Welcome Shock Top drinkers!

shocktopTell me when it’s safe to come out from behind my couch. I can picture everyone out there lighting up their torches and sharpening their pitchforks. Yes, Shock Top and the craft beer industry have a rocky history at best. Shock Top is made by AB InBev and Labatts, and a “deceitful marketing plan” they are cooking up may just help out the craft beer industry in a way no one thought Shock Top ever would.

According to this article, InBev plans to unleash a marketing behemoth to lay waste to the craft beer industry. They will rely on the fact that test groups have shown that 75% of people think Shock Top is made by a small micro-brewery (source, from article). They will use this to reel in people who have been curious to try craft beer, but are too intimidated. I can imagine this is a large number of people.

The article and the comments paint this in a very bad light. They call out its deception, and how InBev is falsely representing itself, misleading beer drinkers. Let’s think about this for a minute, though. Remember those old Venn diagrams? Imagine the group of Bud, Miller, Coors beer drinkers today (blue circle). How many of them might be swayed by this ad campaign (red circle)? If it’s got the mass behind it that the article says, that could be a large number. Now imagine the group of craft beer drinkers today (green circle). How many of them might be swayed by this ad campaign? Correct, none.


In other words, the goal of this nefarious, deceitful ad campaign is to turn Bud, Miller, Coors drinkers onto… craft beer. How is this a bad thing? To me, this is moving people in the right direction, in a way that the craft beer industry doesn’t have the marketing muscle to do. Instead of looking at Shock Top as evil, look at it as simply a gateway… it’s a “door greeter” beer for people who don’t know anyone at the craft beer party.

And here’s the warning… don’t turn these newcomers away because the doorway happens to be Shock Top. Check your craft beer ego, invite them in and welcome them. Did you see that line in the document I linked to above? “Consumer insight: [..] I’m intimidated by craft beers because they’re too pretentious and complicated.” We shouldn’t take that piece of marketing research lightly.

We’ve taught over 2,000 new brewers in our Brew School class. One of the top beers that they want to make is a Blue Moon clone. Is Blue Moon a craft beer? Nope. But it is another one of those gateway beers. And we’re always really happy to show them how to make the Blue Moon clone that they want to drink. Eventually they’ll want to wander further, and when they’re ready, we’re ready to help show them around.

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