How Founders Brewing Company Used Agile Brand Health Tracking to Develop Strategies for Growth and Innovation

Jan 22, 2020

What does your beer want to be when it grows up? Not a silly question if you’re a fast-growing craft beer maker with big goals, like Founders Brewing Company. But in the already-crowded craft beer category, taking your brand—and your beer—to the next level requires a lot more than just glancing at some high-level metrics and hoping for a lightbulb moment.

Figuring out who your brand is at the deepest levels, what it stands for, and how your products fit with your overall brand vision helps you form a comprehensive picture of your brand’s current identity and health in the marketplace—as seen through the eyes of your customers, prospects, and competition. Once you have these insights, you can identify opportunities for improvement and expansion, and align your product and marketing strategies accordingly.

As they got ready to launch a brand growth initiative, Founders Brewing Company recognized the importance of tracking their brand health in a meaningful way. They knew that with a deeper understanding of both their category and their customers they could determine a future growth and brand strategy that would not only bring new customers on board, but also earn and keep customer loyalty.

The Founders challenge in detail

To launch their initiative, the Founders team needed a clear sense of how the Founders brand stacked up with their customers and the craft competition, both nationally and regionally. They wanted to pinpoint the strengths that their current customers saw in the Founders brand. And just as importantly, they wanted to find out what non-using customers were looking for in the craft beer space that might inspire them to eventually become loyal to a brand.

The Founders team had used a brand health tracker before and recognized it as a viable tool in market research. But they hadn’t always had the best experience with it. The insights took way too long to be gathered and delivered, metrics were far too high level, non-user analysis wasn’t included, and the report didn’t give any actionable recommendations. All told, brand health tracking hadn’t provided them with the value and usefulness they needed to make better brand decisions.

This time around, the team knew they needed a better brand health tracking solution with deeper-level analysis. As Sandy Anaokar, Founders’ VP of Marketing, explained: “Trends can change really quickly in the craft beer industry. New breweries and styles are emerging constantly and consumers tend not to be brand-loyal. Because of this, we need to get insights quickly and they have to be accurate, credible, and in depth about the category, our competitors, and our consumers’ preferences. And the cherry on top: they have to be actionable.”

The solution and research

The Founders team found what they were looking for in GutCheck’s Agile Brand Health Tracker. The team leveraged the solution to gain a thorough understanding of the dynamics driving the craft beer category, as well as what the Founders brand meant to their existing customers and those of their key competitors. They could learn about their brand health funnel metrics—including awareness through trial, repeat purchase and how the conversions at each level—as well as what the emotional and functional drivers were for purchase intent and satisfaction among their current customers and prospects alike.

GutCheck’s brand tracker operates on the principles of agile audience intelligence which help brands trust in the information they’re receiving:

  • Gather insights with speed, rigor, and quality
  • Identify the target consumer and leverage this knowledge during each research phase
  • Marry insights with recommendations that fit the unique context of a business’s values and strategic initiatives

In Founders’ case, the brand tracker was centered on three main audiences: consumers within the category, Founders consumers, and consumers who were aware of Founders but had never tried it—a.k.a. non-users.

The research was then focused on these key objectives:

  • Form a detailed picture of Founders’ brand health and that of their key competitors by focusing on metrics like awareness, consideration, trial, repeat purchase behavior, overall satisfaction, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and conversion
  • Analyze users and non-users of Founders to evaluate how to better drive conversion
  • Understand the affinity for the Founders brand family among consumers by using video capabilities that could capture consumer attitudes in their own words and convey real emotion

The results

In only three weeks, the Founders team received valuable, actionable insights that gave them much to consider. “We got a ton of information about category, consumers, and brand opportunities—some that confirmed what we were thinking and some that was surprising,” Anaokar said.

The Founders team learned:

  • Founders purchasers are much more involved and exploratory in craft beer than most category consumers
  • Interest in Founders is driven by the perception that the brand embraces consumers’ lifestyles
  • Non-users can be influenced to try Founders by communicating its drinkability, uniqueness, and fit with lifestyle

These insights allowed the Founders team to take practical measures on the shelves and in their creative campaigns. They were able to identify opportunities around specific stock keeping units (SKUs), as well as develop more engaging creative briefs and zero in on specific media channels to help drive purchases and seed customer loyalty in the highly competitive craft beer space.

“We’ve been signaling quality and taste for years to consumers. But that’s become table stakes now. Learning that lifestyle messaging drives purchase interest opens up a whole new stream for our creative, media, and advertising teams to explore and build loyalty,” Anaokar confirmed. “Not only does our overall brewery represent a particular lifestyle, but our individual brands can also portray that in their own unique way. Being able to give a lifestyle and personality to our brands is actually really liberating. It opens up a lot more in how we represent our brands to consumers.”

Looking ahead, the research will help Founders monitor their presence in the competitive craft beer category and continue to optimize their prescence and convert consumers to loyal brand customers. Ultimately, the research has given the Founders team the confidence and focus they needed to envision and capitalize on new growth opportunities and innovations for the brand family.

Check out the full case study to see how Founders leveraged GutCheck’s Agile Brand Health Tracker to better understand their current and potential consumers to guide their future brand strategy.

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