Lagunitas: Searching For Connection

The Challenge

Lagunitas was the laidback, quirky and lovable young brother of the beer industry. A star in the market for craft beers, this California-based company wanted to accelerate growth and expand to new locations across the United States.

But part of Lagunitas’ charm came from its West Coast crunchy culture – something uniquely Californian – and its image as the striving underdog in a fiercely competitive industry.

How could Lagunitas establish a leading position nationally, without compromising its authenticity?

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Our Approach

To make Lagunitas’ culture scalable and maintain its integrity, we had to capture its hazy magic in a refined brand essence.

Our Experience Driven © Design research yields the richest insights when we utilize the most engaged consumers. For Lagunitas, this meant that we needed to gather the most passionate beer drinkers.

Enter the Adorers

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Our interviewees were serious about beer in general and Lagunitas in particular (they drank Lagunitas IPA at least once a week and beer more than thirty times a month).

Adorers taught us that they most valued the connections to the people who give their life meaning. They were at their happiest when they felt like they could be themselves around those they loved.

As we mined this insight, we learned that adorers loved Lagunitas because they felt a similar sense of welcome. Lagunitas and its tribe of beer drinkers operated as an open community; there were no barriers to entry and no sense of pretense.

In short, Lagunitas accepted adorers for who they were, and adorers reciprocated that warmth in the form of deep consumer loyalty.

Applying Acceptance at All Consumer Touchpoints

What did “a sense of welcome” look like when it came to Lagunitas?

For adorers, the sense of welcome came from Lagunitas in three distinct ways:

1. Beer – Lagunitas started from founder Tony Magee's home brews and it had never lost that magical personal touch. And Lagunitas was creative, offering unexpected and adventurous new products that communicated a sense of individuality that separated it from the pack.

2. Packaging - Lagunitas' package copy and its names were inviting. They were funny, loud and memorable; labels like "Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale" reminded adorers that Lagunitas wasn't a company that took itself too seriously.

3. Pricing - Low prices for such great beer made Lagunitas accessible. Adorers felt like Lagunitas was built on a foundation of "sharing" beer, not corporate greed. 

Applications

As a direct result of our research, Lagunitas was able to:

1.    Focus marketing resources on the most effective and efficient ways to establish the brand nationally and reach the consumer on a wider scale.

2.    Orient new employees, bartenders, owners, and distributors on a national basis, creating a cohesive company vision.

3.    Shape the stories of new locations, which in turn would reinforce and enhance the Lagunitas brand on a much larger scale. 

Results

Lagunitas opened a new location in Chicago in 2014, and plans for a third are underway. By 2017, Lagunitas had become the third best selling craft beer in the US and was bought by Heineken.