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Brewer’s Branding: How Our Favourite American Craft Beer Brands Market Themselves on Instagram


Photo by mnm.all on Unsplash

In the last decade or so, the craft beer industry has seen a surge around the world, with sales accounting for 24% of the U.S. beer market in 2018 (worth over $114 billion). In the U.S.A. alone, the number of breweries grew six times, and doubled its workforce, between 2008 and 2016. This sudden boom can be largely attributed to three main aspects- flavor, variety, and support for local businesses. Drinking beer has become more about quality, taste, and experience, than just alcoholic content.


In this context, we tried to understand how American craft beer brands differentiate themselves from regular beer brands with their online marketing.


We studied four of our favorite craft beer brands: Russian River Brewing, Allagash Brewing, Hill Farmstead Brewing, and New Belgium Brewing. We ran their Instagram posts through our Culture AI models, along with posts of four regular beer brands, namely, Budweiser, Corona, Heineken, and Guinness, for comparison. Here’s what we found.


Craft beer brands communicate their non-industrial nature through behind-the-scenes photos of beer brewing.


This brings out the ‘real’ and ‘hand-crafted’ goodness of craft beer, indicating that the beer is made by passionate people with care, in sharp contrast to regular beers produced in large factories.


Source: Instagram handles of select craft beer brands

Raw ingredients are on display to show authenticity and variety.


Since a key aspect of craft beer brewing is its experimentation with ingredients, taste and variety of flavors, we find that craft beer brands often showcase photographs of different ingredients used, hoping to communicate the ‘raw’, ‘unprocessed’, and ‘authentic’ nature of their products.


In contrast, regular beer brands seldom showcase photos of ingredients, rather focus on the end product.


Source: Instagram handles of select craft beer brands

The non-serious, light-hearted element of craft beer consumption is indicated through happy, casual photos of everyday beer drinkers.


We see photos of friends, solo drinkers, both outdoors and indoors, celebrating a special day or simply enjoying an afternoon drink, reiterating the deep-rooted connection between craft beer and community. There’s a certain quirkiness to the images, often showcasing pets, offbeat surroundings, and an unpretentious vibe, making them instantly relatable.



This was reiterated when we did a textual analysis of the captions accompanying the photos, and nouns such as ‘community’, ‘holiday’, ‘weekend’, ‘solitude’, ‘collective’, and ‘anniversary’ were detected by our AI models.


Source: Instagram handles of select craft beer brands

Regular beer brands such as Guinness, Heineken, and Budweiser, on the other hand, showcase more of night-drinking photos, reeking of glitter, glamour, sophistication, and formality. Corona, in contrast, sticks to its identity as a beach drink, with aerial shots of stunning beaches, underwater life, and chilling scenes with a bottle of Corona beer.


They also have strong color-based branding, and we find that the posts from each of the four popular beer brands could be associated with a single bold color derived from its overall brand identity- Budweiser with red, Corona with sea blue, Heineken with green, and Guinness with brown.


Instagram Profiles of Regular Beer Brands

Further, our Culture AI detected ‘emotional’ ‘creative’, ‘bonding’, and ‘happy’ as the top four emotions from the photos posted by the craft beer brands.


These sentiments are identified based on the color tones, interesting designs and unique angles of the images posted by the brands on their Instagram handles.


There’s also a significant focus on the use of descriptive language when it comes to craft beer branding, with words such as fermentation, hops, bittering, wort, yeast, cells, etc. treated as plain speak in their descriptions.



To summarize, craft beer branding tends to be more understated, modest, and casual, compared to regular beer brands. There’s a certain tranquility, conscientiousness, and passion associated with their content, reimagining beer as not just a night drink to be chugged down at bars while watching sports on TV, enjoyed at late evening business get-togethers or on the beach, but as an experience to be cherished and celebrated, like in the case of other aficionado categories (think wine and cheese).