Rating Sites, Hype & the Real Influencers

Good King Henry Special Reserve (bottle).

If you want to get your brand name on the radar don’t send samples to bloggers, send them to RateBeerians.

That’s the con­clu­sion we reached after research­ing this sto­ry on the weird promi­nence of Good King Hen­ry Spe­cial Reserve, the only British beer in the Rate­Beer top 50, for All About Beer:

The flur­ry of high rank­ings that fol­lowed that sum­mer gathering—most award­ing 18, 19 or 20 out of 20 and accom­pa­nied by pro­fuse thanks to ‘Chris_O’—put the beer into the Top 50 chart. That might have been a blip except those events brought it to the atten­tion of Edin­burgh beer lover Craig Garvie. He is an enthu­si­as­tic char­ac­ter often to be seen at beer fes­ti­val in a colour­ful bowler hat, steam­punk shades and with his beard dyed one shade or anoth­er. A par­tic­u­lar fan of strong stouts, he knew he had to get his hands on GKHSR.

We were prompt­ed to research and write that piece because we, despite pay­ing fair­ly close atten­tion to British beer, had nev­er heard of Old Chim­ney’s brew­ery or come across any of their beers on sale any­where, ever.

On a relat­ed note, we were pon­der­ing writ­ing some­thing longer in response to this Tweet…

…to which our ini­tial response was, yes, mar­ket­ing is impor­tant, but word-of-mouth about great beer is the best mar­ket­ing you can get.

But the GKHSR sto­ry demon­strates very clear­ly that you don’t need fan­cy graph­ic design, expen­sive adver­tis­ing or squads of PR peo­ple to make a splash.

13 thoughts on “Rating Sites, Hype & the Real Influencers”

  1. But what Craig Garvie’s doing is mar­ket­ing, and high­ly effec­tive mar­ket­ing at that – he’s putting the beer in the hands of peo­ple who wield influ­ence over pub­lic per­cep­tions (“thought lead­ers”, “taste mak­ers”, “game chang­ers”, take your pick of the buz­zphras­es). Old Chim­neys seems to have stum­bled into this arrange­ment, but any­one who want­ed to repeat it would have to make an effort either to con­tact Garvie or find anoth­er well-con­nect­ed Rate­beer­ian this side of the Atlantic, shmooze them and make sure they were impressed with the beer… in short, do the mar­ket­ing.

    1. Yes, agreed, but the ques­tion in the Tweet was real­ly (see fol­low-ups) about whether a small brew­ery ought to divert ener­gy and resources into paid mar­ket­ing activ­i­ty. Send­ing Craig or any oth­er influ­en­tial Rate­Beer­ian (they rank pro­lif­ic raters on the site) a few bot­tles would cost, say, £15, take about 10 min­utes, and would­n’t require any spe­cial­ist mar­ket­ing train­ing or expe­ri­ence.

      1. You could­n’t send them just any beer, though. For them to get suf­fi­cient­ly enthu­si­as­tic about it to start spread­ing the word takes some­thing very few beers have.

  2. Are there par­al­lels between this sto­ry and the Prop­er Job Ambas­sadors promotion/scheme? While the GKHSR sto­ry is more organic/word of mouth and the Prop­er Job pro­mo­tion is a lit­tle more tra­di­tion­al mar­ket­ing, there is def­i­nite­ly some­thing in tar­get­ing any activ­i­ty among the right peo­ple, and essen­tial­ly iden­ti­fy­ing advo­cates to do the hard work for you.

  3. But still, very few peo­ple have heard of GKHSR even inside the bub­ble, let alone buy it. How are you quan­ti­fy­ing suc­cess and being “on the radar”?

    1. That’s a good point. Per­haps peo­ple who fol­low Rate­Beer are a bub­ble with­in a bub­ble (and the über-Raters are a bub­ble with­in that bub­ble). Or per­haps it’s just dif­fer­ent in the States.

      1. I’d say you are right about the bub­ble in a bub­ble in a bub­ble. And things are dif­fer­ent in the states … but take a look at that list of top raters. Don’t blame the US. 1st Amer­i­can is #11, then #23, then #29. Most­ly con­ti­nen­tal Europeans/Scandinavians in the top 25.

        Also, I call utter bol­locks on these sorts of things. The top rater has rat­ed 44144 beer in a bit over 10 years which is on AVERAGE 11.8 beers per day every day. Maybe they are a tick­er but still that rate is next-to-impos­si­ble even if one was inde­pen­dent­ly wealthy and that is all one did every day.

    2. With­in the lim­its of what Alan Thom­son wants to achieve – sell­ing every­thing he brews, at a price he’s hap­py with – he’s been suc­cess­ful. He could prob­a­bly sell more if he had the ambi­tion to expand and/or brew under con­tract, but he does­n’t. If he *did* hire PR peo­ple the Rate­Beer thing would give them a great start­ing posi­tion!

  4. Valid obser­va­tion. How­ev­er, based on a slight­ly more sim­pli­fied ver­sion of this mod­el, the first rat­ing by a Rate­Beer­ian could poten­tial­ly define the per­cep­tion of new beer and its future in the mar­ket­place… isn’t it too much pow­er / pres­sure?!

  5. I take it that most of his busi­ness is brew­ing ordi­nary beers and sell­ing them in ordi­nary pubs? How are those beers? How much does he brew and what do his spe­cial edi­tions cost?

  6. The Bac­cha­na­lia in Cam­bridge often has loads of Old Chimney’s in stock, nor­mal­ly with both vari­ants of Good King Hen­ry. For my mon­ey, the non Spe­cial Reserve is bet­ter, smoother, and no phe­nols
    from the bar­rel age­ing.

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