Does your craft brewery need marketing or branding first? We hear this question every now and then from startup breweries and even from folks with a well-developed business plan. There seems to be a bit of misunderstanding between these two important tools. After fielding this question again recently, we thought we could take a few minutes to explain the subtle, but important, differences between the two and when each should be put into play.
Starting out, your brand is your customers’ perception of your company, including your beer, culture and all the good (and bad) experiences they’ve had with you. It’s their gut feeling about what you do and what role your brewery plays in their lives.
Branding is the active shaping of this emotional connection. It’s the continual telling of your story, your “why” to bring new friends into the fold and the reinforcement of why you’re so important to those who are already fans. This messaging manifests through many touch points, including your name, brand identity, package design and responsive web design.
Marketing, on the other hand, tends to be shorter term and tactical, often channel- and tool-based. Ideally, it stems from a well thought out plan aimed at getting people to do something specific through active promotion. Maybe it’s to follow you on Instagram. Maybe it’s to head in for a brewery tour or a local bar for a tap takeover — all of which is designed to keep your brewery top of mind.
Marketing puts a fire under people and gets them to act. Branding is what keeps them engaged and coming back for more. It’s a subtle difference, and you’ll find that the timeline between the two can get blurry. While they’re both important, branding is foundational and should come first, informing and driving marketing efforts. Without it, you have no way of telling people what you stand for. And you have nothing to “market.”
This column was provided by the folks at CODO Design, a five-man branding firm based in Indianapolis, IN. They’ve spent years working with startup craft breweries on naming, branding and positioning, responsive web design, and package design. They’ve gathered their experience into a comprehensive Craft Beer Branding Guide to help startup breweries navigate the entire branding process. Check it out at www.craftbeerbrandingguide.com.