A decade or so ago, being green was in vogue. Consumer brands piled on, touting their eco-friendliness and environmental responsibility to the point where it became almost meaningless.
That’s when the term “greenwashing” entered the mainstream. Everything had to have an eco angle, even if it wasn’t really that good for the environment.
We’re quickly reaching that level of saturation with Charlotte and craft beer.
In a desperate attempt to appeal to millennials, Charlotte institutions of all shapes and sizes are drowning themselves in high-end alcohol.
Realtors and banks are hosting home-buying workshops at breweries. Churches gather for “theology on tap.” The Charlotte Chamber brewed up its own American Pale Ale. The Charlotte Symphony puts on “Bachtoberfest” and even sends musicians out to NoDa Brewing.
Call it “beerwashing.”
It’s easy to see why this is happening. The rise of the brewery is arguably the biggest social trend of the past decade for young professionals in midsize cities. Breweries are the new public park, and I don’t want any of this to come across as a slight against them.
Plus, some organizations have found success by embracing beer. Discovery Place has found success with its “Science on the Rocks” franchise. And at $13.25 a pop, I’m sure the Charlotte Hornets are making a killing with their craft beer garden.
In the best-case scenario, serving craft beer is a way of signaling that they’re welcoming and low-pressure.
But in the worst-case, it’s a forced attempt at being cool.
“Everyone thought the millennials were basically going to take over, all live in downtown high-rises, ride fixie bicycles and drink craft beer forever,” JLL research director Paul Hendershot told a Bisnow real estate conference in Charlotte earlier this year.
And to be honest, that’s among the more tame depictions of 20- and 30-somethings I’ve heard from business leaders in Charlotte.
If Charlotte marketers haven’t figured this out already, they will soon: Simply adding beer to an event won’t make it a hit among young people.
Smart young consumers in 2018 will easily see through the attempts at beerwashing.
You’ve got to focus on the substance. View young professionals as people, and not just a demographic easily placated by alcohol.
Perhaps the way to make your mark at this point is to NOT offer beer during your activity.
Tell people that it’s OK for people to meet for a run or to do yoga or to discuss religion or listen to music or linger over flowers without chugging $6 pints while doing it.
Now that’s edgy.