How Ommegang & HBO Co-Created: An Interview with Bill Wetmore

Co-Creation Ommegang and HBO Game of Thrones

How do you aggressively broaden consumer reach without appearing to ‘sell-out’ to your early adopters?

You see it all the time in the entertainment business – the band you discovered gets big and is accused of selling out. Or the scene-stealing character actor signs on for a summer blockbuster and takes a beating in social media. Everybody is watching the quirky little show on an unknown channel about a 1960’s ad agency – but you were the first in your group to fall in love with it.

It happens the same way for brands – especially beer brands. And maybe most especially, craft beer brands. As marketeers we are trying desperately to reach the early adopters and trend influencers. Trying to hook the evangelists who will spread the word for us. And those who discover and become ‘in the know’ – well, they take a tremendous amount of pride in knowing what others do not and being the introductory vehicle to something they deem cool, special and worthy of their endorsement.

But when ‘little’ becomes ‘big’ or ‘authentic’ becomes ‘shallow’ and even when ‘unknown’ becomes ‘known’ an awkward tension can set in. Those early fans – the ones who worked hardest and longest to sing your praise and were so instrumental to your early success – they are the ones who can most quickly turn on you – as they feel a very personal sense of jilting or abandonment – and maybe worst of all that they might have been duped. ‘Maybe that brand doesn’t stand for what I think it does… or maybe it never did.’

So how then does Brewery Ommegang, an uber-niche, super-premium-plus specialty beer brewer from a quaint, idyllic and rural village of 1,800 people in Upstate New York partner with HBO the behemoth premier subscriber-based TV network in America on its signature show – which by the way is now item number 1 on everyone’s agenda each Monday morning at the water-cooler? This interview with Bill Wetmore explains it all:

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Julie Anixter is the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She also serves as the Executive in Residence for the Disruptor Foundation. The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on future innovators. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Education, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference. You can follow her @julieanixter

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