We were talking to a brewery-in-planning recently and heard a question we’ve never heard before: “How do we brand ourselves if we don’t have a cool backstory?” Setting aside the disheartening notion that you don’t think what you’re doing is cool (that what you’re gearing up for, what you’re investing in and will be devoting your foreseeable future toward building isn’t cool), let’s look at how you would go about naming, positioning and branding your craft brewery with no apparent differentiator.
Let’s start by backing up and ditching the belief that your story isn’t cool altogether — it’s self-effacing and only gets in the way during the branding process. Done? OK. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s begin by discussing your positioning.
Hammer out your overall concept and positioning
This is a good starting point even if you have a concept in mind, but if not, look toward your community to orient yourself. Is there a gap in the market? Maybe there’s no regional production brewery? No brewpub gathering spot? No one making all sour beers? Your goal shouldn’t be to be another small brewery making middle of the road beer; you should strive for complete differentiation in concept, product and story. As you’re working through this, try to answer the following questions to develop your positioning statement:
What do you do? (What type of beer do you make? What’s your concept? Why are you passionate about it?)
Who do you do it for? (Who will buy your beer? Who do you want to buy your beer?)
How are you different than your competition? (But not necessarily better)
Flesh out the rest of the story
Now that you have your overall concept nailed down, you can move on to the branding and storytelling process. People won’t buy your beer just because you’re “a regional brewery.” Aside from brewing great beer, you need to tell a compelling story that resonates with people and gets them to come back with friends and family.
If you’re still drawing a blank, think about your life experiences and what brought you to this point.
- What’s your background? Why are you opening a brewery?
- What’s the first beer you remember drinking?
- What was the first beer you brewed? Any funny stories?
- What’s your biggest hobby outside of beer? Any way to combine these passions?
- Who will you be competing with and how do they tell their story? (and yes, you’ve got competition)
- Who do you want drinking your beer? (who do you want waving your flag and evangelizing for you?)
- Is there anything special about your hometown / brewery location?
- What’s special about the beer you’re brewing?
- Where do you see your brewery in five years?
- Are you sacrificing anything to open this brewery?
Putting it all together
Somewhere along the way, you’ll uncover a strong enough idea to become your brand essence. At this point, you’re out of the woods and can move on to naming your craft brewery, developing your brand identity, packaging, responsive website and, if you have any time left over, open up shop and start brewing beer.
Branding shouldn’t be an afterthought
If you’ve read this far, you probably already understand the advantage that branding can give your brewery. But if not, we should mention that branding isn’t window dressing and it shouldn’t be relegated to coming in at the end to “pretty something up.”
When handled properly, branding can unite your internal team and community behind a compelling story and drive business decisions as well as it can drive design decisions. Further, branding gives you a touchstone to check decisions against — does this fall in line with our brand essence? Does this make sense? Does this further tell our story?
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.