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MBA Students Help Capital Brewery Revitalize Brand, Tap Into Rapidly Growing Craft Beer Market

By Wisconsin School of Business

August 27, 2015

MBA brand marketing class partners with one of Wisconsin’s oldest craft breweries with two students landing job offers

An iconic brand. A rapidly changing marketplace. And a group of MBA students ready to apply what they were learning in a classroom to a real-world situation.

Wisconsin School of Business MBA students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison started working with Capital Brewery as a case study in Professor Tom O’ Guinn’s brand management class, looking at the problem of how a known brand with an established local market share could position itself to capture growth in an expanding craft beer market. The company opened up its books, allowed students to speak to local distributors, and provided a rare look at the financial issues and manufacturing challenges facing Capital Brewery. The result was a series of marketing strategies that are now in the process of being implemented by Capital Brewery, with the company hiring two of the Wisconsin MBA students to assist with various aspects of the rebranding and expansion effort.

“This project gave Wisconsin MBA students a chance to see the economic impact of their ideas and to help one of the oldest craft breweries in the state compete in a rapidly changing market,” says O’Guinn, professor of marketing at the Wisconsin School of Business. “As a result of this partnership, the MBA students were able to tackle a real-world problem and get a better understanding of the challenges business leaders face on a regular basis.”

“A few years ago, craft beers were only four or five percent of the market, and we’re now seeing a wave of growth that started on the West coast and is moving our way, with that market going to 25 to 30 percent,” says Scott Wiener, president of Capital Brewery. “We needed to capture that growth opportunity.”

Richard King, a shareholder and director at Capital Brewery adds, “The students came up with important, relevant insights that will allow us to expand our presence in a growing craft beer market while remaining true to our brand.”

O’Guinn’s class broke into eight groups, each tackling a different aspect of the marketing challenge facing Capital Brewery. Based on discussions with Wiener and King about their business plan and model, students developed detailed recommendations around such issues as:

  • expanding distribution in key regional target markets;
  • event marketing strategy for Capital Brewery’s Middleton facility;
  • elevating Capital Brewery’s flagship Wisconsin Amber;
  • identifying the Capital Brewery consumer and best marketing approaches; and
  • examining the untapped potential for craft soda.

Wiener and King said the proposals identified several areas of opportunity for Capital Brewery, all supported with data and analysis that gave company leaders the confidence to transform these ideas into action. The company was impressed with the caliber of the students, and the experiential learning experience culminated with two job offers. Wisconsin MBA student Tim Annis was hired as a consultant to help implement expanded distribution strategies and efforts to target the millennial market, and Daniel Antivilo was brought on to make improvements to the company’s website to support expanded social media efforts.

“It’s one thing to have a gut feeling, as many of us did, about how to proceed in a time when our industry is changing,” says King. “But it is so valuable to be able to partner with the Wisconsin School of Business and work with these MBA students, who have great professional experience and a tremendous understanding of the latest marketing trends and tools. It’s a collaboration that will allow us to take advantage of a unique opportunity to grow our business and expand our brand.”