CMOs To Watch: Mountain Culture’s Out-Of-This-World Bradley Firth

CMOs To Watch: Mountain Culture’s Out-Of-This-World Bradley Firth

Welcome to ‘CMOs To Watch,’ the first in a new series from B&T, where once a month, we will look beyond the biggest marketing bosses in Australia of the world to focus on emerging leaders and under-the-radar brands. For this first edition, we’re looking at Bradley Firth, chief marketing officer at Mountain Culture Brewery.

Firth’s CV makes for some very impressive reading, with huge jobs both client and agency side. Prior to joining the Katoomba-born brewery, Firth served as the VP, global brand strategy and creative at Koala. Before that, he spent six years with Nike in the Netherlands and Portland, rising to become the sportswear company’s global brand strategy and creative director.

“Honestly, I thought I had the best job in the world at Nike,” he told B&T.

“I dreamed of selling Nike shoes, making Nike ads and leading Nike marketing. But I think this job at Mountain Culture is better.”

Agency side, Firth has worked for The Monkeys and Droga5, as well as Fallon London. So how did he end up in Katoomba? While he’s friends with DJ and Harriet McCready, the brewery’s founders, Firth said he sees Mountain Culture as “one of the most exciting brands in the country” and that it changed his perception of what a beer could taste like and how it could be marketed.

“Mountain Culture made beer something to be experienced and connected over. Suddenly, instead of opening a bottle of wine, it became normal for my wife and I to crack open a can. It’s really cool to see those products connect in the same way with so many folks. Winning Gabs Hottest 100 two years in a row is a testament to that,” he said.

The Gabs Hottest 100 is an annual, public-chosen ranking of all the craft beers in Australia. Mountain Culture’s Status Quo Pale Ale has won it two years on the trot. However, he also said that “creativity and innovation” are at the heart of the business – things that would appeal to a former Nike marketer.

“That’s rare. And while it’s important to someone like me in marketing, that innovative and creative spirit extends across all the departments here. There’s no better testament to that than our ‘limited’ program of beer, which releases new beers every week. We’re pushing new, experimental ingredients and techniques and doing the coolest collaborations in the industry while treating cans like works of art,” he added.

While Mountain Culture’s limited-run beers are reflective of its position as a bold, confident brand in the industry, with tastefully different artwork adorning the cans and collaborations with brands including mountain biking firm DHaRCO, its “Core” range of beers is really where the brand shines. It brews around four million litres per year at the moment, with the capacity to produce between three and four times more. That means that its Katoomba brewpub and production facility at Emu Plains are churning out just over seven million pints per annum. It’s a serious business with serious expansion plans.

“Until now, the investment in the business has been in product, systems and processes. That’s why we’re making such great beer – we’ve prioritised that. Now, we’re starting to invest more in marketing. We talk a lot about ROI and there is science behind the fun,” said Firth.

“We’re looking at it across multiple channels, it’s not just making videos and hoping for the best. At Mountain Culture I am looking to meld the brand focus and customer obsession of Nike with the disruptive spirit and digital nous of Koala. We were the first brewery to have a loyalty program for example.”

The company’s recent efforts saw it try to launch a new beer, Aussie Pale Lager (or APL for short), into space. After consulting with NASA scientists, that was deemed a bit of a stretch but still produced a very fun piece of social marketing.

“Creating engaging content at speed is our strength. For an idea we concepted and filmed in-house in three weeks as we were literally figuring out how to launch a rocket no less, we were able to reach hundreds of thousands of craft beer drinkers and sold out of our APL online stock within a week, something we rectified immediately of course!”

“We’re trying to orchestrate brand fame at the core of it but also ensure we have great distribution so if you’ve heard about us, you can find us. After trying us, eight out of 10 people will buy us again in the next three months, that’s how good the product is.”

Firth explained that the firm was focused on growing the mental availability of its products through digital media and organic share of voice.

“But we’re definitely looking at ROI on our activities because we can’t afford to spend on every channel. We can’t afford to compete with the big brands or even the craft beer brands that have been bought by the big boys,” said Firth.

“This year is about testing and learning on different channels and activities so that we can really double-down on the ones that are working. We are active on TikTok, we are building an amazing pool of brand fans and influencers, we are partnering with like-minded brands and events, and we even made our first foray into OOH last month with a subtle dig at one of our bigger competitors.”

One of Mountain Culture’s main channels and primary consumer touchpoints, however, is not Instagram, Google or even through retailers, it’s that brewpub in Katoomba. Describing it as the brewery’s “brand home,” Firth said that when people engage with the brand at its venues, they become its greatest ambassadors.

“As we grow, it’s really important that we keep the personal and local nature of the brand, not just alive, but thriving,” he added.

And there’s plenty more on that front to come, he promised.

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