Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Diary: On specialization and generalization.

I’m hazarding a guess, but the question goes something like this:

Are there ever as many specialists as generalists, and if there are not, and if both groups are growing, won’t there always be more generalists than specialists?

There is a pool of beer specialists (geeks, enthusiasts, etc.) guaranteed to be drinking three beers each day from a pool of 60 different ones. For the sake of argument, I’ll say this implies 60 different breweries. Every 20 days, a beer from one of the 60 breweries is consumed, and on the 21st day, there is a repeat beer.

Meanwhile, at a bricks and mortar local brewpub, a mug club member visits thrice weekly and drinks three beers each visit. In 21 days, this generalist (i.e., one who enjoys the good beer and atmosphere and does not self-identify as a specialist) has been there nine times, and consumed 27 beers.

Whether good, bad or indifferent, this is the difference between specialists and generalists, particularly when you’re a local brewery owner.

Of course, this scenario assumes the existence of more generalists than specialists, which I believe reflects reality. Nationwide, “craft” beer in something like 10% of sales. The rest is mass market. But perhaps within the Ten Percent, a similar division exists. There are specialists, and there are “craft mass market” generalists. My only point is that there are more of the latter, and I’m no longer sure it’s in the best interest of better beer for them to be encouraged toward specialization.

Maybe brand loyalty’s not such a bad thing, after all. When you’re a small, independent local business, what else is there?

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