I know, I know… Maybe the “scrappy young founders that started it all in a garage” story is a little played out.
My story today follows this script.
But trust me, this one REALLY works.
Like, “became a $2B brand in a little over a decade” works.
Let’s dive in.
Today in 10 minutes or less, you’ll learn:
✔️ Contrarian framework: What are you going to do about it?
✔️ The story of BrewDog
✔️ Weird ways to grow a billion-dollar brand
✔️ 5 lessons from two 9-figure beer fanatics
CONTRARIAN FRAMEWORK: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
Ah, complaining. It’s one of our favorite pastimes as humans.
The idea of openly b*tching about anything and everything with no plan for a solution? Some people live for that stuff. I don’t.
Getting things off your chest feels great. But at the end of every complaint comes the moment of truth. That split-second when you hear this question at the back of your head…
What are you going to do about it?
Most people never answer this question, which is why their complaints never amount to anything more than pointless griping. Let’s take salaries, for example.
So the next time you’re getting things off your chest, listen for that voice—and answer it.
Life’s more fun as a doer than a talker. Believe me, I’ve met both.
I met one of my new favorite doers earlier this year. He asked me to fly to London to invest combined millions into five British companies where startup cash is tight and government regulations are heavy.
Today, I’d like to tell you his story…
THE STORY OF BREWDOG
BrewDog. A craft beer company that started out in a rundown shed.
It began in 2007 when two Scottish pals, James and Martin, decided they’d had enough of the tasteless legacy beer brands dominating the UK market.
But instead of just talking about the problem, guess what they did?
They rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
They took out a loan, bought some brewing vessels, and began brewing by hand. Whatever few bottles they squeezed out of their makeshift assembly line were sold out of the back of their van at local markets.
Not much, but it was a start.
Fast forward 16 years, and BrewDog is a force to reckon with in the global craft beer scene. How does a biz go from a couple of 24-year-olds making alcohol in their mum’s garage to a $1.95B company?
Well, lock your doors and draw your curtains… You’re about to get their secrets.
WEIRD WAYS TO GROW A BILLION-DOLLAR BRAND
STEP #1: MAKE ADS THAT PISS PEOPLE OFF
We’ve become too okay with safe.
We say safe things, so we’re not held accountable. We keep safe jobs, so we never have to take risks. We do safe marketing, so we make the shareholders happy.
Safe is great sometimes. The problem is – it morphs into monotonous. Vanilla. Conforming.
These days, ads are so guilty of this. Marketing practices are interpreted as hard rules. Regulatory bodies have countless hoops you have to jump through. Suits behind the scenes call the shots. Twitter mobs wait in the wings to crucify your brand for being “offensive.”
But James and Martin said F-that to the rulebooks, the hoops, the suits, and the mobs.
They knew they were in a cutthroat industry. The only way to stand out was to do campaigns no other beer company would.
So that’s exactly what BrewDog did:
From jabs at Putin to sneaking my favorite four-letter word on billboards, BrewDog’s ads deviate from the norm.
In fact, James made sure these ads pissed people off. Because let’s face it, controversy is a $$$ printer.
STEP #2: STAND THE F*CK OUT
Most brands talk a big game about being innovative, but so few actually break the rules.
James said no to any PR that would make a legacy beer brand comfortable.
Here’s what I mean…
Would Heineken’s CEO project a pic of their blurred-out junk onto the House of Parliament?
Would Budweiser rain taxidermied cats stuffed with beer from the sky?
Would RedBull drive a branded tank through the streets of London?
Ok, maybe Red Bull would do that last one. But the fact is, they haven’t yet.
Guess who has?
Many biz owners fall into the trap of, “If you build it, they will come.”
They fine-tune their product, set up shop, and then go stand in the corner of an overcrowded market, thinking the $ will roll right in.
But business doesn’t work that way.
Having a good product isn’t enough to reach success. Sometimes, you have to make some noise, break some rules, stop conforming. After all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat (…too soon?).
STEP #3: RUN A TIGHT SHIP
It’s easy to forget that running a beer company involves more than just brewing beer.
From packaging to advertising, there are a dozen other processes that go into selling a can besides producing the beer itself.
When you’re a small biz operating out of a garage, there’s no harm in outsourcing some of these processes. But once you become a global brand, you’ve got to bring it all in-house.
With 5 breweries across 4 countries, BrewDog has its manufacturing process down to a T… It’s a lot harder for contractors to screw up your brand if you control everything.
But here’s the best part.
For most brands, this influence ends when the product hits the shelf. But with BrewDog, it continues into when and how you drink.
James and Martin wanted their beer to be consumed in only the best atmosphere, so they opened the first BrewDog bar in 2010.
This allowed them to curate the setting in which their beer is drunk, giving them as much control as possible over customer experience.
BrewDog now owns 117 bars in 10 countries.
5 LESSONS FROM TWO 9-FIGURE BEER FANATICS
LESSON #1: SCRAPE OFF THE BARNACLES
When talking with James, I learned he was a crab fisherman for 7 years in the dangerous waters outside of Scotland.
He saw a friend lose an arm. He had to cut a propeller free underwater with no wetsuit, knife held in his teeth. He saw waves the size of buildings pummel his ship as a captain.
He’s seen some sh*t.
There’s some magic in that.
When you can die at work I suppose it makes you realize most of life ain’t that damn hard.
He asked me, “Did you know that boats have to be taken out of the water entirely at least once a year and have all the barnacles chiseled off? If they don’t, the boat will have too much drag and can’t perform.”
Cool? Noted, James.
He chuckled. “Well, most companies are like boats. Barnacle-encrusted, never-cleaned behemoths lugging extra weight. They bolt on more and more people, processes, tasks, to-do’s until they’re drowning in hairy, useless things weighing them down.”
He’s right. So once a year at his company, BrewDog, they analyze everything.
Does it still serve us? Or is it a little crustacean along for a ride?
Hard things, lead to easy…
LESSON #2: REMOVE THE STONES
I asked James the best piece of advice he was ever given.
“It came from Scotland’s first billionaire, Sir Tom Hunter,” he said.
“One day, I was struggling to figure out if I should keep an underperforming manager for another couple months until I could fill his role. Sir Hunter looked at me and said,
“’If you were running a marathon, James, would you wait ’til the 22nd mile to take out a stone in your shoe?’”
Oof. Of course not.
So now, at BrewDog, they say, “You can’t go fast with stones in your shoes.” When you feel them, get rid of them.
It’s the advice that makes too much damn sense that we often ignore, but shouldn’t.
LESSON #3: DON’T SKIMP ON PRODUCT
Millions of people associate beer with “cheap stuff.” It’s the 24-pack at the house party, a tailgating staple, and the broke college student drink of choice.
But you should know that BrewDog makes some of the most expensive beer in the world.
For something as un-fancy as beer, wouldn’t it make sense to produce something so cheap everyone can afford it? Including the broke college kids?
More customers = more cha-ching …Right?
Well, not for James and Martin in craft beer.
You see, one bottle of BrewDog requires 2x more malted barley and 40x more hops than your run-of-the-mill beer. That doesn’t come cheap – and guess who doesn’t like that?
But instead of skimping on production and slashing prices, BrewDog’s founders refuse to bow to pressure. Want to know why?
Because they know that no matter the industry, it’s not the cheap customers you want… It’s those that know and appreciate your value.
LESSON #4: USE OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY
In 2009, the BrewDog founders needed more capital to scale. So they did the first thing any of us would.
They applied for a bank loan. Guess what? They got rejected.
But instead of licking boots hoping to convince a bunch of suits that they were onto something, they turned to the people who already believed in their brand…
For the first time in 2009, James launched the Equity for Punks crowdfunding campaign. The idea was to turn BrewDog lovers into investors—or “fanvestors” as he calls them.
This was genius for two reasons:
- BrewDog lovers get paid for their loyalty. If you had bought 1 share of BrewDog equity at £95 back in 2013, you’d be up £37,107 today. That’s enough beer money for half a lifetime.
- James raises capital with less resistance than he would elsewhere. Who, besides diehard fans, would fork over £1M in 24 hours? Certainly not any VC I know.
It’s like I always say… Deals become less risky when you do them with other people’s money.
James understands this. That’s why he crowdfunds every year… Even as a $1.95B brand in 2023.
You may not have an army of beer fans throwing money at you but believe me…there’s no shortage of ways to use other people’s $$$ to fund your deals.
Lesson #5: Be weird
BrewDog knew it had a great product. But being good alone isn’t enough to excel in a $117B industry like craft beer.
James knew he had to do weird sh*t to stand out. He had to live and breathe controversy.
In business, no one pays attention to the well-behaved kid who sits quietly in the corner and does as they are told.
Sometimes, it pays to throw out the rule book. To challenge the status quo. To be contrarian.
I want you to be one of the few who do not the many who talk.
🧲 How to get strangers to want to buy your stuff: My good bud Alex Hormozi wrote another book! Don’t miss the launch here.
🎫 When productivity-based incentives go terribly wrong… 26,000+ times
😯 Breaking news: People are happier when they’re self-employed
🛻 I think we need an official vote. Cybertruck. Really cool or really cringe?
Ready to become a Contrarian?
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Disclaimer – This is the “Be an adult” section. Everything mentioned above isn’t advice, just a recount of what I did. That said: This article is presented for informational purposes only. The opinions stated here are not intended to recommend any investment or provide tax advice. Neither are they an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any current or future investment vehicle managed or sponsored by Codie Ventures, LLC or its affiliates. All material presented in this newsletter is not to be regarded as investment advice, but for general informational purposes only. Day trading and investing do involve risk, so caution must always be utilized. We cannot guarantee profits or freedom from loss. You assume the entire cost and risk. You are solely responsible for making your own investment decisions. We recommend consulting with a registered investment advisor, broker-dealer, and/or financial advisor. If you choose to invest with or without seeking advice from such an advisor or entity, then any consequences resulting from your investments are your sole responsibility. By reading/sharing this newsletter or consuming our content on our other channels, you are indicating your consent and agreement to our disclaimer.