Having a great name for your craft brewery is every bit as important as brewing great beer because it communicates, even before people see your logo, what you stand for, what you believe in, and why someone should care about you. It’s the foundation for your brand identity, responsive web design, packaging, tasting room vibe, marketing and overall culture. And if it isn’t well thought out, it can dog you for years.
In this industry, a winery from across the world or a brewery from around the corner can sue you for naming rights. Craft Brewing Business has already published an outstanding series on trademark law, so we won’t delve into that, but rather, look at naming a brewery from a branding and positioning standpoint and discuss what makes for a “good” name.
1. Availability and protectability
The most important element of naming a brewery in this crowded market is availability. Is there another brewery, winery or distillery with the same (or similar) name? How about a similar beer name? Is your URL available? How about social media handles? It’s frustrating, but with the amount of lawsuits flying around, this needs to be a driving force in naming any brewery from here on out.
2. Different and reflective of your differentiator
Your name should reflect your brand essence. Do you have a special brewing process? Is there something special about your team, how you got your start, where you’re located, and so on. EXAMPLE: Anchor Steam’s name is a nod to a historic nickname for beer brewed under primitive conditions on the West Coast. Their classic bottle shape and overall branding align to support this narrative.
3. Easy to spell and remember
Being easy to spell and recall doesn’t necessarily mean that your name has to be short, though that can be a great attribute as well. No matter the length, your name needs to be something people can easily pronounce. EXAMPLE: Daredevil Brewing Co.’s name is short and easy to spell. Plus they make a damn good IPA.
4. Likable and fun to say
This can be hard to quantify, but a good name is fun to say and can be an important element of solid brand strategy. Consider a name with assonance, an irreverent name or a short phrase. Like beer, names can be judged on their mouthfeel. EXAMPLE: Dogfish Head’s name is fun and weird. You might even say it’s off-centered. Seriously, who doesn’t like Dogfish Head?
Does your brewery name lend itself to larger theming or branding campaigns? Think about your flagship beers and how their names can further enhance your overall brand name and story. EXAMPLE: Tin Man Brewing Co. in Indiana has a great name that lends itself to broader brand strategy. Its overall identity centers around a robot, supported by beer names like “Circuit,” Alloy” and “Rivet.”
Some other considerations:
Be careful with made-up words
Made up words can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, they tend to be available — and can seem like a godsend after ripping your hair out from the naming process. However, keep in mind that these often carry no ingrained meaning to potential customers. Of course, you can to tell your story over time through great branding and beer, but why start off in the hole if you can avoid it?
Que esta su nombre?
Make sure your name doesn’t translate to something unsavory in another language (this can extend to include slang). It took two years of being in business for us to discover that our name, CODO, translates to “elbow” in Spanish. This could’ve been much worse, and I guess you could say we lucked out, anatomically speaking.
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.