Trouble brewing: How Tiny Rebel is disrupting the beer industry

Trouble brewing: How Tiny Rebel is disrupting the beer industry

We can follow the rules about marketing – or we can break them. Tiny Rebel, an independent Welsh brewery, has built a distinctive brand with a loyal group of followers, all with zero marketing budget. Niall Thomas, marketing manager, explains how the business is disrupting the brewing industry by breaking down the barriers between themselves as producers and their customers.

As a small, award-winning brewery in South Wales, how do you stay ahead of your competitors and the larger national brewery brands?

“We’ve never done any market research, or consumer analytics. We’ve never done anything formally, or the established way. The only thing we’ve ever done is brew for ourselves. We are our own target market. Demographics like age or gender never really come into it. Our only concern is doing something new, different or fun. Not to the extreme that it’s novelty for novelty’s sake. We’re just trying to push boundaries here and there, because we’re curious.

“The only way we stay ahead is remembering that we’re consumers as well as producers. They’re not mutually exclusive. By retaining a sense of us actually being the target market for this sort of thing, we’re staying more in tune with our potential customer base than is possible for bigger brands that maintain more of a distinction.” 

Tiny Rebel Tip: Think of yourself as a customer of your own products

Establishing consumer trust is likely to be the new frontier for organisations, particularly established brands. How important is trust for a disruptive brand such as Tiny Rebel?

“Transparency is something we really value. We’ve got nothing to hide – so much so, our entire brewery sits behind floor-to-ceiling glass panels, with our brewery bar and restaurant on the other side.

“Our success is built on our reputation, which is built by the quality of the product. In brewing, where there are many variables to control and the thing we sell is a living product, quality can vary massively, so lots of attention is paid to consistency and developing trust in our ability to achieve it. That extends to everything else we do – if people don’t trust us in one regard, they won’t trust us in others.

“The other thing to remember is that our fans and loyal customers have as much of a stake in this project as we do. They’ve been with us along the way and have supported us for years. We want to repay that faith and trust. A community of fans has got us here, and growing that community is going to take us even further.

Tiny Rebel Tip: Consider your role as being to pay back the trust of your customers

How do you ensure that your packaging and brand ethos is translated across all Tiny Rebel business activities?

“We’re lucky to have someone as incredibly talented as Taz, our designer. She’s developed a unique visual style for Tiny Rebel that is at the heart of everything we do. She has a hand, in a literal sense, in everything from the design of the pump clips and cans, to our posters and business cards.

“Likewise, we have developed a distinct voice for Tiny Rebel. It’s not the voice of any member of staff in particular – it’s like an alter ego we all share. Recognising that, and working on bringing it out, is key to consistency in tone and message. 

“Marketing using that visual identity and that voice is the best way to communicate it internally and to coach others in using it. It sets an example and provides a real-world case study to work from. We can see feedback in real time from people who interact with us on social media and like anyone using social media as an individual, we immediately get a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Tiny Rebel Tip: Develop a distinct identity that your team enjoys bringing to life

You recently launched a mobile game around the concept of brewing beer and running a brewery. What was the aim of this activity?

“The game was just another one of those things that we thought would be fun, and we thought only Tiny Rebel could do. We have a fascination with video games anyway, and lots of our products are inspired by games. But we have a unique link to the industry, because the brother and sister-in-law of Brad, our managing director, run a game development firm called Tiny Rebel games.

“We were thinking of ways we could collaborate and we all agreed that it should just be for fun. It’s totally free, there’s no in-game purchases or anything like that. You follow the actual history of the brewery and the products are the same as those in the real world. It’s a novel way of both sharing information about the company and of introducing people to our way of doing things – the fun, the unique design, the jokes and the fact that we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Tiny Rebel Tip: If you give something to customers for free, don’t have an ulterior motive: make it totally free, with no strings attached

You embrace all types of digital marketing, from social media to Spotify radio. Do you aim to use as many mediums as possible to reach your customer base?

“I really think the opposite. Do less but do it better. Don’t spread yourself too thinly. Content and social go hand in hand. Social posts are either short-form content marketing or involve sharing longer forms of content. Things like our Spotify playlist are content but not as you know it – it’s just a little bit of thinking outside the box. It’s something that’s easy to put together, it gets the guys here involved, it gets our followers interacting, it gives a real sense of our culture.

“Then social media is about sending that message to the right people – the vast majority of them will be found in a very small number of places. For us, it’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and if the fans on those platforms become loyal fans, they’ll go and spread the message, on the other platforms they enjoy, on our behalf.”

Tiny Rebel Tip: Spotify playlists are easy to create and can encapsulate the personality of your brand

If you could double your marketing budget – what would you do?

“I love this question, because 2 x £0 is still £0. We’ve never had a marketing budget because it forces you into a mindset that views performance as year-to-year, rather than day-to-day and week-to-week.” 

“What would remind people that fun is at the heart of everything we do, and that we exist only to make and enjoy high quality beer of any style and package type? What would make our fans know that they’re part of our success and our best source of feedback and development? I think we’d just throw a hell of a party to be honest.”

Tiny Rebel Tip: Marketing is a mind-set, not an annual budget line

In essence, the Tiny Rebel philosophy is to find a unique style of communication and stick with it. Also, remember that, even as a brand manager or marketer, we are still consumers. Even if we don’t run a brewery, our own needs and desires are probably closer to our consumers’ than we might think, and this is something to be embraced. So being disruptive, being a rebel, is all about daring to be ourselves.

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