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“[a] creative powerhouse…Mike came highly recommended and he did not
disappoint us with his knowledge, insight, and valuable perspectives.”
Ryan Mayrand, Marketing Manager, JW Speaker Engineered Lighting Solutions
“We couldn’t be happier with our experience…partnering with Tropos was the
difference between a merely good project outcome and an excellent one.”
Ryan McConnell, Head of the U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR, The Futures Company
“…the go-to guy for a deeper understanding of the consumer landscape and applying it to brand strategy… a rare find in the world of consulting.” Terry Haley, Vice President of Marketing, World of Beer Franchising
"Mike has a great feel for the consumer... He helped us refine and improve our brand concept and strategy. Really a useful partner with results that are practical..." Hugh Sisson, CEO, Heavy Seas Beer
We're as tired of the stereotypes and sound bites as you are. It’s not about social media or digital marketing. Those are table stakes. It’s not about holding a mirror up to their lifestyles. That’s just uninspired marketing. The path to brand affinity among Millennials (or Xers or Boomers) starts with understanding the intangibles that motivate them to buy and then seamlessly integrating these into your brand positioning.

We offer everything from a one hour presentation summarizing our existing insights to a custom study culminating in an evolution of your brand strategy. You’ll see each generation as they see themselves - and understand them better than they understand themselves!
A lot of research, intentionally or not, ends up telling you what your customers think your brand should be. We focus on learning about your customers as people - the tangibles and intangibles that motivate them, how your product fits into their day-to-day realities, and the social, economic, and cultural perspectives that frame their decisions.

Of course, people are often unable to articulate why they do what they do. We're experts at using depth interviews and ethnographies to listen between the lines and interpret behavior in context. It's a key step in how we align what your brand already stands for with what motivates your customers.
Words are easily ignored, or worse, they press the b.s. button. But actions, attitude, and imagery resonate deeply, and a well-chosen, clearly articulated brand personality is the key. It's the window into the brand story, and the organizing principle that makes the brand a whole, not just a collection of parts.

By identifying the latent themes in your brand story and better defining your brand personality we create a framework for your new positioning strategy - one that will ensure consistent non-verbal communication even as it inspires new marketing and promotion ideas.
Tropos builds stronger brands through better insights into how strategic marketing and communication connect brand stories to human motivations. We have experience in categories ranging from alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to vehicle lights, from portable generators to party supplies. We have particular expertise in strategic consulting for craft beer brands. Our services include:
  • Developing or evolving brand positioning, portfolio, and communication strategies to inspire both creativity and action
  • Using non-traditional (and traditional) research to learn what really matters to your customers
  • Assessing your market position, brand assets, and current marketing programs to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  • Building on our proprietary insights into Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers to identify implications and opportunities for your brand
Businesses that have benefited from our expertise and insights


Tropos is Greek for “Turn” – we turn your brand’s best facets forward to catch the light

about us
We believe in the wisdom of brands
"Mike has a great feel for the consumer and can certainly help in determining if your brand message is properly aligned with your target audience. He helped us refine and improve our brand concept and strategy. Really a useful partner with results that are practical."
- Hugh Sisson, CEO, Heavy Seas Beer

"Mike is a very bright and accomplished marketer. We used him on a research project and learned a lot from his insights. It's great to see experienced marketers like Mike sharing their knowledge with craft brewers."
- Joe Whitney, Director of Sales and Marketing, Sierra Nevada Brewing

"We couldn't be happier with our experience working with Tropos for our recent exploration of the changing attitudes, lifestyles and values of the American male consumer... Working with Tropos was the difference between a merely 'good' project outcome and an excellent one."
- Ryan McConnell, Vice-President and Head of the U.S. Yankelovich MONITOR, The Futures Company

"Mike never disappoints. His work for our three retail brands was both insightful and quickly actionable. A rare talent I’m lucky to know and have the chance with whom to work."
- Gina Shaffer, Vice President of Marketing, BuySeasons

"The go-to guy for a deeper understanding of the consumer landscape and applying it to positioning and strategy. What makes Mike a rare find is his innate ability to quickly understand your unique challenges and apply transformative insights. Few can articulate insights, positioning, and strategies in such a clear, impactful manner."
- Terry Haley, Vice President of Marketing, World of Beer Franchising, Inc.

"Mike helped us understand consumers' 'true' motivation behind a new product and develop a strategy around it. We'd never been able to find the niche we could hone in on with any more typical study. He'll be my go-to guy going forward."
- Vivek Rajbahak, Direct of Business Insights, Pabst Brewing Company

"[A] creative powerhouse... I was particularly impressed with Mike's ability to align our internal strategy and existing brand equity with the insights gleaned from his interviews with internal and external stakeholders."
- Ryan Mayrand, Marketing Manager, JW Speaker Engineered Lighting Solutions Have some more on the house... Collapse... "One of Mike’s great strengths is his ability to look at brands through the lens of wider culture and cultural shifts. He understands that a brand’s positioning needs to evolve to take those cultural shifts into account and he’s adept at identifying the insights that will appropriately evolve and shape that positioning."
- Christopher Andrews, EVP, Global Account Director, Leo Burnett

"Mike has made valuable contributions in many areas including market structure, competitive position and a frank analysis of our brand offerings. The findings are actionable and have proven successful."
- Jeff Carefoote, Owner, Amsterdam Brewery (Toronto)

"It’s always a pleasure working with Mike. I consider him an expert on the craft beer landscape, both from the industry and the consumer perspective. Even after 30+ years in the beer business Mike has the ability to incorporate new information and ways of thinking into his work in a way that you wouldn’t expect."
- Joe Hartung, Brand Insights Manager, MillerCoors

"Mike uses his broad range of research skills and marketing experience to help distill information into meaningful insights that translates into a relevant and cogent communication strategy. He has a highly adaptive and collaborative approach that enables him to quickly integrate with my team and clients. He’s a pleasure to work with and valued advisor."
- Tony Besasie, President, Cannella Response Television LLC

"Mike consistently offered cogent insights and prudent direction on brand strategy, strategy that led to brand growth. And more, he was one of the best I have ever seen at evaluating creative and generating consensus in spite of disparate points of view."
- Gary Kash, Former President and Owner, Insights in Marketing

"Mike is a brand strategist of the highest order who has played a significant role in the success of many leading national brands. He’s an innovator in his craft, seamlessly combing insight from diverse sources. His expertise spans research platforms from ethnography to advanced analytics."
- Andrew Morse, former Director, Insight and Strategy, The Integer Group
After three decades in consumer insights and brand strategy on the client side, Mike Kallenberger learned what works and what doesn’t work about traditional approaches to brand building. At Tropos, he puts that learning into action by helping clients identify the hidden power in their brand story and articulating it in ways that ensure it fits into their customers’ lives.

At Tropos Mike has helped CPG, retail, and B2B clients achieve bottom-line results in a wide variety of product categories. Currently a one-man shop, Tropos also works with a network of complementary consulting and creative partners on a case-by-case basis.

A frequent speaker at conferences, Mike has also taught Consumer Behavior at the University of Wisconsin.
Tropos is a frequent collaborator with:  The Futures Company

Because brewing and branding both seamlessly blend art and science.

We combine Big Beer know-how with small and independent values and perspectives
Mike Kallenberger has over 30 years of experience in the beer business. Breweries in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and Asia have benefited from his expertise and insight. In addition, Mike has been heavily involved in the craft beer community:
  • He’s spoken at the Craft Brewers Conference five times
  • He’s published twelve articles in New Brewer magazine
  • He’s a passionate fan of great beer, a frequent attendee at beer fests around the country, and a regular at his local Top 100 beer bar
Tropos is proud to be an allied trades member of:
There’s no better time than right now to develop truly strategic answers to key questions about your brand, your drinkers, and your future. Those who do will not only thrive as competition increases, they’ll get more bang for the buck from their investment in sales and marketing. We’ll build your strategy by creating a fresh understanding of the themes in your brand story and aligning it with our insights into your drinkers and what matters to them. 

Everything you say and do communicates something about your brand. Talk to us…
  • Before you think about changing your logo, label, or other visuals
  • Before you plan your next promotion, sponsorship, or event
  • Before you redesign your website or even remodel your taproom
you create it
we strategize it
it succeeds
We have published twelve articles in New Brewer, the magazine of the Brewers Association
Julia is a 23 year-old graduate student. Like many her age, she’s working hard to meet her goals in a pretty competitive environment. She has big plans, and big expectations, for her future. She’s not really the “work hard, play hard” type, but she does enjoy de-stressing on the weekends by hanging out with her friends and having a beer or two. When one of them has a party, they usually get a keg of inexpensive beer, but more often than not there are some craft beers in the fridge, too. Julia always visits the fridge before the keg, just to see what might be in there. “I find myself gravitating toward the other people who drink craft beer, too,” she says. “It just seems like they would be more interesting people.”
The Next Generation of Craft Beer Drinkers: Marketing to Adult Millennials
The New Brewer
Beer drinkers, and the brands that court them, have always struck me as a group with a particular appreciation for a good laugh. Music is also a big part of a beer lover’s world. So it’s no surprise that a lot of brewers have used humor and music in their marketing, often in a big way.

On the one extreme there’s Bud Light, a brand that’s built more than a decade’s worth of advertising equity on humor that’s sometimes brilliant, but always willfully sophomoric. Still, you don’t have to look much further than the way some brewers name their brands to get the sense that craft brewers’ sense of humor is a little different – often absurd and more than a little ironic. What mainstream brewer would have had the audacity to give a beer a name like Moose Drool or Hairy Eyeball, or to make an assertion like Arrogant Bastard’s “It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth?”
Using Music and Humor to Make People Thirsty
The New Brewer
In the summer of 2011 Milwaukee was one of several cities visited by a small but impossible-to-miss traveling carnival. The city’s Humboldt Park was temporary home to a collection of oddities that gave new meaning to the word “eclectic”: fire eaters, unclassifiable music acts, mechanical wonders, tents featuring food and beer, and every imaginable means of celebrating the bicycle (not to mention many never before imagined).

This was the annual visit by New Belgium’s Tour de Fat (which returned this past summer, this time at Milwaukee’s lakefront). The signature event of the day was the bicycle parade, in which the costumed festival-goers rode their own bikes through the streets wearing “some sort of mix of English tweed, steampunk, or just plain wacko,” as described by Colin, a 26-year-old regular Tour de Fat attendee.
Craft Brands at Play
The New Brewer
For a good laugh, visit the website stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. The site (and now the book of the same name), authored by comedian Christian Lander, is often funny and insightful, but like any humor it can miss the mark from time to time, and it has generated its share of negative feedback (some from people who just don’t get it, and some from people who do).

So what are some examples of the stuff Lander’s white people like? For one, organic food (“…when faced with eating food that has been processed and loaded with nitrates, sodium and saturated fat, or organic rat poison … they will take the rat poison.”). For another, sushi (“…it’s everything they want: foreign culture, expensive, healthy, and hated by the ‘uneducated.’”) And a third: Juno (“…white people love it when low budget movies do well, even though the $7 million budget is enough to feed thousands of villages in East Africa for a year.”)

Oh, yes, and another thing Lander’s white people like: microbreweries.
Crafting Diversity
The New Brewer
Sustainability is obviously on a lot of people’s minds these days, including brewers. But sustainability-related issues usually seem more relevant to us as good citizens or as brewers than as brand-builders (with certain noteworthy exceptions). Growing numbers of the public see value in sustainability, and brewers who share that value should consider getting the word out. Making the public aware of green efforts is not only good for the bottom line; it can serve the larger purpose of further strengthening the craft beer community.

Still, it can seem as though the public’s confusion about sustainability often grows even faster than their concern about it: What exactly does “sustainable” mean? Which behaviors enhance sustainability and which don’t? And who’s right when two entities play the “more sustainable than thou” game?
Can Your Brand be Green?
The New Brewer
It’s an experiment that’s familiar to social scientists and market researchers alike. It’s been performed many times, in many variations, though the results are always the same. The most famous of the these studies is probably the one published by Sheena S. Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark R. Lepper of Stanford University in 2000.

A table featuring free samples of a variety of exotic jams was set up at a grocery store. Sometimes, six different flavors of jam were offered for tasting (a “limited choice” display). At other times, there were twenty-four different flavors available (an “extensive choice” display). Not surprisingly, when there were more choices, more people stopped to taste at least one of the offerings. Of the shoppers who walked past the limited choice display, 40% stopped for a sample, compared to 60% who stopped at the extensive choice display.

But what happened next might surprise you. After sampling jams from the limited choice display, 30% of the table’s visitors wound up buying one of the jams. When a person sampled from among 24 jams, only 3% actually bought jam.
Freedom of Choice in Beer: Paradise or Paradox?
The New Brewer
Craft beer isn’t like mainstream beer.

Put aside for a moment the often emotionally charged task of defining the terms of that statement. It seems obvious, once we acknowledge there’s something called “craft beer,” that it’s different from whatever we it is we point to when we say “mainstream beer.”

But just how different is “different”?

Historically, there have been three significant types of alcoholic beverages in the world: distilled spirits, wine, and of course beer. But placed in the context of history, many would argue that it’s craft beer, not mainstream beer, that’s upholding beer’s traditional role in that pantheon.
The Fourth Glass
The New Brewer
At a speaking event in the recent past, I heard a craft brewer whom I greatly respect say “The big brewers are selling a lifestyle. Craft brewers are selling beer.”

In the audience, I bristled just a little, even though the comment was a variation on a theme that’s been repeated many times over the years. Sure, I understood the point, and I didn’t disagree with it per se. But I think there is also a fundamental misunderstanding underlying this premise – a misperception about the nature of television advertising (and the lifestyle it supposedly sells) that’s shared not only by many in the craft community, but by more than a few marketers at the big brewers as well, and even society at large.
The Long and Short of Brand Personality
The New Brewer
How is craft beer like a virus? The analogy may not be very flattering, but as we’ll see it can be very useful. Enthusiasm for craft beer spreads from person to person; when someone who has the craft beer “bug” meets someone who’s not “resistant,” there’s a reasonable (but far from certain) chance that the “virus” will be transmitted from the first person to the second person; and if that happens, another “carrier” of the craft beer bug has been created.

This is a process that used to be known as “word of mouth,” although it’s become fashionable lately to refer to it as viral marketing – “marketing” because companies in many different product categories now invest in programs designed to encourage it.
The S-Curve, Contagious Encounters, and the Future of Craft Beer
The New Brewer

Every brand has a story to share. What’s yours?

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