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At the AMA Knoxville June Luncheon, Dr. Todd White discussed the wildly popular brewing industry. As president of The Brewing + Distilling Center, he shared his knowledge of how small breweries can fully utilize their “shoestring budgets” to maximize their impact in the ever-expanding market.

After starting out in the veterinary field, Dr. White decided to tackle a new career. In 2008, he opened a craft beer department in The Market in Maryville, TN. This was one of the first, if not the first, craft brew store in East Tennessee. After meeting Marty, the pioneer of the Smoky Mountain Brewery chain, Dr. White began to entertain the idea of opening his own brewing education school. In 2013, he was finally able to convince South College to work with him on a brewing education course. This eventually led to him opening the Brewing + Distilling Center, which is a trade school and professional certification program.

The Brewing Industry

When diving into the history of the brew industry, Dr. White shared enlightening numbers on the history of brewery economics. In 1873, there were over 4,000 breweries in the United States. A century later in 1978, there were only 89 due to prohibition. The brewing industry has been steadily increasing ever since. As of 2018, there were over 7,000 craft breweries in the United States. Ninety-nine of those are in Tennessee, with 20 alone being in the Knoxville area.

These breweries have had a huge impact on the Knoxville area. It has created $1.14 million dollars of revenue in Tennessee alone. In Knoxville, it has created roughly 195 jobs and created $7.9 million dollars in wages and benefits. Sales and output of all breweries in Knox, Blount and Anderson counties totals a whopping $43.7 million dollars.

Knoxville Brewery Marketing Strategies

Despite these big numbers, most craft breweries are small businesses with even smaller budgets. A case study of the craft beer industry in Knoxville revealed some valuable information about the marketing strategies of these businesses. Since most of them are on a small budget, they will have non-traditional marketing and their overall strategy will not be defined.

Most craft breweries strongly utilize social media as a low-cost way to promote their new beers, events and collaborations. Dr. White suggests that it is important that all posts be positive in nature, avoiding “edgy or controversial” content. He notes that craft beer has become mainstream and that these tactics do not resonate with the general public.

The most important things that craft breweries will spend money on are logos, trademarks, and label imagery. Almost as important, craft breweries will spend money on merchandise for customers to wear. These items are to serve as promotional marketing in the community, not to create profit for the business. Beer events are also an important aspect of the craft brewery marketing plan. These events help build relationships with the community, promote their name and product and lastly, but not any less important, support causes in the community.

With small budgets, it is important to pitch small projects at a time. It would be better to spend $400 for a two-week campaign instead of a $5,000 campaign for the entire year. Developing relationships with the brewer and understanding their customers is a must for a successful experience. By working with all of these things in mind, the marketing budget will grow and allow the brewery to further expand.

Wrap Up

To wrap up the June Luncheon, AMA Knoxville presented a children’s book that will be donated to the Leaders for Readers program in honor of Dr. White. Also, a special presentation was made in honor of the last luncheon under the current board. On behalf of AMA Knoxville, President-Elect Jessica Gutman gifted current President Erica Coffey with a limited-edition Patricia Nash Designs handbag in gratitude of a fantastic year of leadership. This python-inspired tote benefits the new Amphibian and Reptile Center at Zoo Knoxville.

Photos courtesy of Colby’s Photography

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