Creating Trial and New Customers

One of the fortunate things about building a larger customer base for a relatively small microbrewery is that you sure know where your target audience is. it is, after all, fairly easy to keep track of where it's available on tap. When we started out working with Allagash Brewing in 1998, the first objective was to generate trial and enlarge the customer base.

Our first step was to develop a compelling positioning line for Allagash White, a Belgian style wheat beer with a distinctly different taste than either traditional barley-based lagers and the more common British style pale ales. Allagash White, bordered on the exotic with a clean crisp taste offering subtle hints of citrus and coriander. Slightly but consistently gourmet and an exciting addition to the growing selection of handcrafted brews, the "White" experience reflected Maine's bold and daring Allagash River, the brewery's namesake. Every glass of Allagash White is a fresh and exciting new experience. It is "Always an Adventure."

Again, with the greatest concentration of potential consumers to be found in Portland, Maine where most of Allagash's bar and restaurant customers were located, it made sense to concentrate our advertising efforts there. For the sake of frugality, we limited our newspaper buy to Portland's two major weeklies, The Casco Bay Weekly, and The Portland Phoenix. More dramatically, we took advantage of bus sides through Portland's Metro public transportation system that echoed our black and white newspaper themes in full color.

Where the positioning line drove home the adventuresome nature of the Allagash taste, our advertising was created to connect Allagash White to the famous geographical Allagash River to build brand recognition and to convey a sense of playfulness that is part and parcel of the microbrew phenomenon.

But let's go back to that original notion of knowing where our target audience was at any one time. We decided to make two Allagash Brewing Company canoes, put them on top of cars, one with a stuffed moose costume in it and the other with a stuffed bear costume in it, and drive them around on Friday and Saturday nights, cruising the bars and night spots of Portland's Old Port District where Allagash was served. Each driver was equipped with handouts extolling the delightful taste of this fresh new label along with Allagash buttons to give to curious pedestrians who stopped to ask "why?" All together, the ads, the bus sides, the canoes, and a special full color brochure celebrating Allagash's dramatic first place award at the International Beer Festival combined to put Allagash squarely on the microbrew map. And in a year of relatively poor growth among microbrewers nationwide (in fact a year that saw a significant shake out in the industry as many hopeful startups had to close their doors), Allagash posted a whopping 15% growth rate, the best in Maine by well over 10 points.

Since then Allagash has grown substantially, expanding its distribution area to include all major cities in the Greater Northeastern U.S.

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