Brand Building Lessons from the World of Craft Beer

Madeline Caldwell

Madeline Caldwell, Marketing Director at DuClaw Brewing Co., joins the Content Experience Show Podcast to discuss brand building at a craft brewery.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Madeline Caldwell

Brand Building, One Brew at a Time

Building a craft beer brand isn’t as different from marketing a traditional product as you might imagine. Breweries face many of the same challenges as other crowded niches. Nurturing brand loyalty is essential. And, as with any product, your best marketing ideas often come from unexpected places.

As DuClaw’s Marketing Director Madeline Caldwell knows, brand building is all about trust—trust with your distributors, your audience, and your team, from C-level to the canning line. The beer industry also comes with a few unique challenges, including navigating regulations and mastering local marketing.

In this episode, you’ll hear Madeline’s stories from her time marketing DuClaw from newcomer in the craft beer scene to thriving local business. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how a brewery manages product development, distributor relationships, memorable marketing campaigns, and more.

In This Episode

  • How to build a brand in a crowded niche.
  • What a crafter brewery’s product development timeline looks like.
  • The key to navigating a highly regulated industry.
  • Why craft beer brands function as “local” businesses in more ways than one.
  • Why DuClaw listens to marketing ideas from all levels of its business.
  • Madeline’s favorite marketing moments from her time with DuClaw.

Quotes From This Episode

“Someone working on the canning line could be the biggest crafthead we have and be on the front lines of what’s hot.” – @madscaldwell

Craft beer is a really local thing, and I don't just mean geographically. Click To Tweet

“When you’re working for an agency or in-house somewhere, you need to be very consistent and deliver on what you say you’re going to deliver on. It’s the same way when working with distributors.” – @madscaldwell

Resources

Content Experience Lightning Round

What’s your go-to food and drink before and after a long run or marathon?

Peanut butter toast with a banana! And a beer afterward, of course.

See you next week!

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Episode Transcript

  • Randy

    Hey everyone, welcome to the Content Experience Show podcast. It is Randy Frisch and I’m really excited to run down a fun podcast. I always say that they’re fun, but when we get to talk about beer, you know it’s going to be a good time. Now, I did not play this one well, I didn’t have a beer with me, which I fully regret because I was really enjoying all the advice that I got from Madeline Caldwell, who is the marketing director at DuClaw Brewing Company. Now you DuClaw is a company that’s been around since 1996, they’re in something like 20 states and it’s an interesting talk that we have.

  • You’ll love it just if you love beer, but even if you don’t love beer, if you’re more of a wine person, I think what you’ll take away from this podcast this week is just this understanding of, how do we compete in industries that have high regulation and high competition? And that’s definitely the case with beer. I mean, think about what happens every time you walk into wherever you get beer. Again, I’m Canadian, so we go to the beer store, but I know some people may go to a supermarket or a convenience store and your liquor store and you walk in there and you’ve got so much choice. For some of us we take time where we’d look at the labels and we try and get a feel for what we’re in the mood for, but a lot of that marketing is happening behind the scenes.

  • It’s building a brand, building affinity and it’s influencing us so that we start to associate these beer companies as having personalities of their own. It’s interesting to understand with all the choice out there, that obviously we start to segment our audiences very much. It’s not, unless you’re a Budweiser or a Coors or a brand like that who is trying to appeal to the masses, a lot of these beers can really appeal to a segment or audience looking for something very specific. I think for marketers, a lot of us can view our marketing strategies in that way, depending on whether we’re trying to solve for the world, trying to segment down or we’re a company just trying to solve for one of those segments.

  • I think there’s a lot of great takeaways from this podcast. Try and read beyond the beer. I hope you will open a beer and join us as you take this one in. I’m going to let it roll. We will welcome in just after this Madeline Caldwell. Welcome, Madeline. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I see me again because Anna is on vacation, so it’s just you and I, and we get to talk about an area that I know is dear to her heart and she’s going to miss this. It’s beer. I mean, it’s near to so many people’s hearts, so this is going to be a fun episode. We get to talk about the marketing of beer and you are the marketing director at DuClaw Brewing Company. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about, first off, what’s your career been like and how did you stumble into beer?

  • Madeline

    Sure. Well, thanks for having me, Randy. I haven’t always worked in beer. I have always been a consumer of beer.

  • Randy

    That’s good.

  • Madeline

    Most most of my career has been in the agency world for like a decade or so, and then maybe a year or two of that was in-house at a mental health hospital and health system. The first five years I worked for a maybe an 80 to 100-person marketing firm based out of Baltimore, worked on a lot of big brands, CVS and Haribo Gummy Bears and casinos and things like that, and then took a little hiatus to work in health care more specifically, and then went back to the agency world for a PR firm of about 15, 20 people.

  • Randy

    Got you.

  • Madeline

    Then I got into working for DuClaw because they were a client of mine at the first agency. Just kept in touch and the stars sort of aligned in that way. I was ready to manage less people and get less nervous about client meetings and have a little bit more fun, so it worked out.

  • Randy

    Yeah, it’s a big shift going from the agency side to the brand side and being in-house, going both ways. I’ve spoken to many marketers who’ve made that shift. Some say they’ll never go back to the other side and some miss the other side. I take it you like the new side.

  • Madeline

    I mean, I wouldn’t change my path for the world. I look back fondly and with horror at the same time at the lifestyle and how fast you learn. I mean, agency life is really, really fantastic to be part of at some point in your career. I always recommended starting it there because you’re probably not tied down. You’re ready to put in the time and the effort. You’re ready to learn and you’re young and hungry and that was perfect. I’m always hungry, so it was good for me. Then, at some point, your priorities shift in life.

  • It doesn’t mean I didn’t want to want to work hard anymore, I just wanted to work hard on things that I was passionate about and beer happened to be one of them. So when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t say, no. I think I was worried a little bit about losing that innovation and creativity going from the agency side to the brand side, but that just doesn’t happen. If you continue to put yourself in those networking events or reading the same types of news and talking to the same types of people in your industry, you don’t lose that, so that was a fear of mine that was unwarranted, at least in my experience.

  • Randy

    Well, and you can be really proud of the career you’ve had, even working in mental health, you’ve checked many boxes there for mental health to beer. I don’t know if a lot of marketers would have that on their resume.

  • Madeline

    No. It was interesting to go from working in casinos to working with people who are addicted to gambling and working during an election year in mental health and with all the mass shootings. It was really a very kind of an amazing place to work, then going into beer, it was as an interesting transition.

  • Randy

    Wow. Quite a cross section. I’m sure we can figure out some way to tie a casino, mental health and beer together, but let’s not even try and go there. I’m going to try and keep a light head despite some of the serious topics that you had in there. Tell us a little bit about DuClaw Brewing. I mean, these days there’s a new micro brewery everywhere. There’s a new brand.

  • Madeline

    So many, yeah.

  • Randy

    Some of them big beer companies popping up that, sometimes, I don’t know if it’s new or not anymore. What’s the history like at DuClaw and how did you get to know them as you said?

  • Madeline

    Sure. DuClaw is one that I would say like the OG breweries in Maryland and probably the country. They started in 1996, or I should say we started, and is still one of the biggest in Maryland. I think the second or third largest in terms of volume. Our team is still pretty lean. There’s over 100 craft breweries in Maryland and they pop up all over, it depends a little bit on what state you’re in and what the laws are like and whether you can have taprooms and things like that, but the activity is really strong across the country and craft beer. So it’s a really, really crowded marketplace.

  • I got to see from afar the brand sort of be hot and new in the beginning for many years, and then go through that awkward period where your brand is not as new and cool anymore. There’s new guys popping up all over and you’re sort of forced to innovate and that in-between time is really hard. Then when I came in, a new brand had sort of been built but not executed, and I was like, “Here we are, we have the new branding, let’s move with it.” They were trending in the right direction and we just needed a little push to make it happen. Now, we’re right there with the young guys, but it’s been a really fun ride.

  • Randy

    When you speak of innovation there, it got me thinking. It got me thinking in the beverage industry over many years, if you look back, even the whole Coca Cola situation when they came out with New coke and they innovated the product and it probably tasted better, is what they say, but they didn’t figure out how to innovate the brand in the right way to get people excited. When you think about innovation for your product line and for your go-to market, how much of that has to do with what you do from a brand perspective, versus what you do from a product perspective?

  • Madeline

    Yeah, that’s a really good question. I think different things resonate with different audiences. If you think about craft beer and who drinks craft, you have that core really craft beer nerd-type audience, and they’re going to follow great beer. Then you have that sort of fringe audience or that more mass audience that’s going to pick a beer off of the shelf that looks interesting. They might be a little bit less brand loyal. They may like a certain style-

  • Randy

    Or they may look at the bottle.

  • Madeline

    That that’s what I’m saying. Yeah. What’s popping off the shelf. Exactly. Yes. What’s on the can or the bottle, so I think it’s really important to marry the two. The beer needs to be really good and the label designer, the package design, needs to be really fantastic in order to get that mass appeal. I mean, you need to keep the craft drinkers there because your product is so good.

  • So when we look at product development or innovation in that regard, it’s really a blend. We all get together, brewers, marketers, operations, sales and come together and just think about, what is the market wanting, what are some new ingredients, what’s trending, what could be trending next year, because we really work pretty far out. We work on a presale schedule, so we’re working like three, four, five months out, so we need to try to be as forward as possible with that.

  • Then taking ideas from all levels. Someone working on the canning line could be the biggest craft head we have and be on the front lines of what’s hot and going to all the can releases and lining up at at 3:00 in the morning to get the first batch of the greatest beer in another state. So we all come together to talk about that and brainstorm.

  • Randy

    That’s great. I’m sure a lot of people listening to this podcast probably tuned in today because they saw the word beer and they were intrigued. Now you’re there all at that five-minute point where … I think where we can take this together, Madeline, is talking about any industry that someone might be in and that challenge of breaking through a very competitive environment. In your case, you have another challenge. I want to get to the competitive and how do you break through and how do you get distribution in your case. Let’s do that in the second half. But one more question that you have to tackle is just the regulation.

  • Madeline

    Sure.

  • Randy

    My first job, before I was even in university, like first summer job, I actually worked at a cigarette company for the summer. It was an experience that I want to tell you about today, but it was a learning experience and I didn’t smoke but, so it was even a bigger experience. I guess the question I have for you is, with all these challenges you have, how tricky is it to manage regulation?

  • Madeline

    If you could really think about any industry, I mean, just in my own experience alone, healthcare, casinos, CPG, whatever it is, there’s going to be restrictions, whether it’s around your product or your packaging or your advertising or legal reviews and all that. I guess my take on working in a highly regulated environment is, just get your shit together. I don’t know if I can swear on this, but just like get your shit together. I think that you need to just spend time on the front end, really understanding the industry and the regulations and what hoops you need to jump through, and be very devoted to understanding that process, so that you can have a very solid process in place on the back end for what needs to be done, because the most important thing, we’re all marketers, we need to have room and space and time for creativity.

  • If you don’t get all that stuff in order, then you’re going to be wasting so much time with back and forth and reviews. We work through what’s called the TTB, the Alcohol, Tobacco and Trade Bureau, I think. If they kick something back, then it’s going to be another three weeks until it … You just can’t have that happen. My biggest thing is, just develop a timeline. It’s going to be a dynamic thing, because everything always is, but get it in order so that you can have time for that creativity. Sometimes, the best ideas are going to be when you’re sitting around petting the brew cats or trying one of the new beers or whatever it is, and if you don’t really have time to do that, then you’re not going to have those great ideas.

  • Randy

    I love that. So get out, take chances and die. I want to dig more into that, but what we’re going to do very quickly here is hear from some of our sponsors on this podcast, the Content Experience Show. We’ll hear from them and we’ll be right back to talk more beer with Madeline.

  • Jay

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  • Get your free copy right now at uberflip.com/conexshowreport. That’s uberflip.com/conexshowreport. The show is also brought to you by our team at Convince & Convert Consulting. If you’ve got a terrific content marketing program but you want to take it to the very next level, we can help. Convince & Convert works with the world’s most iconic brands to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing. Find us at convinceandconvert.com.

  • Randy

    Welcome back to the Conex Podcast. It’s Randy here with Madeline. We’re talking on beer and we’re having a good time with it talking about DuClaw Brewing. Now, Madeline, one of the things that I always wonder with a challenge like you’d have, and I’m a B2B marketer at heart, so I always think about, how do I sell into essentially a distribution channel or perhaps into more of the middle man within the process. When you look at beer, it’s very much the same I would assume, because you’ve got to get someone like me to want to drink the beer, but you got to make sure that someone else stocks that beer because I may not come to your brew house to always get that beer unless you’ve got a real local pull, which I know happens for some of these pop-up breweries. Maybe you can talk about that challenge and what I’d love to get to some of the campaigns you’ve done that create pull on both ends there. Pull with the distribution channels, pull through the customer.

  • Madeline

    Sure. Yeah. Our purest, I would say, audiences are our distributors, because we sell through our distributors, but then we also segment our marketing to retailers, then the end consumer is so important because distributors are craft beer consumers as well. The consumers are what’s picking it up off the shelf. Our sales and marketing cycle starts with the distributors and we do a pretty strict email marketing campaign to all three of those audiences. Strict in that we keep it fun but we are on a timeline, so we don’t want to miss the sales cycle.

  • Just like it is when you’re working for an agency or in-house somewhere and people, in order to trust you, you need to be very consistent and deliver on what you say you’re going to deliver on. It’s the same way when working with distributors, surety of supply, they want to know what’s coming next. They want you always to innovate and we want to do the same thing to deliver it to the end customers. So I think as much as creative marketing plays a role, it’s also relationship management. Beer and craft beer is a really local thing and I don’t just mean geographically.

  • But people are going to be talking about your beer in forums on Facebook and Reddit, they’re doing reviews on YouTube and people know the personalities behind the beer, they know the brewers, so it’s important to just have that level of transparency and relationship building. In the same vein, as hard as it is sometimes to do that one-to-one relationship building, that community, the same community, is going to go to bat for you if something goes wrong. Everyone’s going to screw up, but if you have a great relationship, then that can weather the storm. So that’s sort of a big part of marketing for us, I would say, and having that good relationship with distributors and consumers.

  • Randy

    See, you’ve definitely made me feel like an amateur beer drinker. Let’s start there. I am not on Reddit for this. I’m not surfing channels. It’s interesting. First off, I’m Canadian, there is a lot of our listeners who come from there.

  • Madeline

    Well, I’m from Minnesota, so it’s basically southern Canada.

  • Randy

    There you go. Yeah, you love hockey too. But it’s interesting up here, and it’s laxing a bit, but we have what’s called the beer store for people who haven’t been north of the border. When you go into the beer store, there’s not a lot of marketing done. The only marketing that happens a bit is the Coors Light, the Budweiser equivalents, things like that. They get prominence, but otherwise, it’s just a wall of beer. Like you said earlier, the bottle art, things like that can help stand out.

  • Madeline

    Yes.

  • Randy

    But, ultimately, I’m going into that store with an impression of that beer and, as you said, it may happen through some of these forums, it may happen in different ways. I think that’s true for a lot of us with any solution that we may buy. We go in and we already have our view formed. What’s a campaign that you’ve run or a creative play that you’ve done that’s really helped cement that impression someone has with your brand when they walk into the store where they’re going to buy?

  • Madeline

    Sure. Well, in addition to having a fantastic product, we try to be a little bit cheeky and I think we’re known for this a little bit. One recent beer we created is called Dad Bod, which I think resonates pretty well with everyone. Everyone has has a dad or had a dad or is a dad and there’s a stereotypical dad bod on the can. What that did for us was, it allowed us to stand out a little bit in the IIPA, on the shelf, because there’s a lot of IIPAs out there and we were able to generate a lot of earned media around that. It was on Good Morning America last week and we got a bunch of other buzz.

  • So that really helps, but then on the flip side of things, we are developing a beer called, Regular Beer, because a lot of people were asking, we do a lot of sours and stouts and IIPAs and things like that. A lot of people will say, “Well, do you just do any regular beers?” We just took that and flew with it and we made a very simple, well-designed but very simple can, white with black writing, the sub head I think was like, a beer that tastes like beer. It’s an American craft Pilsner.

  • Randy

    I like that.

  • Madeline

    That’ll help stand out because this craft shelf is just a sea of over-designed packages.

  • Randy

    Right. And just, yeah, playing against the craziness and the simplicity of calling it what it is in some cases, help someone simplify their choice. That’s interesting. I’m curious what your die-hards will think about that-

  • Madeline

    We’ll have to wait and see.

  • Randy

    … but definitely simplifies it for the, yeah, the guys like me who who lack knowledge when it comes to beer but still enjoy it.

  • Madeline

    Probably no more than you think.

  • Randy

    You’re just being nice, but I appreciate it. All right. This has been a lot of fun. what I want to do is, first of, where should people go look for this beer, when they are looking to buy DuClaw? I’m Canadian, can I even get DuClaw in Canada?

  • Madeline

    I think we are in Canada a little bit.

  • Randy

    Yeah. Okay.

  • Madeline

    I can’t tell you where. I’ll tell you. By the time this airs, I think we’ll be in about 20 states, mostly northeast and southeast, getting a little bit into the Midwest.

  • Randy

    Beautiful. Beautiful. Okay, I want to take a short break. If you’ve got some time stick with us, Madeline, we’d love to get to know you a little bit more beyond the beer that you drink, the things that you do, the tick, the passion to come in every day. So stick around on the podcast. We will be right back with Madeline.

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  • Randy

    All right, Madeline, thanks a lot for sticking around. I got to do some digging on you and obviously you like beer. I mean, that’s quite true. It’s clear that it’s not just a job for you, it’s a passion, but another area that I’ve learned that you’re passionate about is running. Now, one of the things I’m always curious about is, when someone goes to do a long run, maybe it’s a marathon or a half marathon, I know you’ve done both, what is that meal that they go for just before the long run? I have some friends, they’re insistent that they need to have a beer and a burger, like something intense because they need to carry through. Two-part question, what is that meal, and does beer get involved before or after the race?

  • Madeline

    Oh, well, the meal is peanut butter toast with a banana. That’s easy.

  • Randy

    Okay. That’s sounds very healthy and well thought out.

  • Madeline

    Beer always after. Although I did run one race that gave us wine throughout the race. It is Napa to Sonoma half marathon. It was fantastic.

  • Randy

    Oh wow.

  • Madeline

    But, yeah, beer always right after the race, first thing you drink.

  • Randy

    Say, when the were giving this wine, at what stage? It’s like at certain checkpoints instead of a Gatorade situation?

  • Madeline

    It’s almost like there were, different wineries we’re sampling. They were passing out little dixie cups full of different wines along the course. You got to do it, why else are you going to Napa and Sonoma to run a half marathon?

  • Randy

    Did anyone look abnormally wobbly in the last mile or two?

  • Madeline

    It was pretty lovely. I think it was like you’re taking a Noon or a goo gel along the race, it worked.

  • Randy

    That’s amazing. That’s amazing. Maybe that’s your new distribution strategy for DuClaw.

  • Madeline

    I’m all in. Nice.

  • Randy

    Like new samples at the places that you’d least expect, like the gym.

  • Madeline

    Really sampling. Yeah.

  • Randy

    At the gym, in between reps, you’re taking in some Regular or Dad Bod to your point, you know what I mean?

  • Madeline

    Very funny.

  • Randy

    Play up to the stigma, of course. Anyhow, this has been so much fun. I really appreciate you spending some time with us. If people want to also to just check out DuClaw online, what’s a good place to get a feel for the brand? Is it a website? Is it on Instagram?

  • Madeline

    I think the best place is Instagram. It’s DuClaw Brewing Co., on Instagram.

  • Randy

    Amazing. You heard it there. Check out DuClaw Brewing Co., on Instagram. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast with Madeline Caldwell, you’ll enjoy a whole bunch of others that we have. You can find them on Spotify, on Stitcher, on iTunes, on Google Play, these days anywhere podcasts can be found. When you enjoyed that podcast, leave us a review. Let us know what we’re doing well, or let us know where we can improve to make this more impactful to help you be a better marketer. Until next time, it’s Randy Frisch. I’m in absence of of my side partner and her act, but she’ll be back soon. Until next time, thanks for listening to the Conex Podcast.

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