Dispatches from Canadean International Beer Strategies Conference, Amsterdam

“Do we really need smart people, just to sell beer?!” Words of wisdom from Canadean International Beer Strategies Conference

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Amsterdam: a city with a rich history in beer
Amsterdam: a city with a rich history in beer

Related tags Craft brewers Brand

What’s brewing in beer; which markets have the muscle to grow; and what can big brands and craft brewers learn from each other? From twitter strategies to TV ads, here are some words of wisdom from those in the know, from the Canadean International Beer Strategies Conference in Amsterdam this week.

Speakers at the conference come from beverage heavyweights Heineken (which started from a single brewery in the city 150 years ago), Diageo, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and SABMiller; as well as from craft brewers and associated industries. 

Market trends, organisational structures, social media, innovation, craft brewers, e-commerce, packaging, promoting responsible drinking, and much more have been on the agenda. 

So what have beer gurus been saying?

Beer on a bicycle, the passion of brewers, and making moderation cool

“There are craft brewers that are delivering beer in 45 minutes on a bicycle, [so] a six week pre-order lead time is probably something that challenges our business.”

Dave McCarthy, Chief Commercial Officer - Global Export Business, Molson Coors on the need for a fast and responsive business.

“You can’t just tweet any old thing out. It’s not a miracle worker. Nothing is going to automatically drive sales.

ashley vinson
Ashley Vinson

“You’re trying to make an emotional connection with your consumer, so they like your brand more.” 

Ashley Vinson, Head of Brand Strategy Benelux, Twitter; in her presentation on ‘Leveraging Twitter and social media in the beer industry to engage customers and achieve a ROI.’ 

So where do you start, when trying to make an emotional connection - and indeed when you’re new to Twitter altogether? “Go back to what you think consumers are interested in, and build a content plan around that,” ​she said

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“We want to make moderation cool. If someone says, ‘that’s cool,’ it means they want to do it.”

Anuraag Trikha, Director Global Heineken Brand Communication & Digital, Heineken International, on the company’s campaigns and initiatives to promote moderation.

“10 minutes [for this presentation] is a lot compared to 1/10th of a second you have to capture consumer attention.” 

Lars Arnoldsen, sales director BU Europe & North America, from cooler manufacturer Frigoglass, introduces his presentation, ‘Imagine the cooler of the future.’

“I’ve heard too many people call it liquid. It’s bloody beer!”

Jim Harrison, CEO, Thornbridge Brewery, is tasked with defining craft beer. His ten-year-old company prides itself on its sense of place: its Peak District home at Thornbridge Hall in the UK.

beer insert 2

“You guys spend millions and millions sponsoring sport on TV. Nobody knows if it actually works.”

Adi Raz, Director, Pasabahce Innovation Center, shows how beverage glasses can include a chip in the base. This means consumers in a bar could scan the glass over the top of their smartphone, gaining information on the beer in their glass. Meanwhile, beer brands can see if the timing of their adverts links into when a specific beer brand is purchased. 

beer insert 1

“When you focus on quality instead of quantity, you use less raw materials, less packaging, less logistics, less natural resources. More value instead of volume is helping this agenda.”

Ronald Panis, Manager External Communications and Corporate Social Responsibility Europe, Anheuser-Busch InBev, talking about the company’s responsible drinking programmes - as well as touching on the environmental responsibilities.

“Do we really need these smart people, just to sell some beer?! My answer is yes, we do.”

With more than 40 speakers (with 40 different job titles and roles) present at the conference, Andreas Lee, Founder and Insight director, NORM Research & Consulting, asks if we really need all these smart people to sell beer. 

andreas lee
Andreas Lee, NORM Research & Consulting

Yes, he says. Because consumers face so many decisions when purchasing beer. There are so many brands, so many types of beer, so many factors of differing degrees of importance to consumers, different retail channels, promotional offers, pack sizes, the placement in store, the occasion the consumer is buying for, the mood the buyer is in - and the list goes on.

“This is a pretty complex market,”​ Lee observes. “There is no way a shopper can process all this information in just one shopping trip. Billions of combinations just to buy some beer.”

An interesting aside: no two speakers had identical job titles, Lee noted. 

“It’s not like we’re trying to inspire you to divorce your wife, leave your job, put on a backpack and go find yourself in south east Asia. We just believe everyone deserves to be a bit more free.”

Dave Shoemack, Global Brand Manager, Sol, on the brand’s ‘free spirit’ positioning. 

“I have to say, coming into the industry, I have never come across a bunch of more passionate people than brewers. They’re astonishing people that have not only got fabulous technical background and knowledge, but a real flair - as a chef has a flair - for understanding flavour profiles.”

Jim Harrison, CEO, Thornbridge Brewery, on ‘innovation, passion and knowledge’ in his business (the company’s slogan).

BeverageDaily.com is at the conference in Amsterdam this week. Keep tuned for more insights from the event. 

Related topics Markets Beer & cider Beer

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