As frequent viewers of this show may have noticed, I like beer and spend a great deal of time thinking about it and writing about it. On occasion, when I can surreptitiously skim a few bucks out my kid’s college money, I even buy it and drink it. And, when it was announced a few months ago that one of my favorite brewers, Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, had been sold to the Belgian brewer Duvel Moortgat, I took notice!
(Full disclosure: I have a distant, barely discernible relationship with Boulevard (that I’ve named dropped too many times to count to impress cute girls in bars with my faux insider status), so what follows may be slightly un-objective)
My first thought upon hearing the news was, “Good! They found the perfect partner!” and I moved on, safe in the knowledge that nothing would change at one of my favorite beer makers and they’ve put themselves in position for greater distribution and success. What surprised me, however, was the number of people who were downright pissed at founder and owner John McDonald for having the audacity to sell his company.
As a beer drinker, I could understand some level of concern. However, the amount of vitriol and feelings of betrayal leveled at Boulevard and its founder just shocked me. Then it hit me; Boulevard was a victim of its own perfect branding.
Almost since its inception in 1989, Boulevard Brewing has branded itself as “Kansas City’s Beer.” The company began before there was a microbrewery on every street corner and for Boulevard, Kansas City’s Beer has been not only a slogan, but also a mission statement. The beer was Kansas City made and the brewery sourced wheat and other grains from Missouri and Kansas farms. The company established itself in Kansas City for five years before it ever expanded (just ask any of my Kansas City-visiting friends who I begged to bring me back Boulevard beer) and the brewery involved itself in the community, lending sponsorships and support to everything from the U.S.S. Missouri commissioning to local pet adoption events and everything in between. In other words, Boulevard talked the talk and walked the walk. And the company backed up its branding (that promise a company or products makes to its customers) to a tee. Boulevard even changed the name of one its beers to better reflect its KC heritage (Boulevard Pilsner became KC Pils) and donates a portion of the proceeds from the beer’s sales to local charities. How perfect was the brewer’s branding? The fact that area residents felt “betrayed” after the sale speaks volumes about how Kansas City’s residents took pride and “ownership” in the Boulevard, Kansas City’s Beer brand.
So, with all that said, my question to you is this: what does your company do, like Boulevard does, to fulfill the promise of your product or service’s brand? Further, what can you do to establish not only your brand, but a relationship with your consumer?
If you think you need some help to build your brand, give us a call and let’s talk. The Boulevard is on us!