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.

  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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