Creating a brand image and message can be one of the most fun parts of starting a company. It allows you, as the owner, to truly put yourself into your business and align your company’s core values with your own.
Many people think that once they’ve paid a firm a lot of money for a fancy logo, tag line, some packaging labels and a website, that their brand has been established. But the image you choose to represent your brewery is only the beginning. It’s what you do with those images that will define your brand and distinguish you from your competitors.
Individuals often have trouble differentiating between marketing and branding.
Marketing is about using tools to drive consumers to interact with your brand. For example, Instagram is a tool but the description in the post and how you portray yourself is branding. Your message should always come first and branding can be the most important step to obtaining loyalty with your customer base (a very important goal in the craft beer industry).
Brand essence can also fill a void you find in the marketplace. Perhaps you’re tired of seeing so many happy-go-lucky, hop pun-intended brands and feel that a hard rock attitude is just what the industry needs. Just remember to stay true to yourself and be genuine. Consumers are perceptive and can tell who is trying too hard.
The brand message is your company’s personality and it should be present in every aspect of how you do business. From sales to packaging to events to work culture, the consumer needs to know what you stand for. Because it’s the most inexpensive, social media will be the main way in which you’re able to communicate with your audience. Do not take your interactions on these platforms lightly, even a photo on Instagram should be thought out and planned. Always ask the question “is this who we are?” before moving forward. Stay true to your values and your customers will come to respect you for sticking to them.
Branding is all about creating an emotional bond with your customers. Craft beer has prided itself on transparency and the ability to connect to the consumer. These are brands that aren’t a part of the faceless macro corporations seemingly hungry for your hard earned dollars. Rather, craft beer is all about cultivating an image of community.
It is also important to note that your company can grow with you as your brewery expands into new markets. Many companies adapt their brand as they expand. For example, Stone Brewing Co. has adjusted their unruly and punk attitude. Their message had become dulled due to the craft beer movement, as a whole, being rebellious and anti-establishment. Despite the changing environment around them and by not panicking, they repositioned themselves to be more welcoming but kept a bit of their edge in the packaging and logo design. This allowed Stone to appear friendlier to new clientele as they expanded into new markets across the country and worldwide.
Rebranding is not something that should be taken lightly and although you may need to revamp your logo at some point it doesn’t mean your core values need to change. Your customers will expect, and may even appreciate, your evolution as long as you are still honest about what you are as a company. Even though Dogfish Head changes their seasonal beer packaging every year, they have found a way to make that a part of the brand image. They’re able to go through a minor packaging rebrand but continue to cultivate and portray the same image of artsy and a little off-centered.
Do not take branding lightly and don’t be afraid to spend somewhere in the range of $5,000-$10,000 as a start up. If you spend the money now it will save you headaches in the future and keep the company from having to rebrand too quickly down the road.
Branding should be on an owner’s mind from the inception of the company. If your brand doesn’t stand for something or at least have a clear message that is sincere and honest, consumers will simply choose not to bother spending their money on your beer.