Recently the Boston Brewing Company, a.k.a. Sam Adams Beer, debuted a new TV advertising campaign celebrating their size, or in fact, their lack thereof. It’s estimated by some that they may be spending up to $30 million annually behind this effort.
The move, it seems, is intended to counter the perception that Sam Adams — one of the few ‘Craft’ or ‘Micro’ brews with national distribution — has become too big. They assert the brand only has 0.9% share of the total beer market…not 25% as some beer drinkers might think. (N.B. When was the last time a consumer cared about what your market share was?)
This may be the first time we’ve seen a Challenger brand taking the unusual step of mounting a national advertising campaign to tout their small size. It’s as if Sam Adams — heeding the famous words of Walt Chamberlin who asserted that ‘Nobody roots for Goliath’ — has come out and said ‘I’m David. Not Goliath.’ [So please buy me, not them]
Perhaps they feel compelled to take this stance because in fact they have become a Goliath (and/or they don’t want anyone to find out the truth).
According to The Brewer’s Association (a group dedicated to the promotion of Craft Beers – http://bit.ly/9YI3un ), Sam Adams is the leading craft beer brand (with approximately ~25% of the craft/micro beer segment), and the 4th largest brewer in the US, behind only Anheuser Busch, Miller and Pabst Brewing Co. In fact, their own industry association would describe them as a ‘Large Brewer’ because they produce more than 2,000,000 barrels per year.
Now that’s ironic.
From our continuous research on successful Challengers, we have learned that it isn’t your size or ’State of Market(share)’ that defines you as a Challenger — rather, it’s your ‘State of Mind.’
By this we mean, having bold ambitions to challenge something or change the world in a way that seemingly outstrips your available resources. Being characterized by a persistent tenacity to outmaneuver your larger competitors in an attempt to bridge the gap between your bold ambitions and limited resources. Finally, looking to innovate in everything you do in order to change the rules of the game or change the game entirely in a way that will disproportionately favor you.
So there’s a good lesson in this story for all Challengers – three truths of ‘Challenger Brands’ if you will:
1) If you ARE a Challenger Brand, then you DON’T HAVE TO SAY you are.
2) If you SAY you are a Challenger Brand, then you’d better BE one
3) It is far easier to BE a Challenger Brand if you DON’T SAY you are one
So instead of spending millions of dollars on a National TV campaign to tell the world you aren’t as big as you really are, perhaps the folks at Sam Adams could instead simply continue to act like the original, small craft beer they are — something they’ve done quite well in recent years, much to the chagrin of Budweiser and the other ‘big beers’.
Or, perhaps, if they really believe that ‘Size Matters’, then at the very least they could project their belief that ‘smaller is better’ in everything they do. Show us with your actions, not just your words.
And if you’re wondering what a brand who behaves according to the believe that ‘smaller is better’ looks like, just take a look at what Mini Cooper has been doing for the past 10 years.