Long Tail Beer – what on earth is that? Brewers are always trying to think up even more intriguing names to seduce us into tasting their newest offerings. If such a name existed, surely the other Michael Jackson, a.k.a. the Beer Hunter, would have tracked it down. No, it’s not a real beer but the name came to mind on seeing a Montreal Gazette article on a new microbrewery close to Montreal. The Trois Mousquetaires seem to be doing a number of things right as they grow their business.
That’s not to say that moving out of the cigarette business (they worked for Imperial Tobacco) into beer is an obvious winner. The overall beer business is in very slight decline. However Laura Urtnowski of the Quebec MicroBrewers Association says that specialty beers is the only segment with some dynamism with a current growth rate of 3 – 4% per year. It’s interesting to explore why that should be.
Part of the explanation may be that Long Tail. This is a phrase coined by Chris Anderson to explain how many markets are beginning to operate. The typical success story in the past was companies that had the right formula to be able to tap into a mass market and sell huge volumes of products. Traditional advertising with massive expenditures on television would grow the business. It was tough for any minor players to compete. Your voice wouldn’t be heard.
The Internet has changed that picture. Customers are taking back control. The Internet is a much more level playing field. Specialized brands can be found by customers who are looking for something different. Provided the suppliers can work with the cost-economics of supplying the products, they may find that they are selling into a whole series of micro-market niches. Big companies can’t compete since they don’t easily manufacture the large variety of product variants that these micro-niches may be willing to pay for. This is the Long Tail nature of many market places. A whole new set of marketing approaches bearing names like viral marketing or buzz marketing or even word-of-mouth advertising are becoming important.
As the hot summer hopefully takes over, the thought of a cool beer is always appealing. So let’s raise a glass to our Three Musketeers. Good luck to you as you follow the Long Tail.