Brands that inspire people are brands that will make an impact. At least, that’s how Tom Flanagan put it to a general session at Craft Beverage Expo 2017 in Portland, Ore., and he has some reason to believe he’s right.
Before co-founding Dive Bar Brewing Co. in Denver, Colo., Flanagan established himself as an advertising and marketing expert with award-winning tenures at Leo Burnett and his current agency Big Block. His clients have included ESPN, Under Armour and Chobani, but his philosophy has always been the same: “A purposeful and clear branding strategy will help you win.”
A brand is a promise
“Think of your brand as a promise,” he advised. Your brand offers consumers entry into a certain lifestyle. He offered Dive Bar Brewing as a prime example.
“As a new brewer, I’m never going to win just on [the quality of] the liquid in the can,” he acknowledged. He and his co-founders decided to focus on the gap between craft beer consumers and commercial beer consumers. “Dive Bar” immediately conveys what consumers in this gap value— a sense of being local and hand-crafted but without any pretentiousness.
Inspiring brands have purpose
To inspire people requires purpose. “Purpose is your compass,” he said. He gave the example of how he is able to ignore negative social media comments because he knows which users are and are not from his target audience. Some people won’t like Dive Bar no matter what, and those people are not worth his time and energy.
“Without purpose, you drift through life, you lack courage, you suck as a leader,” Flanagan explained.
To identify your purpose, you need to answer the question, “What do you stand for?” Making good beer won’t be enough, and neither will loving your product. Instead you should know why you want to make good beer or why you love it.
Your why, he elaborated, is always yours. Someone can steal your what or your how, but they can never steal your why.
Inspiring brands have position
Flanagan explained that to be strategic, you have to be different. You have to look for the gap in the market that isn’t being well served and then drive hard toward it. Inspiring brands offer those audiences something they are not getting from other brands.
That means you also have to get to know that audience really well (a common theme at CBE). Get to know your customers, then innovate around their lifestyles rather than around your product.
“No one is looking to be sold,” said Flanagan. “Everyone is looking to be understood.”
Understanding involves giving your audience something to root for and to root against, but the “enemy” is not necessarily who you think it is, and this was an important point that Flanagan phrased in several different ways.
One way he put this was to suggest you do not compete against another company. It does not inspire people to support you. Better to compete against yourself. If you can communicate (and demonstrate) that you’re trying to do better every day, people will feel more inspired to be a part of that.
He also argued that your brand’s enemy is not another company or one of the big guys so much as the ideas or attitudes those other brands represent.
Dive Bar’s focus on their lifestyle concept rather than on taking on a large competitor has opened up paradoxical opportunities for them. For instance, there are high-end hotel bars in Denver that carry Dive Bar beer. It offers their elite patrons a little “escape valve” into the more casual and grungy world of the dive bar even in the midst of luxury. For Flanagan, Dive Bar Brewing’s clarity of purpose has enabled that kind of flexibility.
Flanagan closed by returning to his central theme — purpose — and encouraged his audience to find their core passion, or why, and go all in on it.
“I believe in the power of an idea to change the world for the better,” he concluded.
Brad Fruhauff is a good dude, a great beer writer and a contributor to Craft Brewing Business. Plus, he wants to write for your brewery. Check out his other work here.