Thursday, May 4, 2017

Genesee Brewing Company

Just a few years ago, Genesee Brewing Company, New York State's oldest brewery established in 1878, was on the brink of bankruptcy. That was before North American Breweries, and its parent, the Triple Bottom Line (economic, social, environmental) company Florida Ice & Farm Co. invested $70 million in the Genesee site over the past few years. It is now investing another $40, which is matched by the State of New York's $9.5 million investment. This includes a new 130,000 square foot production building and expands the brewery by 18,000 square feet and adds 128 jobs. It is becoming a state-of-the art eco-brewery in an emerging eco-district that includes Rochester's High Falls on the Genesee River. It also features a new brew pub, museum and meeting and education center.

But that is not my story. My story is about the company's approach to marketing. A decade ago, its marketing consisted mostly of advertising focusing on sexy women, a very traditional, outdated and sexist approach. Today, its product offering and marketing have evolved in many ways. But the example I want to focus on today is the company's recent announcement that it will be floating twelve giant fermentation tanks from Albany, NY to Rochester, NY via the historic Erie Canal, passing through the Upstate cities of Utica (home of Saranac Brewery) and Syracuse (and many smaller towns) along the way. It is a functional decision because each 20 foot by 60 foot tank is too large to ship via truck or train. But Genesee Brewing Company has turned this into a publicity and social media event informing people in each place along the canal about the dates on which the tanks will pass through their towns. 

I am a big fan of proactive publicity and this is a great example of that. It will be a significant branding photo opportunity, but it also links an historic brewery with one of New York State's most historic developments, the Erie Canal. It links the nostalgia of Upstate New York's heyday with its more recent resurgence to the same for Genesee Brewing Company. 

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