Straight Talk – Denan Kemp, Bloke in a Bar
In uncertain times, we’ve got to focus on the great and unusual things that Australians are doing because, as Mark Bouris says, “It’ll be the people doing those things that’ll create a path to something better”.
One of those people is Denan Kemp.
A self-described, ‘average’ former Rugby League player, Denan’s business -Bloke in a Bar- has seen explosive growth in the past 12 months. His beer has sold out of nearly every independent liquor store in Australia, his podcast has continued to grow, and he’s accumulated a committed fanbase on social media, where he creates sport-related content with a focus on the positive.
When you attract an engaged audience like Denan does, then there’s definitely something to unpack.
Catching up with Mark Bouris three years on from his appearance on The Mentor podcast, Denan sits down for a more relaxed Straight Talk, to crack open a beer and explain the marketing, logistics and growth of the beer and his business, his approach to creating content and community, and to discuss what it is to be a ‘Bloke.’
It’s a deep conversation that you probably wouldn’t expect, but Mark firmly believes it’s these kinds of conversations that need to happen. To build great things in unusual times, we need to explore the unusual and celebrate the great.
Is it ok to be a Bloke?
“A lot of people in business would be worried about promoting the word bloke. It’s a brave thing to shine a light on a word like that. There’s too much emphasis on trying to please everyone, and you end up not pleasing anyone,” Mark Bouris said.
When you have the word ‘Bloke’ slapped on the side of a case of beer, it won’t always generate a positive response. The association between beer and stupid, ‘blokey’ behaviour is one that Denan Kemp is keen to break.
“The whole feel is a throwback to when blokes were blokes, and it was ok to be a bloke. Not the negative stuff, but about the positives. About honesty, integrity, and being there for your mates.”
“There’s two sides to masculinity. There’s certainly a dumb side, where blokes do stupid shit. But there’s a lot of positivity that blokes bring. Anyone can be a dickhead, but the positive side of masculinity; mateship, camaraderie, working together. I do think there’s been a push against the ‘bloke’, but I also believe that if you’re a real bloke you don’t listen to that. You stick to your principles and you do as your father or father figure showed you in a positive light.”
On his relatively young, engaged audience, Denan said,“I do think there’s a whole generation of young men that are struggling to find identity. My Dad taught me so much about honesty, integrity, standing by your mates. Yes men, particularly young men do stupid shit, and for thousands of years these young men would go to war, but we don’t have that anymore.”
“So they create their own wars.”
Behind the business of Bloke in a Bar
“We had a six-month goal. I said to one of the guys, if we hit this goal, I’ll give you a bonus. We beat that goal in the first two hours. It just exploded.”
Bloke in a Bar has had incredible growth over the past 12 months. As Denan said, “our biggest issue for the first weeks was demand. We couldn’t keep up. We were selling out. It got so bad that stores were putting up signs saying ‘one case per person’.”
That’s a great problem to have in any business, and for Bloke in a Bar, they’ve continued to see demand increase. How do they continue to sustain this growth?
“We’re in a lot of independent bottle-o’s. Each week I go out to a store to do a taste test, to drive traffic to their store, to build a relationship with the owners,” Denan said. “I understand them, they’re small business owners. They don’t care about my beer, it won’t make or break their business. If I try to help them out a little bit, they’ll help me out as well. So we’ve got prime spots in nearly all those stores because I’m going out there, driving sales, showing them respect, showing them I’m grateful.”
Focusing on positivity
“People aren’t machines. They can’t be expected to do everything perfectly, all the time.”
Where did the emphasis on balanced reporting come from? Why can’t we simply celebrate the positives rather than temper them with negativity.
Denan has made it an explicit focus of the sporting content around Bloke in a Bar to be positive. As Mark commented, “bad news sells. What you’ve done is diametrically opposed to that.”
“Off air, you said to me that I’d change the design of the packaging. I thought about you saying that once a week. What is he seeing that I’m not seeing.”
Catching up with Mark Bouris three years on from his appearance on The Mentor podcast, Denan Kemp explains the impact that his first meeting with Mark had on the way he thought about his business, and how it led to Bloke’s nostalgic rebrand.