US craft beer exports rose 72 percent last year compared to 2011 numbers and while New Zealand still has a long way to go to reach the approximately 15 percent of market share craft beer holds stateside, similarly impressive growth trends exist in New Zealand. So as the movement gains steam—among both brewers and drinkers—Super Liquor is aiming to bring those two segments closer together with its Craftology initiative, which is part loyalty scheme, part content marketing and part kerrazzzee idea dreamed up while sitting around having a beer.
"The idea was two-fold for us," says Super Liquor's marketing manager Lynda-Anne Bodger. "1) We knew that craft beer was a growing category. And 2) we wanted a way to get smaller craft brewers involved in a national campaign."
She says it really started off by creating an online community through a website and Facebook page, with the brand going live in August last year. It then sponsored Beervana and the various YouTube videos and the bi-monthly Bible, which has been available at all the participating stores for around a month and features Yvonne Lorkin, stemmed from that (check out the 'craft beer name generator' for a bit of crafty fun).
The whole time she says the Super Liquor brand was secondary to the Craftology sub-brand, but now that community is in place, she hopes it will create something of a halo effect and those who are into craft beer might now browse for beers online or head into one of the participating stores.
She says it offered the Craftology promotion to stores that were already keen on craft beer and, in a similar fashion to wine, had the knowledge required to talk about it with interested customers. At the moment it is running in 38 stores, mostly in more affluent, urban areas where the demand is already highest. But she says it is also trialling it in less likely regional locations, such as Hawera, to see if it can create some demand.
At present she says beer drinkers might grab one interesting beer in addition to their purchase of mainstream beer. But it hopes to change that and maybe convince them to buy a six-pack, which is why it's created a loyalty card called The Passport where users can go into the draw to win $500 Super Liquor vouchers (every two months there are six beers in the Craftology range).
While she says the brand has grown slowly and organically, the big success in her mind has been the access it has gained to the brewing community. Many of the smaller craft brewers are unable to supply regularly to big branches, as it's often more of a hobby than a business. So she says it simply asks them to make what they can make.
"We pride ourselves on being quite flexible as a retailer. And we just want to get the right range. It's a tricky balance because we need to range a selection from the big brewers. But we're all about the consumer and we know they need range. So it will change all the time. It's a different way to market. It's not just getting in a big order of Heineken. It's about variety."
While she says it has been looking at e-commerce in general, all of the Super Liquor outlets are franchised, so selling beer online to the Craftology collective or thinking about embracing some kind of page to check-out technology—often known as shoppable media—is difficult because it's too hard to apportion online sales to a particular store.
Super Liquor's incumbent agency .99 was responsible for the original design work, but Tangible Media now runs most aspects of Craftology, including the creation of video and print content.
The result of a pitch for the Super Liquor business is soon to be announced.