A unique brand story is a powerful way to connect to customers. Great stories can define the brand and help people understand the role of the products in their life. Brands can struggle to find their story, even to define themselves inside their own organization, so it’s no surprise that many companies don’t have the luxury of a brand or products that translate to customers.
As a brand marketer, I love the challenge of finding that story through an understanding of the customer and their relationship to the brand. We love to take apart products that may seem dull or disconnected on the surface and dig in to find the insights that lead to meaning.
It’s much more frustrating to see a brand that has the building blocks of a great brand story and not telling it effectively. A perfect example is Arizona-based Four Peaks Brewing Co. They make a line of beers that appeals to serious enthusiasts but is also accessible for casual drinkers. Their beers (especially the award-winning Kilt Lifter on draft) was something I was seriously looking forward to when we moved back to Arizona.
They are committed to producing fantastic beer but don’t project that and come across as too serious or snobby. Craft beer can walk the line that wineries do, alienating newcomers. The focus at Four Peaks is on exploring beer in a fun, but not goofy way. They’ve designed their pubs to reflect this same feel. They are open, inviting and built around making trying the beer feel fun. The attitude is reflected in the service at pubs. Asking questions of a bartender or server isn’t intimidating. They welcome the question and provide answers that don’t make you feel uninformed.
The beers themselves reflect that feeling. The flavors aren’t shocking to the palate, trying to capitalize on trends like bitter hoppiness and going overboard. I’ve never tried a Four Peaks beer there that I didn’t like, or that even left me unsure. There are only a few other breweries that are this successful (I’m looking at you, Deschutes). While each beer makes sense in the lineup of taps at a Four Peaks pub, they stand out at other bars too. By tasting the product, you can tell the people at Four Peaks absolutely love creating and sharing beer.
Why then, do they hide this sensibility in their marketing, social and website? They do produce behind the scenes videos and some articles that talk about what they’re doing. Wouldn’t it be great if those pieces had the same feeling of sitting down at a Four Peaks pub?
Their product, the beer, is definitely created with a purpose. The marketing, less so. It feels like they produce clips for YouTube and Facebook posts because they feel that they have to which is a shame because there is so much joy behind the work they do to make their beer.
If you visit their website, they describe each beer in an almost clinical way. For example:
“An English Style stout that’s somewhat bitter, but is smoothed out by serving it with a nitrogen/CO2 blend. The nitrogen is less acidic than CO2, and creates the characteristic cascading small bubble effect and tight head. The addition of flaked oats further rounds out the flavor while creating a velvety smooth mouth-feel. Different from an Irish Stout in its subtle roastiness and subdued dryness, this beer finishes thick, chocolaty, and very creamy.”
These are the answers you’d get from a beer snob. Why is this writing so different from the answers I would get if I asked a Four Peaks employee at the pub? It is so clear that they are missing an opportunity to build a story around each of these beers. They would still be able to incorporate the details that beer lovers might want to know – the specific malts and hops. But wrap it all in the story behind the brew. What inspired them to chase down this recipe and perfect it?
If anything, a brewing brand with pubs and tasting rooms should be the most fertile ground for stories. Pubs are built on trading stories over our pints and making connections. Four Peaks has designed their pubs to be perfect for just that.
This brand is all about the beer, and they have so many stories they could tell. But the messaging they employ obscures that so people have to go into the pub to find that out and appreciate the experience. But in a chicken-and-egg scenario, would I go into the pub if I didn’t already know about their approach? Insiders may overlook their marketing and continue to buy (I know I do), but Four Peaks is missing a huge opportunity to show newcomers the fun and passion behind what they do by being more thoughtful about the way they present their brand story. Here’s to better storytelling in the future.