Why do you brew beer the way you do, and why does it matter to the people drinking it?
A successful beer company is more than just the taste of the beer. A good dollop of its likeability, its magic and its epicness lies in its brand. But a brand is also more than just a name, a logo and a web address. Faced with a line up of twenty similar products, a good brand can help customers choose you by simplifying choice.
Just like people, a good brand has a personality, something it stands for and its own unique way that it speaks to others.
This brand personality, story and voice form a distinction between your product and the next by creating
a specific perception in customers’ minds about the qualities and attributes of your particular beer. Put
simply, these attributes (lovable rogue or sleek premium) are what the customer thinks of when he or she
hears your brand name. It’s everything your customer thinks they know about your brand, it’s fixed on your
logo—but your brand exists in your customer’s mind.
The key to a strong brand is believability and consistency. Just like a politician running for office, if you’re making a statement here and then spouting something completely contradictory somewhere else, nobody will believe you or believe in you. Which is why when it comes to branding, your message needs to be the same across everything — from your core brand values to your brand story.
Defining your Core Brand Values
To build a strong house, you first need strong foundations. These values are your foundations—the immovable, unshakeable principles that you stand for and the reasons you brew beer the way you do.
Core values should answer questions like ‘What do we stand for?’ ‘Why do we exist?’ If people believe that they share values
with your brewery, they’ll be loyal to your brand. Your core values will inspire your team, lead communications
strategies and help with your storytelling, and get your customers excited about supporting you.
To discover your core values, start writing a list. List out all the values that feel true to your brewery. Dig deep with your values and try to go beyond an idealised version of what you think people will like.
You’ll probably end up with a page full of words, now it’s time to cull it down to 3-5 of them that truly ring true. Be mindful that you have to be prepared to follow through with your values. If one is being ‘experimental’, are you prepared to wave making a profitable safe lager in favour of an interesting hoppy beer? If one of your values is ‘traditional’, how will you fare when tempted by a fancy new brewing technique?
Finding your Point of Difference
Walk into your local booze store and you’ll see tonnes of craft beers on the shelf. So how do you make yours stand out?
Stemming from your core values, your point of difference (or Unique Selling Point as marketers like to call it) is the thing that makes people looking at your bottle know immediately why they should buy your beer over others.
To work this out, its good to invest in some form of consumer research. Get out there and drink other people’s beer. Examine the packaging, the logo, and the tone of voice that they use. Scour their online presence and get yourself an encyclopaedic understanding of who you’re up against and what it is that each of them stands for. Then using your newly formed core values, work out your point of difference. Even better try an online survey or focus group to truly understand your consumer and their trigger points.
Panhead’s point of difference, for example, is its unique approach to brewing that strips back, rebuilds and pimps out beer in the same manner the owner used to build his hotrods. The result, as they describe it, is balls out, unapologetically “hopped-up, weirded-out beer”. Hallertau’s difference is its family-focus, honesty and integrity, being small and nimble, swift to be inspired by others and deeply rooted in their community.
Some people find it helpful to use the what, how, why formula to discover their point of difference. Developed by a famous dude called Simon Sinek, it gives you three key points and all you need to do. Check him out here.
Discovering your Brand Story, then Telling It
When it comes to stories, some connect with you, while others are so average you don’t make it past the first page. And as with any story, a good brand story relies on a strong narrative, told in a clear and compelling way.
A brand story isn’t a piece of marketing material, nor is it a sales pitch. It’s the origin story of your brand, told in your unique voice. Take a look at the ‘About’ page of some of your favourite brands to see how they do it. Tom’s Shoes don’t make beer, but they’re a great example of guys with a strong brand story.
Like all the best films, books and campfire yarns, good brand stories need a beginning, middle and end:
With a brand story, the end is never actually the end. You’re inviting the customer to join you on your journey.
Walking the Talk
You know that work you’ve just done on your core values, point of difference and brand story? It’ll all be wasted unless you walk the talk.
As we mentioned with that politician rant earlier, continuity is everything when it comes to developing a lovable, believable brand. This means ensuring your brand story is communicated across every touchpoint, from your distribution strategy and pricing to your packaging, logo, website and staff t-shirts.
1 Your distribution strategy
Use your core brand values and story to drive your distribution strategy. If you’re a locally crafted, community-minded brewery with a sustainable focus based in Motueka, Nelson, it doesn’t make sense to dive straight into mainstream pubs in central Sydney (not yet at least).
2 Your Pricing
Pricing is tricky. In one instance you can’t help what your beer costs, as you still need to turn a profit at the end of the day. But how much your beer costs will also impact on who buys it. Say you want to make craft beer for the everyman? You’ll need a pricing structure that’s accessible enough for those on a tighter budget.
Finding a Good Name
Next, to brewing awesome beer, your name is of huge importance. It’s the first thing people see (and remember) when they come across your brand, and it communicates who you are, what you stand for and why someone should believe in you. It’s also a legal thing—a brand’s name is unique to them and you can get into real hot water real quick if you use someone else’s.
The naming process can be both daunting and exciting, so get a group of your smartest mates around a few of your best beers and get brainstorming.
Here are a few things to think about when it comes to naming
You’ll need to do your due diligence in order to make sure your new name can legally be yours. Spend some time on Google checking there’s no brewery, winery or distillery (you may even want to cover off non-alcoholic beverages) with the same or similar name. Check to see if your web URL is available in your country, and if you plan to go into other countries you might want to check those too. And lastly don’t forget social media handles.
True to brand
Does your name ring true to who you are as a brand? Perhaps it communicates what you stand for, your tribe, your particular brewing process or your geographical location.
Does your name stand out? Does it paint a certain picture in people’s minds when they hear it? Will it make people smile?
Easy to remember (and spell)
An easy to remember name doesn’t necessarily have to be short. It just needs to be sticky and easy to sell, else you’ll never get any website hits.
Portable and flexible
Consider every possible future development of your brand and how your name might fit. If your name is a made up word, find out what it might translate to in other languages—you don’t want to offend anyone if you end up expanding globally. What about if you expanded into other categories? Would your name translate fine into, say, a line of soda drinks? A chain of bars?
Consider a naming specialist
Having trouble with your name? There are talented creative people out there who do all the hard work for you: they delve, research and come up with great names (and check they’re not already copyrighted).
Once you’ve got a good name, immediately grab the domain name and all social media handles before beginning the identity design process.
How to Find a Branding Specialist
When it comes to designing what your brand looks like, you may be the type to want to design your logo, packaging and visual assets yourself. However, if you’ve got the money, spending a bit of it on a branding specialist can be a seriously sound investment. And if you’re struggling with your positioning, naming and brand story they can also help with that too.
When hunting for an agency, recommendations are ideal so find other brands you admire (they don’t have to be other breweries) and ask who did their branding. Google is also a good place to start. Check out their websites to find a company that gels with you. When contacting them, it’s totally acceptable to ask for references—most agencies have a bunch already on hand. If they don’t want to give you any (or don’t have previous work to show on their site), consider it a red flag and walk away.
In your first interview with them, you’ll want to get a handle on their process, what they need from you and what they deliver, when. The deliverables will depend on what you require, but most people head in needing a brand identity ‘system’—a suite of elements (logo, colours, typography, textures, icons) that can be used across everything from packaging to tap handles, website, merchandise and trucks. They can also design your packaging, website and tone of voice.
A few considerations:Work out your budget
One of the first things they’ll ask you is what your budget is. Different levels of work cost different amounts, so they’ll want to know exactly how much work they’ll be able to deliver and how in-depth they’ll be able to go. It’s also good for you because there’ll be no nasty surprises at the end. You’ll find links to some talented branding people in our Resources section.
Prepare your brief - A brief is a document you write that gives the branding specialist a clear understanding of who you are as a brewery and exactly what you need from them.
Test on your Market
When developing your brand identity (and even coming up with new beers), your customers are your best sounding board. Get them round, ply them with beer and get their opinions before you commit to a final identity.