The Three Items of Merchandising You Need to Promote Your Brewery

For many craft breweries, promoting their business is a hot-topic. We show you three easy ways to promote your brewery using merchandising as a cost-effective, quick method to get the word out.

By Nora D. McGunnigle  |  October 12, 2016

For many craft breweries, promoting their business is a hot-topic. Here we show you three easy ways to promote your brewery using merchandising as a cost-effective, quick method to get the word out.

With the majority of a small brewery’s capital typically invested in the beer itself, scraping together enough for business promotion can seem like a huge ask. Aside from the cost of a fully-fledged marketing program, finding the time or manpower to launch a promotional campaign is a tough proposition for brewers already working 16-20 hours a day.

That’s why investing in merchandising, alternatively known as promotional items, can be an easy win. For many breweries, choosing T-shirts, caps and branded glassware is an opportunity for customers to display their brand loyalty promote the business in a variety of situations to potentially like-minded new customers.

1. Putting the “T” in T-shirt Promotions 

Picture of a gray t-shirt on a wood backgroundCari Caramonta, co-founder of Gnarly Barley Brewing in Hammond, LA, decided on eight different styles of T-shirt to spread the word about her brewery. “I come from a merchandising background, so I decided to offer a variety of T-shirt styles because everyone is different and options are nice. We have women's cuts and men's/unisex fits. We use them as giveaways during our events and sell them in our webstore and at the brewery.”

When choosing T-shirt vendors, Caramonta typically looks for firms: “serious about the quality of their product “ and selling at an affordable price. Her advice for those starting out? Test a few companies to vet their attention to detail on aspects like “paint color, fabric, fit, etc.” Some suppliers may even be able to help you design your logo and brand style in-house if you’re just starting out. That can save money and time working with freelance designers.

Another great advantage of T-shirts and clothing? It’s light and easy to store. That makes a difference for supplies shipped by volume, weight or if your brewery storage space is limited. Also if your brewery doesn’t have a loading bay your team may not be ready to indulge in some weightlifting!

2. Top Off Your Promotion with Baseball Caps and Hats?

If you’re already investing in merchandising for your brewery business like T-shirts then investing in extra items of clothing can pay off, especially if you’re a small craft brewery. Why? Well, adding more SKUs to your order can help fill out an order with suppliers if they have purchase thresholds and lower costs through bulk-pricing.

Image of a bearded man wearing a baseball capIn fact, Director of Marketing at NOLA Brewing Jamie Montero says hats are the brewery’s favorite schwag item. “Hats are a gender neutral walking-billboard. Whether you’re young, old, male, female, big or small, you’re likely to wear a hat at some point. “ Montero uses suppliers like Brewery Branding Company for NOLA Brewing’s hat and cap needs.

One extra point to note with merchandise like T-shirts, hats and caps is many suppliers specialize in more than one type of promotional item. For example, did you know some suppliers also do glassware? Take a look at the selection here for starters!

3. Use Great Glassware to Promote Your Business

Image of different sized glassware holding beer varieties on a wood surfaceInvesting in great glassware can be a practical way to promote your craft beer. At some point, your customers will need glassware to decant your brew. Why not make that experience feel even more special with custom-designed glasses and mugs that promote your brewery too?

Michelle Robinson, Director of Marketing at Lazy Magnolia Brewing in Kiln, Mississippi, has had  success with glassware veterans like Grandstand, which specializes in glassware. She prefers to work with established suppliers because, “They know exactly what they’re doing. A lot of these companies, we’ve been with for 10 years. They make it easy. You can have a conversation with them, and bounce ideas back and forth with them, and then get a really great product out of that.”

Finding the right glassware supplier, much like with merchandise like clothing, has a lot to do with how mature your business is. If you’re just getting started, more established suppliers can channel their expertise into creating a range of unique branded items without too much input from your business.

However if you’re looking to get off the beaten track and invest in something a little different, there are a ton of smaller suppliers who specialize in specific items. How many items you decide to invest in will depend on a number of factors like your budget, brand-awareness and core audience. That’s why for many, stoking word of mouth starts with a marketing plan.

Remember: Quality and Marketing Count with Merchandising

There’s obviously a wide range of merchandising available for brewers today. However when you factor in the costs, order volumes, utility-factor and opportunity to throw in some branding services supplier-side, we think these three items of merchandising make a great starting point for many brewers at any stage of their business.

Southern Prohibition Brewing Company LogoAt Southern Prohibition Brewing in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, former brand manager Whitney Miracle says her focus of promotional materials was purposeful and targeted. She chose, “high quality stickers and gender specific t-shirts in various styles with our logo and city of production, even higher quality glassware appropriate and comfortable hats that folks actually want to wear.”

Investing in merchandise isn’t enough though. Lindsay Nations, co-founder of Great Raft Brewing Company in Shreveport, Louisiana, says it’s important to have a vision of the direction and outcome of the strategy and product when choosing vendors too. “We knew we wanted to work with a company that had experience in building a brewery brand - companies that understand the craft brewing industry and have experience building brands for small and large breweries alike.”

So what are our core takeaways? Well, if you’re looking to promote your brewery, it’s best to start with a marketing strategy. Setting an underlying strategy and goals will help inform everything from what items of merchandising will be best to invest in to how much merchandise you’ll need.

For those brewers less familiar with marketing strategies, bringing in outside expertise can help. The starting point for most breweries is items like T-shirts, caps, hats and glassware. Beyond that, the Kinnek marketplace is your oyster…  

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