Nowadays, in the beer market, as elsewhere, the problem is different - most stuff is "pretty good". I'm not saying that none of it is rubbish, or that some of it isn't excellent, but most of it offers a reasonable return for my spend. These are great times for the beer drinker. But there is such a lot of it. All those competing products - how do I choose? If I can't choose, how will I buy? This potential choice paralysis is a real problem for me, and disaster for the vendor.
Now I can only see the purple cows. Everything else is a familiar blur.
So, how do vendors make me see their stuff? How to make it stand out? If the product isn't essentially remarkable, how do they lend it a quality that makes it different, more... more?
In order to increase product salience vendors often use forms of what you might call "oppositional marketing". I guess this works (at least partly) because we're all highly responsive to signifiers of conflict - I'm sure that there are good evolutionary reasons for that. At its simplest, this can be as crass as "knocking copy": "Product B is crap (here's how) - buy Product A!".
We see this when the vendor tries to place the product on one side or other of some widely recognised disjuncture. This is the basis for products being associated with generational Bullshit. Sometimes this disjuncture is (if not created) actively promoted by the vendor. Hence: Real Ale = old/bearded/mature/sensible drinker (Y-Fronts). Craft = young and hip and has a daft haircut/hat/beard/shoes (Boxers).
What do we get from this? Well apart from an easing of the pain of choice (which I'll come back to), we get some real positive value from the branding effort. Not in the sense that these positioned products are better, but the branding itself can be valuable. We can use the product we've chosen to send signals about ourselves - sometimes to ourselves.
We buy a product that's young, urban, sophisticated, because we are young, urban, sophisticated. We wish. We buy products that are "difficult" (says the vendor) to demonstrate our discernment. We join the community of the brand. The product is the badge of our membership. It may be that this sense of community is worth far more to us than any simply product derived utility .
This is not a post about BrewDog. But as I was writing this I couldn't help thinking of this sensible and well-intentioned blog piece: Buy their Beer not their Hype. That's exactly not the point. The beer is not separable from the hype. The hype is a key part of the package. Without it, we mostly wouldn't see, or drink, the beer.
Why do we love being lied to? Why do we put up with this shit? Are we stupid? Or is it perfectly sensible?
Making my choice with the vendors hand on my arm is simply easier than making a rational choice on the facts - which I will not have all of. Surrounded by drifts of near-identical stuff, on my own always, the cognitive load is overwhelming.
But why not pull the wool over your own eyes? It's hard work at first, but more fun. Once you've constructed your alternative reality it's as good a guide as their hype, their agendas & ideologies. Ask your friends to help. Bullshit each other. Cheerfully, and for free. You probably know people expert enough on various subjects such that you can even make good choices by pooling your expertise. Or not. But so what?
So there you go. You should buy our beer, because doing so marks you out as a discerning individual who won't buy into all their BS. I'm telling you.