28 Aug 2009 @ 2:15 PM 
 

Beer Petitions: An Idea Before Its Time

 

I ran across this site today: BeerPetitions.com.

The basic idea is pretty simple: You go to this website and say My Local Bar should be carrying My Favorite Beer. This goes up on the site as a petition, and then people can go and sign it. The bar then presumably goes online, sees that people want said beer and then puts it on tap. As their copy says:

No longer will beer consumers be powerless to convince retailers to carry certain craft beers, now anyone can create a beer petition and have others sign the petition so a retailer can better understand the demand for a specific brand.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it really stands up to reality.

To me, this site falls into the trap that a lot of computer savvy people (myself included) tend toward: that a lot of people are really connected to the internet. Yes, the U.S. has incredible internet penetration. The stats that I’ve found suggest that almost 75% of our population has internet access vs. 15% of the population in the rest of the world. However, having internet access and using the internet for something other than basic e-mail and paying your bills is entirely different. People who are really connected to the ‘net tend to forget that.

It also requires buy-in from the bar and the bar’s patrons. If you read through their About page, they give a sample of how everything’s supposed to work. Let me summarize the process. Bert is their example person in the scenario.

1. Bert finds a beer he likes in a different state.

2. Bert checks all the bars local to him to find the beer. It is not there.

3. Bert goes to his local bar and asks for the beer. The owner says, “I can’t just order a beer because you like it.”

4. Bert says, “But I can show you that other people like it, too. I will start a beer petition.” For a reason that I am unclear on, the bar owner agrees to this. Presumably, he knows Bert in some way.

5. Bert gets a bunch (30, in the example) of people to sign the petition and brings it back to the bar.

6. The bar owner says, “Wow! 30 people! I’m ordering it now!”

Here are the steps that are missing, in my mind:

7. The bar owner asks Bert, “Which of the fine beers that I am currently carrying should I take off tap?” Actually, he probably doesn’t ask Bert because what does Bert know about his sales volume? Probably he takes the beer off tap that he sells fewer than 30 pints of before the keg spoils. He should probably take that keg off tap anyway.

8. The bar owner asks the distributor that he gets all of his beer from, “Hey, do you carry this fancy beer that my patrons are asking for?”

9. The distributor says, “No, but if you put a tap of Bud Light Lime up I’ll give you some sweet tickets to the Braves game.”

… okay. Maybe I’m a little jaded.

Fact is, in a lot of cases – especially when you’re talking about out-of-state beers (like in the example on the site), the retailer may not have access to beers that the customers want because of distributor limitations. Some retailers will go far out of their way to get access to a good selection of beer, but for most establishments that’s far out of the question. After all, you can get a great deal from most large distributors on Bud and it’ll outsell most of your craft beers. If you’ve got a place that cares about what kind of beer they’re serving, chances are they’ve got their ear to the ground (and the customers) or have a good mechanism for beer suggestion, anyway. Like comment cards, or a website.

So – here’s what I like about this idea: It gives people a mechanism by which they can show retailers that there is a reasonable amount of interest in good beer. If this were a site where somebody could start a petition that says, “We want good beer at our local hangout/liquor store/dive!” that would be cool… nay.. awesome!

“We the people demand a decent beer selection!”

But to bring a petition from the internet into a sports bar that says, “35 people think your bar should carry Old Rasputin!” I think a manager would be insane to respond to that. How do they know those 35 people will come in and buy one? How do they even know that those 35 people live anywhere near their bar?

Hey, look: admin, Grote961, and webber957 all think that The Cellar Wine & Spirits in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma should have Breckenridge Brewing Co’s Summerbright Ale. Ah, well.. if Grote961 says I should have it, I’ll order right away.

This is coming off as awfully negative, and I wish it wasn’t. It’s a great idea, but I’m not convinced the time is right for the specific-brand beer petition. Bombarding a bar owner with requests for a specific beer (unless they’re inviting said requests) seems like a great way to irritate a bar owner. Trying to get craft beer sold at a lot of establishments is a challenge enough in itself. Let’s fell one giant at a time.

Tags Tags: , ,
Categories: distribution, industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 28 Aug 2009 @ 07 41 PM

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Responses to this post » (4 Total)

 
  1. nate says:

    I am probably wrong, but I always saw the beer petition as a way for some dude to make a little cash from an online site. That aside, it king of bugged me that the entitlement mentality was so representative of our culture. (“Give me what I want now”)

    I have convinced the guy who runs the beer shop to get new varieties simply by hanging out and building a solid report. My convincing simply was me stating I would love to see such and such beer on the shelves…I don’t even ask, and he orders it.

    Relationship is so much more influential than a sheet with names on it.

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