This is an excerpt from CODO Design’s newly published Craft Beer Branding Guide. CODO has spent years working with startup craft breweries on naming, branding and positioning, interactive design and package design, and they have gathered their experience into a comprehensive guide to help startup breweries navigate the entire branding process. Check it out and learn how to make your brewery stand out.
Your brand’s core values are set in stone the moment you decide to open your brewery. There are many reasons you want to run your own business, brew the beer you want to brew and create the sort of experience you’re envisioning. An important step in the branding process is to clearly define them.
Your brand values are a set of emotional and qualitative rules that set the stage for your entire business ecosystem. Why do you exist? Who makes up your tribe? What do you stand for? It’s important to define these because they directly influence your brand essence, positioning, storytelling and broad strategic decisions. They inspire your internal team, attract the best talent and get customers excited to support you (we all want to support companies we believe in).
To begin this process, write out all the different values your brewery holds true. Here are a few examples to get you started:
You should end up with a good sized list, maybe 15 to 25 values. Once you’re finished, review them and try to combine similar ideas. You’ll often find synonyms and other words that basically say the same thing. You want to whittle down to 3 to 5 core values. There’s no magic number, per se, but we find that fewer are easier to remember and, more importantly, easier to live by.
Once you’ve narrowed your list, let’s say from 20 to 8, let’s ask some questions to see if we can get this list refined further.
1. Does this value guide business decisions?
Do you regularly think about this value as it relates to potential deals (maybe a new wholesale account or supporting a specific charity)?
2. Is this value set in stone?
This is a fun one. How steadfast is this value? If enough money comes around, can you be swayed? If so, it may not be the most important one on your list.
3. Is this value something you’re proud of?
Are you willing to wear this across your chest like a badge of honor? When telling people about your brewery, is this one of the first things you mention?
4. Is this value the reason you started your brewery?
Cut right to the heart of it. Why are you starting your brewery? Can you boil the reason down to 1 or 2 words?
At this point you should be down to a pretty tight list (3–5). Now, take some time to write about what each of these values means to you. Why is “artistry” a core value? What does that mean to your brewery and why does it matter? Through this exercise, you may be able to rename these values to be more thematic, memorable and actionable.
One of my favorite industry examples of a core brand value is Dogfish Head’s “Never let the tail of money wag the dog of inspiration.” This aligns with their focus on boundary pushing, atypical brewing and is beautifully summed up by their brand essence, “Off Centered Ales for Off Centered People.” We’ll explore how to define your Brand Essence in the next chapter.
1. Brand obituary exercise
Brand Obituary, Tombstone Exercise, Brand Funeral — there are many names for this idea. Whichever you prefer, it’s a fantastic exercise. Try to imagine what your brewery’s fans would say if you were to go out of business. Maybe it’s the seriousness of the subject, but this has a way of cutting out all the extraneous fluff and getting to the heart of your values and why your brewery is important to your fans.
Example: Dogfish Head: “I miss their creative beers.”
2. Walk the walk
It probably goes without saying, but you have to actively live these values for them to matter. If you pride yourself on making the best beer you can possibly brew, are you prepared to dump an entire batch of something that doesn’t meet your standards? Are you willing to lose money in order to live by a particular value?
It’s important for your entire team, up and down the chain, to understand and live by these values. We’ll get into this a bit more when we discuss how to shape your brewery’s culture in a later chapter.
3. Be differentiated
There are some words that all businesses like to use to describe themselves. “Ethical,” “Trusted,” “Quality,” etc. While there’s nothing wrong with these, they shouldn’t have to be said. Of course you should run your business ethically. But this isn’t a clear differentiator.
4. Don’t be afraid to be yourself
A lot of companies we’ve taken through this process have tried to create a *perfect storybook* image of themselves. “We make the best beer, and we treat everyone perfectly, and we recycle, and we offset our carbon footprint, and we change the oil in our car every 3,000 miles, and we always remember to call our mom on her birthday, and we help old ladies cross the street…”
It’s important to look inward and define the values that you live by, even if they’re different from what the rest of the world expects. You can’t be perfect, so just be yourself.
This column was provided by the smart 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.