Pubs, Beer & Brand


Pubs (and the beer they serve) have been part of the British way of life for a long, long time. So long in fact, that some claim to have been serving the public for nearly 1,500 years, and with this in mind, it is no surprise that they are ingrained into our psyche.

However, in recent years pubs up and down the country have been closing their doors for the last time. According to recent studies, 25% of the pubs open in 2001 have now closed. This is a shocking number, but not entirely surprising. What’s more, the vast majority of the pubs that have been lost are small and independently owned – in contrast, large pub chains have actually grown in size with employment across the industry 6% higher than in 2008.

With all businesses relying on consumers to keep them going, industries have to adapt to changing behaviours. With consumers looking for cheaper, and perceived healthier, alternatives, pubs need to realise that they can no longer rely on what worked for them before. With ever-rising costs and a plethora of other rapidly evolving emotional and societal factors, pubs must identify trends and behaviours and react quickly to accommodate them. So how do you get someone to pay a premium for something they could find much cheaper elsewhere?

The answer lies in the experience. The film and music industries faced the same dilemma who suddenly had to compete with cheap, pirated online copies of their products. They did this by reminding the public that no low-quality pirated movie or music would ever be as good as the real movie or music ‘experience’. By focussing on experience, they are increasing the value of their offering in the consumers’ minds and reinforcing the idea that ‘the real thing’ can’t be recreated illegally (a bit like Coca-Cola did!). Consumers have come to expect everything to be quicker, cheaper and easier – so both industries have ended up embracing the streaming innovations in order to stay relevant. After a decade or so, streaming has completely revolutionised both music and film, allowing the industries and those within them to earn a living, while also providing the customer with the content and experience that they demanded.

These learnings can be carried into the hospitality industry too. Much of the appeal of pubs comes down to the experience and what the pub can offer the customer that they couldn’t get from anywhere else. Pubs need to delve into their customers’ needs to understand what they really want from a pub experience, what the barriers are and then tailor their offering to appeal to consumers’ emotional needs. They need to leverage their brand across every interaction to differentiate from others and make it easy for consumers to understand what they offer; this has to be across every channel, from interiors, menu design and social media, through to signage and tone of voice. They need to be memorable and relevant in order to tempt customers away from the lure of staying at home.

It’s a turbulent time for many pubs all over the UK, funds are tight and once reliable customer bases are changing. By leveraging a relevant brand and living their values as experiences offered to customers, pubs will be better equipped to ride out the economic storm. No matter the industry, a brand needs to evolve and innovate along with consumer trends and behaviours; or risk being left behind.