5 Things I Learned About Media From Homebrewing

Chris TuleyaI have been an avid home-brewer for almost as long as I have been in the media industry. Much like my media career, my brewing background is diverse and there is no beer style I won’t try to brew. There are some styles I prefer making (pilsners, & lagers) and some I hate (IPAs) but it is important to consider the audience you are catering to, and they may want an IPA. The other day, as I prepared to brew my latest batch of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go (a coffee & milk porter), I realized there are 5 similarities between my day job and my weekend passion.

1. Different water sources will produce different flavors, even for the same style of beer. 97% of beer is water, but it is the other 3% that can set it apart. This small amount can mean the difference between a lager and a stout. But the majority of the flavor will still come from the core ingredient, water. Much like a media plan there are channels you must use to reach your audience, but sometimes it is the 3% that can drive success. This is where we should be creative and think of ways we can amplify the impact of the other 97%.

2. If it can go wrong it will. Even with the best laid plan, execution is key. I can spend weeks planning for a single brewing session, but it takes flawless execution to have that perfect brew day. I can’t count the number of times I realized halfway through a session  that I ran out of propane or forgot to order an ingredient. When developing a media plan, you must think about the feasibility of executing all components upfront. With multiple hands in the pot, it is the media agency’s responsibility to play brew-master and ensure flawless execution upon approval to minimize the factors that can go wrong.

3. The best of intentions can still result in a bad beer. I have dumped out as much beer as I have bottled because of mistakes I made or off-flavors my ill-conceived recipes produced. But each time I learned from these mistakes, tweaked the recipe and improved on the beer the next time. An agency that claims they never make a mistake is lying. To become an expert you must dump out a few beers along the way. It is how you improve on the plan or tweak the recommendation that will shape the success of the campaign.

4. Even if you don’t like IPAs you can still gain experience brewing them. I am not a fan of IPAs (obviously), but I acknowledge the trend of each beer out-hopping each other and hop-heads always chasing the next great IPA. It is impossible for me to ignore this category just because I don’t personally enjoy it. The media industry is filled with a million ‘IPAs’ and if we ignore them we are not doing our clients’ justice. Agencies should provide guidance as the experts and therefore it is important to immerse ourselves and determine the opportunity so we can provide an unbiased recommendation.

5. Ribbons are only one measure of success. Winning a ribbon for a beer you crafted from an idea is rewarding, but it is important to understand it is subjective. I have shared many beers with friends and family and will get a range of comments and preferences for the same beer. With media plans you may have numerous objectives, and like beer, no media plan can do everything for everyone. It is important to understand how different components of your plan may meet specific objectives and how changes or optimizations you make will impact performance and outcome.

And if all else fails, remember: ‘Relax. Don’t worry. Have a Homebrew.’ – Charlie Papazian

Chris Tuleya has been brewing beer for 10 years. He is also EVP, Media, at Underscore Marketing, a firm that creates and manages integrated marketing programs for health and healthy brands.