When it comes to craft beer, bad names are best

Craft beer roots against mass production and for authenticity. For consumers, negative branding reflects that.

You’d assume customers gravitate toward products with aspirational names, but the opposite is true for craft beer.

When it comes to craft beer, bad names are best

A new study that analyzed data from beer review site Beer Advocate between 1996 and 2012 found that when it comes to craft breweries — defined as making 6m barrels or less per year — beers with names that would typically elicit negative emotions have stronger consumer appeal.

Uh, why?

By 2012, Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors had gobbled up so many smaller brands that they controlled 90% of beer production, per The Atlantic.

Conversely, the craft beer movement — for both consumers and brewers — flew against mass production and was instead “steeped in authenticity,” University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor Olga Khessina told The Hustle.

  • Khessina co-authored the study alongside J. Cameron Verhaal (Tulane University) and Stanislav D. Dobrev (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

And when brewers come out with offerings like Ugly Pug or I Hate My Boss Coffee Stout, those names reflect that independence — which Khessina’s research indicates may be even more important than how the beer tastes.

Does this translate to other industries?

There are wines and spirits with weird names — take Cat Pee on a Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc or Dirty Water Distillery’s Bog Monster gin — but Khessina said it’s not as common.

Those craft movements started later and have yet to reach the same scale as beer.

What about cannabis…

… where strains have names like “unicorn poop” or “grandpa’s breath”?

Sure, because both have ideologies in opposition to something, Khessina said. For craft beer, it’s mass production; cannabis remains federally illegal.

“Strong oppositional identity demands authenticity in expression and behavior and encourages rebellious (i.e., counter-normative) attitudes and actions with which negative naming of products strongly resonates,” Khessina said.

Hear that, rebels? Enjoy your Ill-Tempered Gnomes and Geriatric Hipster Clubs this weekend. For nondrinkers, there’s always Liquid Death, the canned water brand that grew its revenue by 4,000%+ by branding itself like a craft beer.

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Topics: Food

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