This column was provided by the folks at CODO Design, a small branding firm based in Indianapolis. They’ve worked with breweries across the United States and around the world, on naming, positioning, branding and rebranding, responsive web design, and package design. If you’d like to discuss your branding leading up to CBC in Denver, shoot Isaac an email: [email protected].
It’s go time! You’ve worked with a design firm for nearly eight months and are finally ready to unveil new branding to your fans. New packaging and tap handles. New website, merch and sales sheets. Shiny new delivery vehicles, new signage, new glassware and V-necks. New year, new you. The big day comes and you can hardly wait as you post everything via social media. Press releases go out, local beer press is alerted and everything is going great. And then a negative comment pops up.
Okay, no biggie.
Then another one, and another one. And now we’re looped into some sort of nasty thread on Twitter. People are tagging us on Instagram. And there’s already a negative blog about our packaging—how? We only just announced everything three hours ago. Some guy calling himself “BeerZorro98” is threatening to trash your Untappd ratings. The sky is falling.
What happened here?
Forgive the hyperbolic intro. We’ve seen this very thing happen to a handful of breweries over the last few years. As we continue traveling the country to help breweries to rebrand, we thought it would be a good time to discuss some practical pointers to help you avoid fumbling your brewery’s rebrand.
For the sake of this post, we will skip all the way to the end of the rebranding process, or at least, a month or so ahead of the announcement. Let’s assume you’ve found and hired a great creative partner and have created some badass, newsworthy new work to share with your community.
The first (and most important thing) I can tell you? Gird yourself.
Whether you’re three years old or thirty years old (especially if you’re 30 years old), there will always be a contingent of people who feel slighted by your branding update. Don’t take it personally. These folks won’t like any change, no matter what it is. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment — rebrands can leave people confused. (“I loved what they were doing before… is their beer going to change?” “Was I wrong for liking their old packaging?”). And today, in-the-know consumers are always wary of the potential for investment influence, buyouts, and/or new ownership.
As a branding firm, we live or die by every comment that rolls in. This isn’t healthy, but I felt like telling you the truth. There will be a few negative comments no matter what you’ve done, but there will also be an overwhelming amount of positive feedback (assuming you — and the design team — did your job right). Keep your chin up and don’t let errant online grumbling distract you from telling your story.
Tell your story
You will rarely have this many eyes on you. You need to use this opportunity to tell beer buyers, restaurants, and wholesale accounts (new and old) what exactly your brewery is about. Why are you rebranding? Why the new packaging or logo? Did you have to change your name (or a leading beer name) due to a trademark issue? Has continued growth provided a big opportunity to get your packaging up to snuff? What can people expect to see from you moving forward? If you don’t give people the entire story and direct the narrative, they’ll make it up and do it for you.
Tell this story in a blog or video (something with a bit more impact than a simple social media post). Tell it in different ways and tell it more than once. You can make this process more memorable by teasing people that a change is coming. This helps to prevent the switch from feeling abrupt.
Tease early and often
While there are no best practices that dictate when to hint at a rebrand, we’ve found that six or seven weeks out from the big day is a good timeline to whip people into a fury. Or more realistically, to get them to check your social handles (or drop by the tap room) on the big day.
Atlanta Brewing Co.’s team (shout out to Cameron) did an awesome job of this during their recent rebrand. Starting six weeks out from their launch date, they began teasing fans with snippets of the new packaging, a refresher on Atlanta Brewing timeline history, new merch, and a countdown to the launch date. This culminated in a full rebrand and new beer tapping party at their tasting room (to summarily kick off a month of local programming, parties, beer dinners and tap takeovers) that drew hundreds of people and earned a boatload of local and national press.
Atlanta Brewing’s launch went about as perfectly as you can hope for. Aside from the above outlined work, this is the result of a coordinated effort between the design and marketing team to make sure everything was released at the same time.
Everything should go live at the same time
This means that new packaging is on hand and ready to roll. It’s received TTB approval, been printed, applied to a can or bottle (and don’t forget the Paktechs or carriers), delivered, and ready to be used. Oh, and you have to have beer sitting in fermenters ready to put into those cans. Alongside all of this, your old website has to come down and your new site has to go up. New social art has to go up, press releases have to go out, new signage has to go up, and leading up to all of this, you have to educate your internal staff, sales folks, distributors, key accounts — everyone — about the impending changes. This way you’re all moving in lock-step.
In a perfect world, everything would go live at the same time. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world with government shutdowns and aluminum tariffs that cause can shortages. A world wherein entire batches of beer have to be dumped because they don’t meet your exacting standards. Or you may be sitting on a truckload of cash-intensive printed cans that you have to use before moving to the new look. Add in a solenoid that fails or a canning line that goes belly-up or a cellarman who decides to quit mid-shift and move to Salt Lake City (I hear it’s nice there). In this imperfect, real world where we may not have everything squared away, we still need to strive to have everything go live at the same time. Or at least, everything should be announced with supporting pieces that are ready to roll at one, coordinated time.
And finally, you should celebrate. Assuming you’re not renaming and rebranding because of some horrid scandal, this unveiling should be a sign of progress for your brewery. Shout it out. Don’t just throw new can mockups on Instagram and call it good—invite all your friends and throw a party.
Have a beer, or three. You’ve pulled off a complex dance and should not worry about anything this evening. Revel in what you and your team have accomplished. Send a friendly letter of recommendation for that Cellerman in Salt Lake City. Tip your server. Enjoy the night. Get a ride home.
If you walk through this process in a deliberate manner with your design partner, you can make a huge splash with your rebrand that will earn loads of good will and directly lead to more customers and more sales.
If you’d like to learn more about branding your craft brewery or B2B company, check out CODO Design’s Craft Beer Branding Guide. This practical, step-by-step guide will help you navigate the entire branding process from naming and positioning, branding or rebranding, developing your responsive website and package design.