Will Alcoholic Root Beer Be a Fad or a Real Market?

One topic we regularly discuss in our postings is how marketers often are confronted with difficult decisions. For instance, a few weeks ago we looked at how market conditions forced Restoration Hardware to make the hard choice to re-position their brand in a way that targets an entirely different market. And last October, we discussed how Target made the tough decision to alter its overall marketing strategy to appeal to changing customer demographics.

Another difficult situation that may require tough decisions be made occurs when companies are faced with determining if a popular trend within their target market is something they need to pursue. What makes these decisions hard is trying to estimate whether customers will continue to react favorably over the long run to the emerging trend. For instance, over the last few years we have experienced many fads that created excitement only to run out of steam.

While in hindsight it is pretty easy to see why the interest in these fads has now diminished, for the marketer the tough decision is whether or not to take advantage of opportunities long before it is evident what will eventually happen. Even more, if a trend is not a fad but something that will create a real market, being late to the market may present problems if others have built strong positions.

We now have another example of a trending idea that will have some marketers asking the “is-it-a-fad-or-is-it-for-real” question. As discussed in this Fortune story, a craft brewer in Illinois, Small Town Brewery, is generating interest with a new type of beverage – Root Beer. Of course, the emphasis on this product is the beer, as it is an alcoholic beverage and not a carbonated soft drink. What is interesting is this product now ranks within the top 30 of all craft beers in the U.S.  As the story notes, other brewers are jumping in with their own Root Beer, including Boston Beer, maker of the Sam Adams brand.

Even if alcoholic Root Beer is more than a fad, it likely will be perceived as a seasonal beverage and not something with consistent year-round sales. But then again, it could tap into an unrecognized need and find a niche market in the same way Mike’s Hard Lemonade has done. Certainly something to watch and, for those of legal drinking age, something to taste!