Saturday, June 20, 2009

Diaspora Marketing

Good read in the Wall Street Journal about the Iron City brewing operations moving from Pittsburgh to Latrobe, PA:

In an effort to offset some of the loss of the local base, Mr. Hickman will spend $1.5 million on marketing, including targeting "Pittsburgh nation," people who moved out of the city in recent decades, when its manufacturing base weakened, and settled in places like New York, Tampa, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C. "What we lose here in Pittsburgh we're going to be picking up two and three times that in these outer markets," he said. ...

... The analysts say Iron City is a rare survivor. But that is little comfort to Rich Malter, a 53-year-old mechanic at the Pittsburgh plant whose father and grandfather were bottlers there before him. Mr. Malter said he has been drinking Iron City since he was 15, but stopped when he found out the Pittsburgh plant would close. "Two of my friends and my brother-in-law almost fainted when they saw me with a can of Miller in my hand," Mr. Malter said.

To date, the brewery has done a lousy job of marketing itself to Pittsburgh Nation. For more than a few years, the beer of choice in a Steelers bar was Rolling Rock. I remember seeing the Rolling Rock booth decked out in the Black and Gold at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Why wasn't Iron City doing that? I think Pittsburgh Brewing is in for a shock. My guess is that the Burgh Diaspora will react similarly to Mr. Malter.

On the whole, Pittsburgh itself has done a lousy job of tapping into the loyalties of Pittsburgh Nation. The Diaspora is an under-appreciated asset. Part of the problem is that the people who stayed during the tough times are mad at the people who left in search of better opportunities. The anger about Iron City moving to Latrobe also applies to out-migrants who are deemed to have quit on Pittsburgh.

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