Renée Newman shared the Give a Craft™ Beer Trail passport backstory

The Give a Craftâ„¢ beer trail was launched in 2015 to attract craft beer lovers to the Kalamazoo region. The trail features destinations at each of 12 craft breweries located throughout the county. Conceived as a fun way to experience Kalamazoo’s beer scene, it’s been hugely successful. Kalamazooans often find themselves raising beer glasses alongside visitors from throughout the Midwest and across the country. And the passports ” which were originally required for trade-in in exchange for swag ” have become a treasured souvenir.

But the trail isn’t unique to Kalamazoo or to even craft beer. In fact, the idea came from similar trails in other industries. Bourbon, to be exact.

This was some of the intel ” and the first of several best practices ” gleaned from Renée Newman, Discover Kalamazoo’s Vice President of Marketing and Communications, who shared the Give a Craftâ„¢ Beer Trail passport backstory with InterCom members and guests at the February 2nd Friday Speakers Series event.  As a case study in successful marketing initiatives, attendees learned best practices from Newman’s experience. Following are a few of those insights.

  1. A great idea doesn’t have to be new, and it can come from anywhere

A connoisseur of America’s fine bourbons, Newman was a traveler on the Bourbon Trail when the kernel of an idea for a similar experience in Kalamazoo began to form for her.  At the time, the Kalamazoo region’s craft beer culture was still developing. She sat on the idea for a while, informally gathering background. As the number of craft breweries in Kalamazoo began to grow, so did the possibility of a successful beer trail.

  1. Do the research and adapt it to your local market/organization’s needs

The beer trail had the potential to be a hallmark visitor experience for our region, but Newman and the Discover Kalamazoo team wanted to make sure it was thoroughly planned and well executed. That meant research. Back to the Bourbon Trail. And on to other beer trails in Boulder, Colorado, and Bend, Oregon.  What Newman learned was that each community tailored their trail with unique features that fit local culture. Like any great promotional effort, the success of Kalamazoo’s trail required a keen understanding of the target audience.

  1. Make it easy for those on the front line to participate

Increasing local traffic around the craft beer culture would naturally drive exposure for brewers. They should want to be a part of the process, right? The business boost was welcome, but most of the local brewers are small start-ups with an intense focus on product quality first and foremost. Participation in the trail program had to be easy and without cost to the brewers.

  1. Continuously innovate and adjust based on feedback

Like any good marketer, Newman and her team have baked continuous feedback into the Give a Craftâ„¢ beer trail. That previously mentioned swag, for example, can only be had when you’ve turned in a quick, light-hearted survey ” and only after you’ve completed the trail. In its original design, participants were asked to hand over their passports. But it was soon discovered that the passport itself was a much-desired keepsake.

Maybe one of the most important lessons was: When you tap your creativity around the right project, a rising tide can lift everyone’s boat. And stein.