Sure as the sun's rise follows the moon's, every year, Munster, Indiana-based microbrewery Three Floyds draws folks from all over -- and especially from Chicago -- to sample its once-a-year brew, Dark Lord. The day it's available is a Bacchanalian, but fully responsible, holiday, appropriately dubbed Dark Lord Day. (And, yup, you can only buy this Russian Imperial Stout there at DLD.) This year it takes place on April 28, and tickets will most assuredly sell out shortly after being made available. Attendees, of course, must be 21 years of age or older, and there are plenty of rules governing the event. But no matter how you slice it, or how many restrictions the brewer adds, demand continues to grow exponentially year to year. To find out why, and also how other entrepreneurs can emulate this sort of rabid following for its products, i gave Three Floyds' Sales Manager Lincoln Anderson a call.
How did Dark Lord Day become the huge event that it is now?
Lincoln Anderson: They originally distributed Dark Lord through the regular distribution channels and Nick [Floyd, owner] kinda noticed that people were still showing up at the brewery to buy it anyway because it would sell out so quickly at retailers. Pretty quickly the idea came to have a party around it. It was still a pretty small batch at the time. There was another festival we were sort of involved with that was ending at that time -- this was before my time -- so it was really easy for us to say, "Let's just have a Dark Lord Day, make it its own thing." I don't remember what year that was but I want to say it was six or seven years ago.
How do you think other businesses can make their products coming out worthy of so much attention?
Lincoln Anderson: Just do something genuine. For Dark Lord Day, the whole thing is genuine. Every year we have to impose more and more limits on it, unfortunately, but it's to make it a better event. We book bands that we want to hang out with. For years, and still to this day, we just look at it like we're throwing a big party. Even with all the complaints that come out of it -- and people are always going to complain -- but if you look at the bottom like like you're throwing a big party for your friends, it's going to come out as genuine and people are going to have more fun. It doesn't hurt that you have a super-limited product behind it.
I think when it comes to planning events like this, an easy way to look at whether you want to go to it. I think so many when people plan big events is take that step back and ask themselves if it's something they'd want to attend. They get too caught up in the little details and lose focus on that it's supposed to be a party or whatever the event is. It should be fun.
What do you think is the most effective way to market an event? Word of mouth? There are so many channels nowadays to reach people.
Lincoln Anderson: We have been really big on word of mouth, and I think that goes back to being genuine. If you're able to promote something through word of mouth, which is really something you have no control over, but obviously the people who are talking about it are excited it and that's infectious. But I think social media is a great way to do things now. We use Twitter and we use Facebook rather extensively. I'm not telling anyone what I had for lunch or anything.
Thanks for that.
Lincoln Anderson: [Laughs.] Obviously we don't want to overdo it. That's another thing. When people do social media, I think so many people overdo the amount of information they put out there. Like, I don't care. It really doesn't affect my day. We try to do a combination of relevant information and a little bit of fun tidbits every now and then.
Is Twitter your main way of tracking word of mouth?
Lincoln Anderson: Twitter's a really big way for me, personally. I read everything everyone's saying about us. I really feel like Twitter is good at capturing it. If people are saying it to their friends they're probably also saying it on Twitter as well. I check that pretty much everyday. I use Twitter a lot more to see what people are saying about us than to dispense information. And we have a vast network of spies as well. That's how I really find out what's happening out there.
What goals do you have for Dark Lord Day? It sounds like you have to add more restrictions, but what things do you want to add or change?
Lincoln Anderson: We always want to tweak it a little bit to make it a better experience and keep it safe. My big goal for Dark Lord Day is to make sure it remains a safe event. I think the one thing that could kill Dark Lord Day is someone just getting drunk and making some terrible decision. Someone driving into a cop car after drinking all day at our event. Or beating up their dog after the event. The things that could happen are terrifying but luckily people come and are pretty responsible. We've never had any fights. No one's taken an AK out from under their shirts and shot their neighbor or anything.
Well, that's a resounding success then.
Lincoln Anderson: [Laughs.] Our goal is to always have fun bands and make it a fun event. And make some money. We are capitalists, so, I'm not afraid of the "p" word.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.