Beer-tastic insights – Saimaa Brewing Company adopts direct consumer engagement

Jyrki Kallinen


We all have a taste for chocolate; while some prefer dark chocolate with hazelnuts, some wave the flag for white chocolate. How about beers? Finnish consumption patterns have changed significantly in recent years. Mainstream brands, mostly lagers, have lost market share to craft beers such as IPAs and Pale Ales. Consequently, small breweries who develop their offerings for refined tastes and well-defined target segments are changing the game. Product packaging plays a crucial role in stores, both from the perspectives of brand positioning and getting noticed with strong product appeal. Refined tastes and careful targeting require refined insights.

Saimaa Brewing Company, previously known as Saimaan Juomatehdas, is a small, agile brewery in Eastern Finland by the Lake Saimaa, the 4th largest lake in Europe. The company is dedicated to using natural ingredients in their processes, aiming at establishing a connection between nature and beer connoisseurs. Naturally, the catalyst for this sensory dialogue is in the substance in the glass. Today, Saimaa Brewing Company has a range of both beers and ciders, covering several product families. Saimaa Brewing Company has collaborated with Crowst to welcome consumers to voice their opinion on the visual language of the Brewer’s Special product range. In this article we outline what we have done together, and also hear what the CEO of Saimaa Brewing Company, Jussi Laukkanen, thinks about it.

Consumer assisted product packaging

Saimaa Brewing Company has been working on a product packaging refresh of the Brewer’s Special product range. The range is designed to quench the thirst of young, trendy craft beer fans who appreciate special tastes. The product range includes five IPA, Pale Ale and Pilsner beers. “Our goal is to refresh the can styles of each beer variant in a way that they match and resonate with the target segment”, opens Jussi Laukkanen. “However, there are also certain changes we will implement in the design to make our umbrella brand visible, allowing us to follow our strategy in the future”, adds Laukkanen.

Based on the initial, new beer can design a study was launched to source consumer insights using the Crowst service. The study questions were aimed at mapping out the target audience’s opinions on the planned style refresh. On the Crowst mobile app, the respondents were shown pictures of the new and current can designs for each product, and asked to compare and give their opinions with reasoning. Also, screening questions drilling down to respondents’ attitudes and behaviours on craft beers were included to finetune the respondent targeting, ensuring the relevance of the data.

Opinions are personal – they need to be heard

“In everything we do, we keep in mind the journey the customer goes through before opening the can and finally having a sip”, states Laukkanen. “This comprises marketing and advertising in different channels, but also how our products are placed and noted in stores. Cans are visual, and we want to ensure that the visual appearance of our Brewer’s Special range resonates at the point of sale”, Laukkanen continues.

Successful retail execution requires direct consumer insights.

Product development requires direct consumer engagement and insights. How to develop a design that is unique and resonates with the target audience? Brewer’s Special Berlin Pilsner cans by the Saimaa Brewing Company.

In order to really know what the respondents thought about the new can designs, several free-text responses were included in the study. As the goal was to map out people’s opinions and reasoning behind those, simplistic star-rating questions alone would not have served the purpose. “By reading the comments the respondents have written by themselves you really know what they think and why. We wanted to get that genuine pulse of thoughts, and we got it with Crowst’s solution designed for smartphones”, Laukkanen points out.

“We wanted to get that genuine pulse of thoughts, and we got it with Crowst’s solution designed for smartphones.”

Indeed, it’s enlightening to see what type of factors influence people’s views when comparing the can style designs. Some intuitively take a direct approach on the visual composition or colours used. Some approach the design from the perspective of values and emotions triggered when seeing the design. Couple these insights together with the background and segment-specific data of the respondents. All views are equally valid and important, there are no right or wrong answers. Ultimately, the final moment of truth happens in stores; either the person picks the can(s) to the cart or leaves them on the shelf.

Direct consumer engagement with speed

“We are a small, passionate brewery and we believe in our products. We want to offer something special to people, thus it would be foolish not to hear what they think about our beers, in real-time”, affirms Laukkanen. Designing visual language and concrete can styles involves the whole-hearted input of top ad creatives and graphics artists. They pour their skill and soul into the work following a tight schedule, aiming at meeting the aggressive milestones and final deadline. Keeping this in mind, out-dated research processes with lengthy lead-times would not enable the inclusion of consumer view in the form of insights on-the-fly by design.

“Our offering is designed for agile people who constantly mould their opinions and tastes based on trends”, outlines Laukkanen. “To feel the day’s consumer pulse in the form of insights and integrate them into our strict internal product development schedules we needed Crowst. People are on the constant move, thus we need an agile mobile solution that allows people to respond where-ever they happen to be”, closes Laukkanen.

New Brewer’s Special can designs will enter the stores in Finland in September 2018.