The ManyFriends gimmick

I mentioned in a previous post that my sales/marketing skills are pretty weak. I keep working on them, and I have a few small successes but, overall, it’s just not one of my strengths.

As a nerd, I have this strong instinct that a high quality product ought to just sell itself! Of course, I know this isn’t actually true — in fact, I advise other people that it’s not true! — but it’s still my back-of-my-lizard-brain bias, and I have difficulty thinking past the “but it’s a really high quality product!” phase of marketing.

When I talk to others who are more experienced at this sort of thing, I repeatedly hear that I need some sort of gimmick to catch the customer’s interest. Maybe a fancy catch phrase, or a cute icon or a jingle or a theme, cause or special-flavor that will bring that segment of the population rushing to my door. The conversation typically goes something like this:

Them: So, what’s your gimmick?
Me: I don’t have a gimmick. I kind of don’t like gimmicks.
Them: Oh, but you need a gimmick — that’s how you sell beer!
Me: Can my gimmick be that I don’t have a gimmick?
Them: …?
Me: You know, like, “ManyFriends Brewing Company: no hassle, no B.S., no gimmicks; just good, solid, premium craft beer to share with your friends” — that sort of thing.
Them: Well, the “share with friends” thing could be your gimmick.
Me: I don’t think I want to gimmick-ify the concept of “friends”.
Them: Yeah, but you don’t know anything about marketing. I’m trying to help you, here…!

…Then the conversation kind of goes downhill from there.

Thing is, if I think about it, I kind of do like gimmicks! That is, when I see a cute or clever gimmick, I appreciate it as a fine example of the art form. I just don’t like things that are “too gimmicky”. (Can my gimmick be “Not too gimmicky…?” I could maybe work with that. “ManyFriends Brewing Company: hardly any gimmicks, and tastefully done.” 😀)

Anyway, it’s a thing I’m continually wrestling with as the marketing-expert members of my team try to slowly ease me into the world of gimmickiness and I try to pretend like I don’t notice and I’m ok with it, at least for a little while. And, to their credit, they’ve been very patient with my obstinance, and I’ve been working on evolving my thinking. I mean, the company has some cool principles (bring people of diverse backgrounds together to enjoy each other’s company — “ManyFriends”), we support some cool causes (we’re devoted to improving the environment and giving a hand-up to kids who don’t have access to all the advantages that we have/had growing up) — I think where I get stuck is: that’s just who we are, and not a something that I’m comfortable playing-up just to make a few extra bucks.

So my no-BS, no-gimmicks gimmick so far is starting to shape-up around “look, this is who we are, this is what we’re all about. In addition, we make some pretty darned tasty beers and we’d love for you to enjoy a couple with your friends. Interested?” The Marketing Department remains unimpressed, as far as I can tell. But it’s where we’re at, for now. If they want to make a video with a rockin’ soundtrack and some kite-surfing bikini babes fawning over cool young dudes drinking some ManyFriends beers, well…

…I suppose if the soundtrack is good and they talk about more eco-friendly ways to kite-surf, I could go along with it. 😉

I just realized: the way they’re going to rope me in is via swag. I love swag! MFBC sweatshirts, coffee mugs, coasters — we got a banner to hang for when we do events — I eat that stuff up! I’ve already set up a shop, just so I could buy some stuff for myself (feel free to pick up some cool MFBC gear!)

I think part of the disconnect — at least this is what I pick up from conversations — is that folks keep talking about how Coca-Cola and Budweiser and similar all do all of these giant marketing-blitz campaigns and I keep thinking: but I don’t want to become the next Budweiser or Coca-Cola. I don’t even want to be the next Anchor Steam or Sierra Nevada (both find products, btw — I’m not dissing their beer!). My goal isn’t to become a mega-brewer and I don’t have an “exit strategy” that involves, as we used to say in the 90s, “…and then get bought out by Microsoft” (in beer terms, replace “Microsoft” with “ABInbev”). I really have this idea of just keeping it to a small, family-owned & operated company that focuses on making premium quality product in support of our loftier goals: world-peace through bringing strangers together, a healthy & beautiful environment and providing paths-to-success to those who wouldn’t otherwise have them. I’m not looking to make millions; I just want to earn a decent living producing something of which can be proud and make the world a better place*; maybe leave behind something that’ll make my daughter’s life a little nicer 🙃.

Maybe our gimmick can be “we’re a little no-name that you’ve never heard of; try our beer!”

I know, I know… “Needs work.”

#sigh — Marketing is hard!!!

Enough rambling for now. Until next time…
Stay friendly, my thirsts.

*One of these days, I’ll write a post about my “Think Locally, Act Globally” campaign.

NOTE: In searching for an image to put in this post for beer gimmicks, I came across this post. I originally stole their “gimmick beers” image, but later replaced it with one of my good friend Lasse enjoying pint at Spain’s first craft brewery where, coincidentally, they use “0% Bullshit, 100% Craft Beer” as one of their slogans. Perhaps my gimmick-sense just leans European. 😉

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