My dad drank Genny when I was a kid. His dad drank Genny when he was a kid and although I can’t confirm it, I’m fairly certain his dad’s dad drank Genny too. I am from Rochester, New York after all.
After 234 years in business, the Genesee Brewing Company is experiencing a bit of a renaissance and I couldn’t be more impressed. As someone in the beer industry who understands a thing or two about marketing, branding, and business, I have been continually surprised by their smart decisions and the resulting successes.
This past Saturday I attended the grand opening of their Brew House and it got me thinking about everything they’re doing right. I’ve compiled a list of five important lessons we can all take away from this resilient brewery and their recent success.
5 Lessons We Can Learn from Genny
1. If You Do What You’ve Always Done, You’ll Get What You’ve Always Gotten The last couple of centuries have been good to Genny but like any company they wanted to grow, to expand, to scale. In order to do so, they knew they had to make some changes. In 2007, Norman Snyder was named CEO of the company, and announced a change in branding/packaging. They increased marketing and launched a new corporate website. Most recently, they’ve transformed their once surreptitious brewery into a welcoming destination, increased offerings, and connected with fans. The best part is, it’s working! People are falling in love with this very old brand in a brand new way.
2. It Takes a Community to Raise a Brewery Genny embraces Rochester, and Rochester embraces Genny. Whether it’s taking good care of their employees, hosting free summer concerts, or supporting other local companies in their endeavors, Genesee is becoming more and more socially active in their hometown and people are responding favorably.
Maine-based Baxter Brewing Co., BevNet’s “2011 New Brewery of the Year”, knows a thing or two about communal growth as well. The Lewiston/Auburn community is just as up-and-coming as their pride and joy brewery, and one hand washes the other.
3. There’s Strength (and Security) In Numbers Genesee is the force behind Dundee Ales and Lagers, Seagram’s Escapes flavored coolers, and Rock Wall Brewing. They have an exclusive contract to import Cerveza Imperial from Costa Rica, and they contract brew for Blue Point Brewing, Seven Kings, Brewery, Narragansett Brewing Company, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Stewart’s Shops, Big Flats (a Walgreens product), and Labatt. Individual brand growth can be limited but with acquisitions, mergers, partnerships, and joint ventures the seemingly impossible can be made possible.
4. Stories Sell Remember what I was saying about my dad? Well I’m not the only one who feels nostalgic when I’m looking at a can of Genny Cream Ale. The brewery has a great story, and they’re sharing it with anyone who wants to drink it. From Heritage Collections to interactive exhibits in their Visitor’s Center and their affinity for retro advertising campaigns, they’re really playing up their rich history and impressive longevity. Sure, not everyone has twenty something decades of material – but everyone does have a story. Find a cool angle and use it to your full advantage. People love to be engaged, and nothing’s more engaging than an interesting story.
5. Don’t Limit Yourself My craft beer friends love Genny Bock. I know people who go to great lengths to buy it in mass quantities while it’s available. My grandpa always stocked his kegerator with Genny Light and I know if he were alive today, he still would. My hipster friends like it in the can when they’re out listening to bands I’m too mainstream to know about. My fabulous cousin has plastered the very feminine salon that she owns with their vintage ads. My old man drank it when he was 18 and he still keeps a few bottles in the fridge today.
Sure, there are audiences to play to and demographics to consider – but in the beer world, honest product and good business go a long way. Why be a chick beer, a manly beer, a young beer, or an old beer – when you can just be a good beer? There’s certainly value in targeting but Genesee is proof that sometimes we create our own confines. A little bit of impartiality can go a long way.
All of that being said, should the rumor about North American Breweries being for sale turn out to be true, you might want to consider ponying up the cash. Who says one of the most established breweries can’t also be one of the most up-and-coming?