Case Study: A Refreshing Taste of Hilltop Lager

When Four String Brewing Co. departed from the market, we--and many other beer enthusiasts across the city--were devastated. A longtime friend and client, some of our favorite pieces that we'd worked on were for Four String.

It's been a year since Hilltop Heritage Lager and Hilltop Light, two of the brewery's most popular brands, have made an astounding comeback. After producing new content for Hilltop's summer campaigns, we sat down with Hilltop Brewing Founder Dan Cochran to talk about the beer's refresh, legacy brands, new content, and the Coleman cooler promotion!

Challenged with the current COVID-19 precautions and limitations, we assembled a small crew and scripted a half-day backyard shoot to highlight new imagery with exciting motion graphics and archived footage. The combination of new and existing footage to produce innovative and compelling pieces is just one of the ways Vital Companies can assist businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about what we can offer on our COVID-19 page and check out our Virtual Events services.

The two goals for the new videos were to exemplify Hilltop's superiority as a refreshing summer lager and to promote their current Coleman cooler contest. One can be viewed above, and the piece for the cooler promotion is below!

"Working with [Vital] in the past, we had plenty of older content that we did for several older projects, and that gave us an opportunity to kind of dip into that [old content] and mix it in with the new footage that we shot," said Hilltop Brewing Founder Dan Cochran. "And just like a beer brand, […], there’s a little bit of magic and a little bit of luck to every shoot. Between Vital putting together a half-day outdoor shoot and some of our old footage, we were able to put together a new promotion […] to push in a time when it’s kind of hard to have the resources to do that.”

Vital: “You have so much experience with branding beer. What are the most important factors that go into creating a successful brand?”

Dan: “Like anything else, it’s a case of not truly knowing what’s gonna grab and what’s not. The short and honest answer: the more honest the brand is, and the more love you have for the brand, the better it will be and the better your company will be at verbalizing and communicating your brand to the customers. [...] I think if you can get yourself into the brand in the right way, just being yourself in that brand can definitely help. With that said, there’s still a big question mark. You just never know, especially in the craft beer market. You can have the best idea, but if it’s not executed or visible enough, it won’t happen. [...] You gotta find something that stands out, and that was a big goal from the conception with Hilltop.”

Vital: “When you did the [Hilltop] brand refresh, how did you decide which attributes of the brand would stay and which would go? Which new things would be implemented?”

Dan: “It was more than tweaks to the Hilltop brand—which were super minimal—it was more which brand or brands do we want to pull out of the Four String portfolio. Which ones do we feel are really resonating with the beer drinkers and the customers? Instantly, I knew that was gonna be Hilltop because when we first released Hilltop back in 2017, it just took off. I think that was a combination of the right beer style, which at the time nobody was doing. Nobody was putting light American lager in a craft can. [...] I said, 'I want a can that looks like a legacy brand'. It’s us and it’s honest. [With Hilltop,] we took what I thought was the spirit of Four String Brewing Co. and put it into that brand and blended that with a legacy-looking American lager brand. It needed to look old, American, and—for my benefit—a little dangerous.”

Vital: “How would you say Hilltop competes with popular American lagers like PBR? What makes Hilltop the better choice?”

Dan: “It’s all about the flavor and the ingredients. Major American lagers use corn or rice—PBR uses corn as an adjunct—and it’s roughly half of that malt [corn and malted barley]. Ours is over 90% malted barley, and that’s what makes it a little bit more expensive. The overall quality and flavor of the beer and the experience of the beer itself is what sets it apart. [,,,] We realized that the Americana that you get from PBR can also be part of the Hilltop brand, and people are in tune to that and they like it.”

Vital: “How do younger crowds factor into marketing a legacy brand like Hilltop?”

Dan: “The big difference in marketing between the Millennials and let’s say the Gen Xers with this brand has just been in our approach on social media. Focusing more on Instagram for the younger demographic and doing what we do on Facebook for the older demographic. The honesty and legitimacy of the brand itself—I think that’s what both of those groups are grabbing onto."

Vital: “With the pandemic, do you think the dependable aspect of the brand is what is helping with Hilltop’s sales?”

Dan: “I think we all reach for comfort in these times. I think that for our drinkers, being able to go get 6 packs of our tall boys and put ‘em in your fridge is a good thing. Especially now that you can’t go to bars. I think that part of what has helped us is our price point [$8.99 for 16oz 6 packs]. The value packs and value brands have really been skyrocketing.”

Vital: “Can you elaborate a little about how you handled the pivot from bars to retail due to the pandemic?”

Dan: “From the sales standpoint, it was pretty direct. It was […], 'I’m gonna be in the grocery store, and I’m gonna be running programs at carryouts, because that’s where we can make up the sales'. That’s where the idea for this cooler promotion came from. ‘What is something we can market across our platforms, something we can display at chain grocery, something we can help boost the volume of sales with those displays?' We’re getting more brand recognition from the cooler promotion. They’re really nice steel Coleman coolers. I think anyone who gets one […], they’re gonna be a Hilltop drinker—or their friend is—for a long time.”

To enter the Hilltop Coleman cooler contest, head on over to the Hilltop Facebook page or Hilltop's Instagram. Share your favorite Hilltop photo with the hashtag #HilltopSummer for your chance to win one of 20 Hilltop Coleman coolers!

Find where to buy Hilltop near to you get the most out of your summer.