To better understand the role of a beer distributor, take a look at the following analogy: The distributor’s job is to get the dog food on the shelf; it is the brewer’s job to get the dogs to pick the food up! It may be simplistic, but it does make the point that the role of each tier in the beer industry is different.
Having said that, a distributor’s insights into selling to a particular demographic are many times more insightful than a brewery marketer’s ability to pinpoint a particular target audience. No matter how it is defined, people will segregate. People will segregate into various categories based upon age, education, income, professions or even the college one attended. Segregation might even be based upon a particular beer or beer segment.
Brewery marketers and ad agencies will develop target demographics such as college educated males, ages 25-39, income $65+ etc. and the brewery then develops marketing strategies to fit the named segment. Typically, there is little to no input from the distributor, and despite the fact that the brewery or advertising staff go into the market or visit a distributor, they could still not glean a total understanding of the bigger picture.
Beer distributors sell to all demographics across all lines. There are no boundaries when it comes to selling beer. My first route was in east Austin, and the accounts were mostly Hispanic. Since I was selling Falstaff, and Falstaff was sinking in popularity behind Schlitz, Lone Star and Pearl, (Schlitz was about 20 times larger than Falstaff, however, each account was always good for 1-2 cases), it was a rough route, but we all got along well. Even when my truck was broken into and some beer stolen, the accounts helped out by looking for the robbers. You do not mess with the beer guys!
No matter where you went to work, beer guys were always accepted by the accounts they called on. About the only way one would dare walk into a bar in Starr county in far south Texas was with having on a beer shirt. Where riding routes in Watts or Compton when working in LA, or the high end routes of Beverly Hills, I again found that no one messed with the beer guy! There was an unwritten rule on the retail side of the beer business.
Based on this knowledge, beer distributors have the innate ability to sell beers that are the favorite of the various demographics. Distributors are in the accounts every day of every week of every year. Every account gets treated equally. Service is based on volume.
Distributors have historically hired employees that are representative of the demographics of their respective markets. They had to. It has not been done due to any contractual agreement, it was simply done because it made good business sense and was the right thing to do.
There is a fine line in marketing between the breweries and the distributors. This applies to both tiers; however, distributors know the demographics of their market. Brewery marketers can learn more about marketing to consumers from distributors. Distributors do not exclude any account.
Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder…