will always take a backseat to the beer, but that doesn’t mean it should be shoved into a dark corner. You want your customers to buy merch. That way, they’re representing your brewery every time they wear the shirt or hat you sell them. They will help you reach new potential customers. A dedicated merch section will vary based on the amount of space available, but a few general rules will always hold true:

    • Make it visible. People won’t buy what they can’t see.
    • Make it accessible. People like to hold, touch, and try on what they’re going to buy, especially if it is apparel.
    • Keep smaller merch items (stickers, bottle openers, etc.) near the Point-of-Sale system to encourage impulse buys.
    • Encourage people to buy more than one thing when they come to your storefront. For example, give a 25% discount on sweaters with the purchase of a growler.
  • A Merch Line-up that Compliments your Brand
    Branding is critical to the success of the any craft brewery. (This blog post from Codo is a great analysis of the trends in 2017 beer can/bottle designs.) While brands put a ton of energy into their cans and bottles, merch can fall by the design-wayside.

    Just like tap-handles, merch is a critical piece of advertising. It needs to compliment the bottle and can branding. Find what makes your brand unique and channel that into the merchandise you sell.Take, for example, Amplified Ale Works, which translates their rock-and-roll theme into their merch by featuring slickly branded flannel button-downs in their tasting rooms. That way, customers rock the Amplified Ale Works aesthetic everywhere they go.
  • Low-Cost Promotional Giveaways
    Merch that raises brand awareness doesn’t have to be expensive. Well-designed, low-cost promotional giveaways can be great ways to reach out to potential customers. Tattoos, stickers, or keychains are low cost in bulk and are easy to pass out. Consider using them at craft brew festivals where there is heavy foot traffic and you may not get to personally interact with customers for a long time.Another great use of low cost merch is to encourage social media check-ins. People love free stuff, and a check-in on Facebook or Yelp will help get your brand out there for a tiny investment on your part.
  • Give Your Employees Merch
    Your employees are your biggest advocates. They are invested in seeing the brand succeed. Give them merch (beyond the shirts you give them for working in) so they can represent the brand on the weekends when they’re out and about.Give them a cache of low-cost promotional items like stickers or tattoos. That way, they can surprise fans of the brand with something, and it can function as a business card of sorts for people who haven’t heard of the brand.

These are just some of the ways to use merch to improve brand awareness. If you’re looking for more advice or want to discover unique merch for your brand, shoot us a message today!