Over the past three years we have created more than twenty beer brands around the world – one of the (many) perks of being a specialist drinks branding agency. These breweries range from shiny newcomers like Commonwealth to classic centenarians like Fuller’s and everything else in between. Importantly each brand we’ve created abides by our creatively rare, commercially right ethos. This is why their brands are distinct, ownable and effective. So as we’re in Denver for this year’s Craft Beer Conference, we thought we’d share five tips to build a strong brewery brand, using some of our favourite examples.
- Know yourself
You know how people say you have to love yourself before other people will love you? Well, that’s true in branding, not just romcoms. You need to pinpoint what makes you special and own in. That means asking yourself the deep questions, the uncomfortable questions: why should people care about my brewery vs anyone else’s? Why will people buy into the lifestyle and beer that we’re making? What makes us different? Everyone is brewing the beer they want to drink, so go beyond that. What’s your additional layer? Is it your attitude (like Camden), your home (like Fort Point), your flavours (like Commonwealth)? A brand is a promise made and kept so, put simply, you need to know yourself to know what you’re promising.
- Create icons
Some of life’s most important lessons are learned at school. Number one: don’t copy. If someone else is doing it, you can’t own it. But if you know yourself, and know your shelves, this is easily avoided. Create something that’s only yours. A colour palette like WEST, a bold brandmark like Austin Beerworks and Cloudwater, or a stand out shape like Boulevard’s created with their rebrand. Only by building icons will your brand prove timeless, not transient.
- Brand refresh? Rationalise or revolutionise
With the pace of change in this category, craft brewery years can often feel like dog years, with brands feeling dated before their time and in desperate need of a refresh. Where to start. Yes, with your promise. Then, with a plan. Define where you are now and where you want to be. Use this vision as the criteria to critique your brand. What’s helping you on this journey and what’s hindering you? Which assets embody your promise and which assets are peripheral? If you have strong, recognisable elements that uphold your promise, rationalise and elevate them like we did with Thornbridge. If your existing assets don’t represent you, or you need to dramatically change consumer perception towards your brewery, revolutionise your brand like we did for Loch Lomond Brewery.
- Look Beyond Beer
Don’t be tank-visioned. For brand inspiration, look near, far and further. Aligning your brewery with other exciting categories or sub-cultures helps to build more evocative, emotional brands. Our recent work for new brewery Overtone used the owner’s love of techno to create an underground club scene inspired brand. This tapped into an already enviably cool visual language to bolster the brand, but with meaning and relevance at its heart.
- Build a Kingdom not a Keg Lens
Finally, remember your brand is not constrained to can or beholden to bottle: you are creating a brand kingdom, not just a keg lens. Your brewery’s look, feel and voice needs to adapt effortlessly to any environment or scale seamlessly to any size. That doesn’t mean everything needs to be identical, but it does mean everything needs to feel like it comes from the same ‘person’. Big brands (with equally big budgets) do this really well like Budweiser’s all-American super slick visuals. But, if you follow points one to four, your brand will have the flex to follow suit. All you need is the Holy Trinity of strong brand foundations, great brand guardians and solid brand guidelines to reach your full potential. The lesson being, once you’ve nailed your promise, optimised your pack and built your brand world, be sure to capture it all on paper or PDF so that every agency you ever work with can also nail it.