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As an instrumental contributor to BrewDog’s growth, David McDowall COO BrewDog, joins us to discuss what it’s like leading the day-to-day operations and strategic growth of a world class brand.
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When the pandemic hit, craft beer manufacturer BrewDog had to pivot its business quickly in response. What evolved were innovations that have helped build an even more passionate army of BrewDog fans.
Speaking in an interview as part of Linn Academy 2020, David McDowall, chief operating officer at BrewDog, said the company realised that the existing plan and strategy were no longer relevant for the next few months. “We had to rapidly simplify the plan,” said McDowall. “I remember writing on a board two strategic points -
1) Ensure the business survives and 2) protect as many livelihoods as possible.”
Pivoting quickly to new initiatives helped BrewDog focus on its future.
This fast response was vital, he said. “Our biggest success through this was our ability to get out of panic mode really quickly.” Within a couple of days BrewDog was focussing on its new future.
New initiatives included the transformation of its 105 BrewDog locations, only five of which had been able to stay open, into drive-through locations where customers could order and collect food and beer from the door.
BrewDog also fast-tracked the launch of BrewDog Now, an app allowing customers to order beer on tap to be sent to their house within 45 minutes. “We found a way to get our beer and some of our favourite breweries around the world into customer’s hands really quickly even though they couldn’t leave the house.”
Delighting the customer helped boost the direct-to-consumer experience.
Online the company ramped up its direct to consumer platform and its ecommerce business is now around 12 times the size it was six months ago. “We repurposed the platform and the spark of that was we wanted to create a way to deliver craft beer made easy, so we created different bundles that you could click on and get delivered within 48 hours,” he said.
As it sought to overcome the logistical challenges of delivery McDowall said the company focused on a number of surprise elements to keep customers engaged, the majority of whom have since become repeat customers.
After repurposing its distillery to produce hand sanitiser, BrewDog also donated half a million bottles to local care homes, NHS and key workers. “It galvanised the team behind a purpose bigger than just the future success of the business,” said McDowall. “Also, consumers connected with us because we were doing things that had a purpose at its core.”
But BrewDog has had some fun too. Its Barnard Castle Eye Test IPA was the result of the company’s most engaged social post ever. Its specially produced hazy IPA sold half a million cans within its first three days of presale. “It all came from a comment about a current social issue and the team’s ability to turn it into an opportunity. It was a tiny tweet that turned into our most successful beer of the year.”
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