Marketing P’s at the Great British Beer Festival

by James on September 10, 2010

This guest post was provided by Vincent O’Brien, a friend and colleague who supports companies in The UK, Europe and North America with sage marketing advice and council.

The title really says it all. There is only one Great British Beer Festival, it’s great, it features British beer and there’s an amount of festivity. The family motto has long been “if it’s cheap buy one, if it’s free take two” and so, having been bought a ticket by a Norwegian friend in London on a beer holiday, I duly went to be beerily festive.

Beer and pubs are symbiotically linked. A large number of breweries have closed over the last decade and pubs are closing at an alarming rate. Most of the remaining ones have effectively converted to restaurants and are no longer communal drinking houses. Lots of reasons are given:

  1. The physical need for the consumption of large volumes of liquid by working men has decreased with more sedentary employment types
  2. Wives/girlfriends are less positive to the alpha male disappearing for a few hours every evening
  3. Younger drinkers prefer pale, insipid, fizzy beers to the real thing
  4. smoking is now forbidden, and
  5. England’s sad performance in international football hasn’t helped, either.

Though a sometime connoisseur of the darker and more oddly named liquids, I rarely go into pubs these days for reasons one and two above but, given my interest in the Marketing P’s, a few things struck me while I moved from Greene King to Bishop’s Finger:

Product:  The beer remains the same and I found myself missing it and wondering why it and I had ever been parted. The product does require training to appreciate, an apprenticeship I once willingly submitted to but, in this age of instant gratification, is there motivation to endeavor to persevere?

Price: Pub prices mean a few rounds can run up a bill equivalent to the national debt of an emerging nation. Charging pub prices at a venue you have to pay to get into is a commonplace in clubland but in an exhibition hall? And charging for the glass too?

Position: You might imagine, with a “real ale” positioning, the target market was late middle-aged, wide of girth, bearded and generally garbed in open toed sandals and t-shirt that did not quite encompass the embonpoint of the stomach. You would not be wide of the mark. I fitted in apart from the fashion faux pas of trainers and unstraining polo shirt. Real ale has this association and it needs to lose it or else God will continue to diminish its customer base.

Promotion: A website in a galaxy far, far away, that only the true devotee (my Norwegian drinking buddy), the classic rock fan or the folk song enthusiast would ever find. At least medium was in line with message.

Place: I mentioned exhibition hall. Did I add fewer seats than prohibitionists present? After a couple of vertical hours my Norwegian friend said “let’s find a pub where we can sit and talk.”

Maybe, with some careful consideration of the Marketing P’s, there is a future for the pub after all, if only they knew it.

By day, Vincent is a devilishly handsome and widely experienced branding specialist working with a number of international clients and advertising agencies. He also teaches Advertising Management and Brand Delivery at Westminster University and does a little copy writing, but is always willing to fit new clients in.  By night…

You can reach Vincent through his company: OBICO

Photo credit: tiredoflondon

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