Back to blog

How are people really engaged by beer and cider brands?

Posted on May 17, 2018

How are people really engaged by beer and cider brands? A note from Pete Brown.



This report from YouGov landed in my inbox the other week. (If you haven’t seen it, click on the link.) It’s a super-handy thing to be given for free, but it does have the whiff of one of those reports consisting of a standard questionnaire that just gets minimally updated every year. The list of brands doesn’t seem all that contemporary, and the report authors seem to ignore the most interesting finding their data tells them.

On page three, there’s a table of brands ranked by advertising awareness. Top of the table is Guinness, whose advertising has been noticed by a whopping…. 12% of respondents. It’s the only brand with awareness in double digits. Outside the top ten, you’re down to two or three per cent awareness at most for any brand.

On the next page, the same people are given the same brands and asked which they would recommend to friends. Number one is BrewDog, with a score of 49%. Every brand in the top 10 scores 35% or above. (BrewDog is 12th in the ad awareness league, with a claimed awareness of just 3%)

I think this is astonishing, but the authors offers no commentary on this disparity, and instead goes back to discussing advertising exclusively for the rest of the report.


Everybody in marketing talks about the power of word of mouth, but few of us would be cocky enough to say we know how to drive it efficiently. There are of course many potential ways to build it. This report suggests advertising is no longer one of the most effective.


This strikes a chord with us. Over the first three years of the Beer Marketing Awards, Best Broadcast Advertising and Best Print Advertising have had some of the lowest entries of any category. Last year, when we enjoyed a record number of entries overall, we had just one entry in each of these categories. (Thankfully, each one was really good.)


Large scale advertising is arguably less effective than it once was, because mass audiences have now fragmented into millions of shards. Added to that, advertising regulations have grown so strict that many of the classic campaigns of the late twentieth century could no longer be made today.


But this doesn’t have to consign great ads to the dustbin of history. Look at how John Lewis has turned a TV ad into an event: if they wanted to, they could ditch the media budget altogether. If the idea is strong enough, and worth talking about, you can drive people to watch it voluntarily rather than coshing them over the head with it. The YouTube event of the year so far – Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ video – garnered 10 million views in its first 24 hours. Ten days later, that total stands at 126,737,950.


What seems clear from the YouGov research is that people are still forming very strong opinions of beer brands, but that those opinions are not being informed by above the line advertising – or at least, drinkers don’t think they are.


Does traditional advertising still have a role to play? Without it, I wouldn’t be in this industry, so I hope it does. Come on guys, I’m in danger of being disillusioned here. Someone please show us some ads in this year’s awards that give us that good old-fashioned tingle.