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Side Launch Brewing Company Continuing

Case

Beer Is Everywhere People Are

"Find out where people are going—and buy land before they get there." This quotation attributed to American Cherokee leader and Confederate Colonel William Penn Adair is from more than 150 years ago. Perhaps never, though, has a more poignant mantra for marketing been captured in one phrase.

For Side Launch Brewing Company, the award-winning craft brewery based in Collingwood, Ontario, being the best beer where people are going is a parallel philosophy. If marketing is about the discovery and satisfaction of customer needs, Side Launch, as founder Garnet Pratt suggests, wants to be the beer companion that marks these occasions, both good and bad, that accompany people through the milestones of their life. "When you think about the journey of your adult life, beer is just there, humbly being a part of it. Weddings, funerals, graduations, and birthdays. It's there even in your more routine activities. It's also waiting for you after you've mowed the lawn or had a hard day at work. It's there when you're among friends, or alone, it's just there. If you're a beer drinker, why wouldn't you want that beer to be the best beer?"

Marketing is accomplished when value is exchanged. Value is the solution to a need. But needs, as we'll discuss throughout the book, are not always obvious, nor do we even always know we have them. They sometimes knock us over the head with a direct and vivid message: "I'm hungry—feed me." But sometimes those needs will be encrypted in feelings that are less obvious: "I'm vulnerable—comfort me."

The latter is one of an infinite number of reasons for the rapid growth in popularity of craft beer. "The beer market has changed," asserts Chuck Galea, VP Sales and Marketing, "primarily because beer drinkers have changed. They are more sophisticated and know what really good beer tastes like. People now choose a beer to go along with a season, or an occasion, or even a food group. It's the new wine, you know, where there are beer tastings and beer food pairings. And Side Launch is right there now. We're getting in people's hands, they're trying us, they're liking us, and they're helping to tell our story."

Founding brewer Michael Hancock refers to his beers as "accessible." "My tagline for our Dark Lager is that it's the dark beer for people who don't think they like dark beer. Our Wheat Beer often appeals to people who may not even like beer; you know, it was called 'banana beer' when it first came out as it had a totally different flavour profile due to the low level of hops." Michael knows of what he speaks—being one of the true pioneers of wheat beer brewing in all of North America. "Michael is the keeper of quality," adds Dave Sands, VP Operations, who has a pedigree of beer industry expertise, stemming from a formal postsecondary brewing education and over 12 years working with the two biggest beer conglomerates in the world (Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson-Coors). "We start with the basis of a quality culture, which sets a level of expectation among the basic things. You find the best ingredients from the best suppliers and mix them with the highest standards of production—it's like cooking—you're going to end up with a fundamentally better product."

You'll be reading about Side Launch in a continuing case study throughout this book, as we view each chapter concept through the lens of Side Launch Brewing Company. You'll learn how, as Garnet puts it, Side Launch makes a product that is "approachable and drinkable" but is also "made well, and packaged well, delivered well, and sold well." But don't just take her word for it. Witness the wild 300 percent growth over its first three years, tuck in a handful of nationally sought-after beer awards, and mix in a healthy dose of consistently high beer reviews among the most influential ratings sites, and you'll soon see that the story of Side Launch is a story in marketing.

Side Launch Brewing Company Continuing Case

Born to Grow

This chapter fuses two of the most important concepts not only in marketing, but in business: analysis (via the SWOT tool) and strategic growth (via Ansoff's Growth Matrix). Organizations are born to grow. Those that do not follow through on this pull of inertia are destined to fail. Growth, though, is often haphazardly implemented by founders, managers, or entrepreneurs who fail to connect the findings of SWOT with a well-thought-out growth strategy. We've covered the four main components of SWOT; we look now at the four main components of the growth matrix, once again using Side Launch as our storyline.

Three years into Side Launch's existence, founder Garnet Pratt encountered the type of good problem most entrepreneurs dream about—demand for her company's beer was soaring, and growth opportunities seemed to be everywhere. Sales of Side Launch had grown 100 percent in each of those years, and at the time of this writing, it was poised to grow by another 40 percent year over year from 2016 to 2017. "That is staggering growth," she said, "to be growing at 40 percent when the industry is growing at 20 percent. And we have all been feeling it, but it is a good problem to have. I'd rather that than having a bunch of beer in the refrigerator that won't sell."

Keeping up with increasing demand for the four core brands created by Side Launch—Wheat, Pale Ale, Dark Lager, and Mountain Lager—will, by default, result in growth by market penetration. "At this point, it's the only logical strategy," asserts Dave Sands, VP Operations. "And with these four core beers, we have covered a large cross-section of craft beer consumers," chimes in brewer Michael Hancock.

Side Launch also realizes that other growth strategies exist. "We develop new flavour profiles regularly throughout the year in limited quantities," explains Michael. Technically, this is product development strategy, but in the case of Side Launch, it is more about living up to brand and category DNA than it is a deliberate attempt to grow. The exquisitely on-brand names of these specially produced beers, "The Ships of Collingwood" and "Man Overboard," show leadership and innovation as a brewer. "It's important that we don't chase trends," rationalizes Michael, "but at the same time it is important, there's no question, for a reputable craft brewer to be innovative, while at the same time being grounded in the traditional values which result in a really good-tasting beer."

"It's easy in any consumer goods business to get caught up in chasing trends and growing at the peril of your core portfolio," explains Dave. "Ultimately, whether you're big or small, you have to do both. Take care of the products that got you to where you are and pay the bills, but be open and forward looking to what's next." The brewery's operations manager then makes an interesting comparison between brewing beer and preparing food. "I look at production brewing [of the four core Side Launch brands] like baking—proven recipes and ingredients, precisely controlled, deliberate, time consuming, and let's face it, not very sexy or exciting if you do it right. The product development is like cooking. Taking an idea, finding some ingredients we like, tinkering, testing, adjusting, and hopefully ending up with something tasty. But this is a small-volume opportunity."

For now, the Side Launch strategy of expanding its share within that growing craft beer market seems the only logical strategy. The linkage here between SWOT and the growth matrix can thus be summed up by Garnet's description of her brand's greatest strength—"Being true to style and authentic"—and by Michael's identification of the opportunity—"The market for craft is huge and growing and just waiting to be tapped, when you consider the core number of craft consumers, and those in transition." Extracting your biggest findings from SWOT will almost always lead you to the most viable and profitable strategy for growth.

Side Launch Brewing Company Continuing Case

Data in Absentia

Deep observation and analysis of SWOT provide companies with ongoing marketing intelligence, and this practice is an essential component of a firm's overall marketing information system (MIS). But these data, commonly referred to as secondary research, normally provide little more than quantitative findings—the kind that gives firms like Side Launch an idea, for instance, of how many Ontarian beer drinkers are switching from big brands to craft beer. It doesn't delve into key insights companies need to know to answer the important question of "why"—as in "Why are people switching to craft?" or perhaps more interesting to Chuck Galea, VP Sales and Marketing, "Why don't some beer drinkers switch to craft?" For answers to questions like this, firms can guess, or they can conduct market research to get closer to the truth.

With Side Launch, however, like many start-ups, a directed marketing research project is a luxury of funding it simply does not have (at the time of this writing). "Honestly," admits founder Garnet Pratt, "we are not at the size where that even enters the equation." The bitter financial reality of many a small business is that it must navigate its way through complicated questions, fusing together observable forces of the marketing environment and a lot of experiential know-how.

"With those four beers," explains Michael Hancock, founding brewer, referring proudly to the four core brands brewed year-round at Side Launch, "I deliberately made them to cover four really different beer styles." He adds, with admirable pride, "And they're pretty damn easy to sell." Certainly sales of these beers, as well as sales of the quarterly seasonals (which always sell out), is a vivid measurement of the positive response by the market. For something more qualitative and yet still affordable, Side Launch will pay a lot of attention to how the press and bloggers are representing their beers to the public. Ratings sites such as Ratebeer.com and Untappd.com also provide a peek into the "why" as opposed to just the "what," but they alone do not answer unique market research problems Side Launch may encounter.

All of this is not to suggest Side Launch Brewing Company has no need for a scientific market research investment. "We're at a stage," admit both Garnet and Chuck. "Gaining some knowledge on brand recognition at this point would be really valuable," they concur. For now, however, with sharply increasing growth, supported by the collective experiential knowledge of the industry between Michael, Dave (VP Operations), and Chuck, Side Launch has little choice but to hold the fort with what it has created and rely on the most important metric of all—sales data—to prove their case. "We know right now," adds Garnet confidently, "that the four styles of beer that we sell year-round all sell very well and all have their significant strengths. And so our strategy going forward, our primary focus, is to produce as much of those as we can sell, to grow those brands within our established market, and then make prudent geographic expansions as warranted to incite growth." That prudence, one expects, will eventually involve the kind of fact checking that only a structured marketing research project can assure.



1. What is the "need" being satisfied through the sale of beer?


2. Is there anything different about the product (beer) that the Side Launch Brewing Company makes that pursues a more specific need?


3. What are some of the initial things you might consider to be a part of the Side Launch value proposition?


SIDE LAUNCH - Case Study: Brewing Company (Chapter 3)


1. Using Ansoff's Growth Matrix, which growth strategy is Side Launch employing as it attempts to "grow in the craft beer market"?


2. The Side Launch products stemming from its "Ships of Collingwood" and "Man Overboard" series represent what type of growth strategy?


3. What would be an example of a diversification strategy for Side Launch?



SIDE LAUNCH - Case Study: Brewing Company (Chapter 5)


1. What is the biggest barrier preventing Side Launch from conducting formal marketing research?


2. What is the "research problem" acknowledged by VP Sales and Marketing Chuck Galea that Side Launch would like to solve?


3. What are some of the secondary data sources that Side Launch can use in its marketing research? What are the limitations of such data in informing Side Launch?

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