Life Through The Beer Lens

What is life like with beer in it?

Said another way, how do we look at life if we are looking with a beer lens?

Beer is truly global. If we were to take an earnest look at what and how beer impacts life, we could see several opportunities. Here’s a short list.

  1. How can we improve equality, equity and societies with the beer lens? Branding, images and language would be the first arena to tackle: a comprehensive review of all names and labels would be a very productive place to start. Keep the good stuff, ditch with the bad stuff and move onward and forward together.
  2. By only using helpful and positive language and images, by changing up questionable graphics and words, by we immediately raise the bar for everyone. It’s also great business: respect resonates with everyone.
  3. By shifting our outlook and attitude, even slightly to recognize what is good for all through this minimal and very doable change, would be a big impact all on its own. And for the record: ensuring everyone is invited with smart language and graphics isn’t neutering or even loosing your brand personality – it’s an enhancement of brand when done thoughtfully.

How do you look at life with a beer lens?

The beer lens is an interesting one. Many people who are into beer are fanatics, enthusiasts, geeks, nerds – whatever you want to use. Yes, those are labels – though most seem to proudly sport the title as such to meet and cohort with other beer lovers of the same passion level. It’s usually fun to see since there’s a lot of happy surrounding getting together with others ala beer.

Most people know something about beer. In my research into beer and people (specifically women, though observationally men too) darn near everyone has some level of recognition of beer, however new they are, however experienced they may be. It’s a common idea which we all seems to have our own definition thereof.

I find when people engage in beer, where ever they are literally and figuratively, they seem to come together. we find the common ground, for the good of the whole, which absolutely moves us forward. And in that realm, the beer lens can be used constructively for us all.

Frankly, if brands want to insult and use stupid names, they don’t deserve the bandwidth and attention of any potential customers. I’d question why they were in the business at all. That’s not business – that selective ignorance and blatant stupidity.

Review your brands, language and images regularly. I’d recommend a quarterly review, involving varied staff and customers alike. They both have powerful, useful input brands should be listening to. This can help ensure the invitation to engage for your ideal clients; never turning off or insulting any audience. You can still be you, you can still be strongly and unapologetically your brand in doing so.

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What Keeps Me Up At Night

What keeps a person up at night is assuredly varied. Events in our lives, things we’re thinking about, and experience we may anticipate.

It's thoughtless things like this sign that hold everyone back. (p.s. on a road in Ashland OR)

It’s thoughtless things like this sign that hold everyone back. (p.s. ..on a road in Ashland OR)

All of those factor into my thinking. And they do in fact keep me up at night, as well as wake me up in the morning.

Here are a few things that disrupt my slumber:

1. With almost 3000 breweries operating in America today, why are so few of the owners and founders of these companies are seriously addressing women as viable and valuable market participants? They pass them by with exclusion in developing poor label name and design selection, sexist images, and base humor that insults everyone.

2. The relatively small pool of apparently enlightened businesses (beer and beyond) who want to truly address women and females as equitable planet occupants.

3. That fact that way too many women perpetuate sexist labels amongst themselves, giving the okay to use titles and words that denigrate the greater good. It’s absolutely not okay – it’s backwards; it’s not clever or fun – it’s damning.

4. In a good way: when we work with clients who really give a damn. Who are business focused AND have their eye on equity. Thank you.

Feminism, as a reminder is: the belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunity. We should all believe that.

Here’s a thoughtful read and good book for examining modern women by Debora Spar.

What keeps me up at night, what wakes me in the morning, and what gets my blood rolling is the fact that women are still behind gender wise. Some women and men are great at creating positive change. Some of them stink at it.

There are no acceptable reasons for gender inequity in this day and age. None. Everyone needs to speak up, change directions, and make progress happen.

What keeps you up at night?

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Does Your Industry Need More Labels?

Does your world need more labels? More identifiers? Do you want or need more delineation of what makes this such-and-such or so-and-so? Do you prefer to fly with fewer labels and definitions, preferring to define what it is that’s important within your own world and contexts?

I recently read a thought by a long-standing and well-respected (me included) brewery professional. The words were part of a longer sentences to the effect that “craft beer” does need to be defined and identifiable.

I disagree. Here’s why.

I’ve talked about labels and titles before. Starting with WEB, I know for a fact and from our qualitative research, that female labels and titles can be helpful or harmful. This is true with any category.

  • Good: Women, females.
  • Bad: Chicks, broads, babes, girls, vixen.

Any labels in any circumstance that is denigrating in any way, regardless of a closed (non public) audience or not can and will have an impact. When we name things, when we assign them labels and titles, we need to be super aware of this fact: it’s not about what you think is clever or appropriate. It’ll always be judged by others, who may or may not have a vested interest or concern in the name.

Do we have male groups using: Dicks, Dudes, Well-hung and other references to the person’s physical make up? I’ve yet to see one.

No, beer does not need other delineations. As it is there is a reverse snobbery that is growing in the beer world, specifically the line in the sand is using the ‘craft’ label to do so.

My take: Let it go. Beer is beer. Yes, I agree it matters to be transparent and to know where your beer came from. Just as it’s important to know where the pooch you acquired came from (for care reasons) or the milk in your fridge came from (health reasons), or the car or bicycle parts came from (quality, fair trade). There are way more important things to concern ourselves with per beer. Like the fact that almost all beer makers still don’t understand women make 75 – 85% of all purchases across categories AND there are many brands that are still using sexism and gender based marketing. How about we enlighten ourselves on the majority global population and beer first instead of getting too far ahead of ourselves.

At the beginning of the day until the end, it’s all beer. If you want to judge, do it privately and without admonition of others for enjoying what they want to, can and choose to imbibe.

Are these "craft" hops or not? Who cares....

Are these “craft” hops or not? Who cares….

So you know, it’s not without internal dialogue with myself and talking with others that I came to this decision on how I choose to define beer. A comment from another long-standing well-respected member of the professional side of beer threw my nascent thinking over the edge for the better. Stating that all things are ‘crafted’. I can happily live with that and stand behind that idea, over a definition that leaves out perfectly qualified products that others have deigned outcasts.

Some would argue that labels can help the reader and learner better quantify what it is that they’re pursuing. I’ll give you a tiny bit of head way here, though very tiny. Labels are only helpful if they define facts, not opinions or variably definable attributes and characteristics. The whole idea of education is to learn, proactively and actively seeking the increase your knowledge in your own way and through the methods that best resonate with you.

Putting a box around a definition of something like beer that is truly universal can only be limiting in a not so great way, as far as I’m concerned. Let’s all raise whatever glass of whatever beer we want to drink in context and be happy for it.

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What’s In A Label

What’s on or on the label speaks to what’s inside the container.

Like it or not, it’s true. All of us as consumers first notice and act on the labeling of a product. Internet search “impact of effective labeling” and you’ll get a raft of things to read to reinforce this truism.

Like it or not again: actively or subtly, all labels and images are branding your products and services. Some people don’t like that concept, some embrace it. Consumers are absorbing it all so be clear on who you are , what your brand is about and how the images you choose to connect to your brand are based on sounds and forethought information that can help you succeed.

So what does that mean for beer companies?

1. Know that no matter what you think about what’s inside that keg, can or bottle, what matters most is the impression you make on the end consumer. Clever, cute, inside joke type labels will only go so far. Far enough to get you noticed, yet not far enough for strong consistent return patronage, which is what will help your company either succeed or fail.

2. Know that the consumer is the one that will be buying your product, no matter how cool, innovative or unusual it is. They’re the ones paying your bills, overhead and wages. You must know your target market and ensure they can indeed support your endeavors. If not, you need to replan the plan.

3. Know that labels and images matter. They matter more than many companies ever realize or take the time to find out. Market research is an invaluable tool for bringing products and services to market. And that’s the essence of being successful: bringing the product you’re offering to the market you want to buy it.

Know these things to be true. And act on that knowledge to help guide you to success, not ignorant or arrogant failure. Both success and failure draw in and affect way more people than just yourself.

Wouldn’t you rather plan for success than failure? If so, do your homework. Or the research as the case may be.

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Ahhhhhh!bita Gets Packaging right

In examining some beer packaging recently I came across a case of Abita Purple Haze. I’ve seen the beer on cooler shelves before so that isn’t what caught my eye. It was the smart packaging that peaked my interest.

Packaging and information on said packaging on the vast majority of beers need a lot of improvement. There’s a dearth of pertinent consumer information that should be included, which is not, and there’s info on the beers that’s not pertinent, yet there it is.

Is your packaging leading people to your brand - or away from it?

A case = flat of 4 – 6 pack of 12 ounce bottles (granted cans would be much better) and the entire set up was worth reading completely – so I did.

Here’s what Abita has done right.

  1. Clear easy to read text and font. Not over crowded or too small, fancy or otherwise difficult to read.
  2. Flavor Profile – YES!!!! Color scale, Hops scale, Yeast info, Malt and water notes.
  3. Food Pairing  – I can’t stress enough that this is a million dollar idea. Why wouldn’t a brewery include food pairings AND recipes on their packaging?? This should be standard practice.
  4. Brief description of the kind of beer and a the few sentences are easy for everyone to understand and not technical (which isn’t very important to most average consumers). Save the technical info for your website.
  5. “Beer doesn’t grow on trees.” – Environmental comments on the businesses responsibility factor.
  6. A list of all their beers = nice optional info. If they like one, then they’ll look for others your list. Make it easy for them to ask for your beers by name.
  7. A list of avenues to connect with Abita. Sharing how the consumers can get a hold of the brand is critical. Communication and availability of information is more important all the time with consumers.
  8. A small map of where the brewery is located. They utilized all sides of the packaging they’re already buying and printing on. Use them all – you’re paying for the whole thing, right?

Take a nod and provide plenty of information to the consumer in your packaging. You’ll get more brand buying, more brand buy in and happier customers. Which should make for a happier and more successful business.

Cheers Abita – this Purple Haze is to you!

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31 Facets of Women & Beer: Facet #26

Labels and titles are powerful words assigned to things, people and situations.

Based in our research, use the words Female and Woman with universality. They’re both respectful, comprehensive and acceptable.

Don’t use words that are slang, demeaning or otherwise disrespectful (however well intended, they’re still the poor choices). Examples of what not to use in relation to women and beer: Girls (under 12), Babes (sexualized), Broads (rough and crass), Babies (infantilization), Chick (farm animal).

This facet is extremely straight forward. The irony here is that many women assign poor word choices to themselves, thereby perpetuating the green light for others to call them that. If you are a woman who is doing this, look outside and beyond your own self to see what these terms do to keep women down.

You don’t hear about men’s groups related to beer using slang like dicks, well hung, boys or cocks. Seriously – think about it first. Think about the label being assigned to your mom or daughter. Is it appropriate now?

Clever is no good unless it’s respectful and appropriate. Humor is good and acceptable if it’s respectful and fun. Good examples: Ales 4 FemAles and LOLA.

31 Facets of Women & Beer Series starts here

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What Women Want Series: Part 8 – Attention to Titles and Labels

Pay attention to titles, labels, and identifiers.

How you address female consumers matters

It’s important.  Women in focus groups all over America indicate they prefer no titles – no Mrs., no Ms., no Miss. Woman say to simply use their names.

If you don’t know their names or choose to mind your p’s and q’s and need to group them, call them ‘females’ and ‘women.’ ‘Ladies’ is okay, although it’s split input here – some are fine with it and some are not. What you don’t want to do with ‘ladies’ is have a ‘ladies night.’

Why not? Think sleazy ladies nights events of days gone by, bad bars in college that had ladies night. What did those nights have a lot of? Trolling men the women didn’t want hitting on them. If you’re going to do a women’s/females/ladies event, do it only of that one gender. The dynamic of a single gender event is remarkable in its own right, whether it be for only women or only men.

What matters is how the consumer wants to be addressed; not what you think is clever, what you’re comfortable with or what other people put on them. Those in the industry and those who are raving fans of using ‘girls’, ‘chicks’ or other slang aren’t pushing progress. Yes, it’s fine to call a female friend a girl in private. What you have to be aware and cognizant and thoughtful of is the perception of others and how they interpret the title you choose.

Women will give you a stamp of approval when you address them properly

If you choose Women or Females, you can be safely respectful and still be on target, not offending anyone. And that’s part of the import here.

Anyone in any industry needs to always keep in mind: they are not their consumer and therefore it does matter what you call your customers or fans, regardless of what you – the one in the industry – think. Let the jargon and personal feelings go, and ask and respect what women want.

While we’re at it, are women males? Then don’t call them ‘guys’ either. Yes, it’s casual mostly accepted slang. Just because we’re used to it doesn’t make it right. At one time in this country we had separate entrances for blacks and whites. That was accepted and still wasn’t right either.

And no, we’re not being over dramatic. Is pay equal for women and men in this country? No – and until you can connect the dots that it ALL matters, titles and labels and we address one another will make a difference. It’s up to you to decide which kind of difference you are going to make and the progress or stagnation you are going to foster.

Set the pace. Call women what they want to be called, with respect and do it all the time.

One comment

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Response and Clarification

I love lively conversation and there’s room for all of it. It’s one thing I love about WEB and the reactions and talk it generates. Conversation makes the wheels of progress move, whichever way they will…In that vein…

Instead of a lengthy and sometimes edited response, I wanted to offer up some clarity to this post on my own blog.

Refresher: Women Enjoying Beer is about just that – enjoying. It’s also about learning, education, the experience, the why, the voice of the every woman represented and so much more. Focus groups, events, knowledge sharing, on site research. It’s about opportunity and enlightenment. It just happens to encompass 50.9% of the population segmented by gender.

Cicerone = another great education format

What WEB is not about: Drinking. Please get your facts straight when you publish material. Per the cited post, Jennifer and I have never spoken, and had one email exchange which occurred June of 2009. Since then I have not heard anything from her or had her contact me requesting accurate information. Here’s her mistake: “And while Women Drinking Beer’s Ginger Johnson is…”

Part of the post: “A couple of months ago, female-facing beer marketing consultant and Women Enjoying Beer blog author Ginger Johnson took our group to task for the use of the word “Girl” in our name. “Women are not ‘Girls,’” she admonished in a post on “dos” and “don’ts” of marketing to women. But while this pretty traditional feminist line surely resonates for some ladies, for people in my group, it’s just way too serious and PC of a consideration.”

People that take time and take more than a superficial look find that the info that WEB shares and offers is based on hundreds of women speaking up across America when given the opportunity. Women aged 21 to over 80 years old, of all kinds of demographic and psychographic slices of the American pie. It’s not about me, personally. It’s the voice of the women.

Also know – I did indeed comment to the GPO post and got a welcome response from Magen Peters specifically, inviting her to talk about it and providing my phone number so she could call me. I neither got an email reply nor a phone call. Your court. We can only swing at the ball when it’s returned.

From that email from Magen: “I don’t think our name has stopped women from coming to our events or learning about craft beer.” Hmmm….I’m confused. Why use ‘women’ here and ‘girls’ there? Which way do you want it?

And I’d still ask – is using an even slightly questionable label for a group that (a large majority) doesn’t want worth it? There are lots of ways to be creative, appropriate and clever without any ‘backlash’. Is the group about women or about you personally?

“Admonished” – fine. Use whatever word you want even though it’s inaccurate – it’s your right to freedom of speech. I simply brought up the fact that 100’s of women have universally and unanimously told WEB that a girl is under 12. If you don’t want to hear part of the conversation, don’t eavesdrop or ask what they’re talking about. P.S. – most women don’t like being called “ladies” either – but you obviously don’t want to hear it.

Feminist – as defined by Dictionary.com =

fem·i·nism

/ˈfɛməˌnɪzəm/  Show Spelled[fem-uh-niz-uhm]  Show IPA –noun

1. the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.
Last time I checked then, feminism is a good word. Labels based in uneducated stereotypes or inflammatory definition are never useful. Leave labels for packages.
Next, look at market segments as just that – segments. Women, men, red heads, dog lovers, Jeep drivers. Step out of the gender and into the segmentation – a reality of marketing.

WEB is about bringing beer to life

And next – this snippet: “Johnson asserts that her own focus groups have shown the word to trend badly. But I have evidence to the contrary: The term resonates, especially in the foodservice industry. The Melting Pot, for example, ran a smashingly successful “Girls Night Out” promo in 2009, a time when most casual-priced restaurants like it were suffering. It resulted in a sales uptick that gave the brand a little reprieve from dropping numbers.”

Great and so be it. Good for the Melting Pot. It may resonate, but so does an out of tune violin. Was it a sustainable uptick or a one time deal? Did the “girls” come back? Was it a 1% uptick or a 25% uptick? Did they do a “Boys Night Out” too? Do you work for melting Pot – is that how you know this and what is the specific number to this evidence please? Do you carefully chart and track this information or is it casually handed off by a source? I’m not saying it’s incredible, I’m saying back it up. Tell the women of the world this is what they should expect and be happy with it – to be called an underaged girl and to be happy with it.
Is the supposed food industry support of the implied uneducated sexism the reason why so many restaurants and bars have the women wear low cut shirts, push up bras and the men are allowed to have pants that hang to the knees and shirts all buttoned to the top of their throat? (Why is there a Hooters but no ‘Dick’s’ or ‘Woody’s with himbo’s? Is that the equality you want?) Is that success? Just because of one successful event, does that make the whole picture painted with the same brush? Why don’t you ask the women.
You can call yourself a girl all you want. What women tell Women Enjoying Beer is that they don’t want that kind of label given to them by others. There is a clear difference. It matters not what you think of your title; what matters to the greater whole of global society is the impression the chosen titles and labels (!) are perceived by everyone else. Get out of yourself and your own thinking to that of the population of which you speak – in this case, women.
Up next, this snippet: “But I can bet Johnson would have some choice criticism.” How much do you in fact want to bet? This smells like rotten bait. Don’t assume you know what I or the hundreds of women who answer the call to speak up think. That’s arrogant. And arrogance is never attractive. If you’d ask me, I’d tell you. WEB is not about my personal feelings (again I’ll repeat

Turn your own ideas around and listen to others

this), it’s about 100’s of women being invited to converse and sharing what they think.

And by the way, I know Cathy in Houston and talked with her recently about the success she is pushing for all beer enthusiasts (which is also a core of WEB).
Appropriate humor in good taste is genderless, clever is good. Sexism in any form for any gender is never appropriate in civilized society.
And lastly, I’d point you towards the well respected and highly knowledgeable marketing to women expert, Marti Barletta. We had a wonderful illuminating (for both of us) lunch just over a month ago. Get her book, read it, then get out of your selfish self and listen to what thousands of women have offered. Here’s a link to her book, Marketing To Women: How to Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market.
So, thanks Jennifer. I enjoyed the post and wish you all the best. Keep enjoying (not necessarily drinking) beer.

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Why Stories Like This Make Me Crazy

Read this. Then come back.

Okay – let me tell you why this drives me crazy (via all the hundreds of women who have shared and talked with WEB). And not good crazy either.

1. Beer does NOT need to be sexed up. Any more. At all. Anywhere. In fact it needs to get sex removed from it. Can we please get over sex in marketing!!??

2. Beer is brewed for genderless enjoyment – or it should be.

Women Enjoying Beer (Photo by Kate Parks)

3. Yes, women and men taste differently. How could they not? We’re all wired differently, we’re all physiologically unique. But beer should not be solely brewed to appeal to women. It should be brewed to appeal to all beer enthusiasts.

4. “Mistress” as a label for one of her beers is not helpful; it’s counter to women getting equal shrift. Who still does not get that words used in labels and titles need to be considered from the vantage point of someone else – not the one naming the widget or beer or whatever. It matters. And last time I checked, no self respecting woman wants to be subject to a mistress situation.

5. This is partially true: “There’s definitely a market for craft beers for women.” You have to start in the marketing level, not at the brew kettle. ALL beers are for women when they are marketed properly. There are literally thousands of beers ready and waiting – surely you can find a few that appeal to you no matter if you’re female, male, or any other gender classification.

6. “It has citrus layers, complexities and characteristics” Last time I checked with beer drinkers, ALL genders appreciated these things. Being orchestrated for only one gender is not the point.

So called gender-specific beer is missing the point; in fact it isn’t the point at all. Everyone wants to drink what they like – so all internal plumbing aside, keep trying beers new and different to you.

I guarantee you’ll find one – most likely more than that – that you’ll return to.

Geez….sadly this isn’t an isolated incident or uncommon way of thinking.

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Labels

I believe a good label to be worth it’s weight in gold (or healthy dollars anyway).

  • kids-safety-labels-we-want-to-seeThe labels I like? Authentic, accurate, real.
  • Labels I don’t like? False, inaccurate, overtly off base.

So while I like what Christina Perozzi is doing, I don’t like the label “chick” for females and marketing to them/for them/about them. It sends the wrong message, whether intended that way or not.

My research shows over and over (as well as other well documented research) that sexualized, slang, inappropriate labels are harmful. Not neutral – harmful.

Regardless of if it is meant humorously, it will more than likely be a not so great choice. Regardless if you call yourself a chick to your female friends, it makes me nervous – misconception is a hard thing to put asunder.

Authenticity is critical – for selling your brand, for getting buy in and buyers, and for being true to accuracy.

I’m not talking censorship – I’m talking respectfulness, I’m talking about good taste good taste.

Respect your audience. All of them – even the ones you incidentally touch.

Photo courtesy of Flickr by pt

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