“Brand voice” is how you consistently communicate your values and personality through words, no matter the channel or audience. Understanding your voice is an oft-overlooked piece of the brand foundation process. Whether you simply stop short after fleshing out the brand’s broader visual language, or just think of it as marketing, neglecting your brand’s voice is a missed opportunity — even more so if you’ve already put in the work to understand your brewery’s brand essence and positioning.
How can we avoid this and make sure that everything we’re putting out into the world works to tell a broader story? How can we make sure it all has the same tone and personality? This process heavily overlaps with defining your brand essence, positioning and broader company culture. As a refresher, you should check out these articles. For now, let’s explore how to shape your own brewery’s brand voice.
Define your brewery’s core values
If you’re like most people, your core values were likely defined before you officially decided to open a brewery. There was something you believed in and wanted to share with the world. What do you stand for? What are you unwilling to compromise on? What do you believe and pursue every day? How is your beer different? These are all compelling and should heavily inform your brand voice and communication pillars.
Where will you be speaking?
You need to get a sense of where people will come in contact with your brand and let the medium itself drive how you deliver the messaging. A blog, for example, can be an intimate place to share longer form writing and photos to give people a glimpse inside your business. Instagram, on the other hand, can be a fun, quick way to show the faces behind your company. If you’re doffing your rubber boots and presenting at a conference, or even a tap takeover, consider how you carry yourself and tell your brewery’s story.
Common touchpoints include: social media, website, blog, packaging, print materials, merch, tap truck, growlers and drinkware or coasters.
Often overlooked touchpoints include: keg collars, merch (beyond logo apparel), custom jockey box and brewery way finding and custom signage.
Who are you talking to?
Who’s your audience, and what role do you play in their lives? This process starts with your customers and can extend to distributors and other accounts. While all of your communication needs to be consistent, a distributor may be looking for more specific information than a customer.
For example: A promotional poster to go up in a bar may have the compelling brand story behind a new beer, while a distributor may need a folder and sell sheets that break down pricing/production schedule/etc. While the general consumer may not need this specific info, the distributor still needs to know the compelling story behind your brewery and the beer itself (name, style, etc.) and how that plays into your larger brewery’s brand narrative.
Deciding on a tone of voice
This is where you start to form your overall tone of voice. Like we’ve said previously, your brand name, identity and culture should directly shape this.
One of the best questions to frame this decision is to wonder if your brewery were a person, what sort of personality traits would it have? It doesn’t have to be a specific person, though that can be compelling if done right — think Sam Calagione or Jim Koch.
One of our favorite examples is Big Lug Canteen, which stands out in a sea of dark, reclaimed wood-clad Indiana brewpubs that all claim to make the best beer with the best ingredients with the most time-honored (overly romanticized) methods, by actively making fun of itself. If you swing by the brewpub, you’ll see irreverent words like “Decent” and “Alright” to describe their beer and food. This is further played up across social media as they promote and share negative Untapped reviews.
A few voices to try on: irreverent, serious, staid, countercultural, lifestyle-oriented (outdoorsy, tech, foodie, etc.), proud, hopeful or sentimental.
How would the tone of voice change, say, how you announce a new beer you’re tapping this weekend? Or, that you’re collaborating with another brewery?
If you don’t clearly define this, it can be easy to lose consistency as your brewery grows. This can get even worse as you bring new people (communication director, sales team, etc.) into the mix. Get your brewery’s brand voice defined and on paper now and check back regularly to ensure you’re speaking the right language.
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.