This is probably the field most ignored by new brewers, yet one of the most important factors to your brewery’s success. What is your brand? I’ve asked new brewers this question and most of the time I got: ‘Oh, I don’t know yet, I’ll figure that out.’ That’s a huge red flag.
You might think it’s the wallpaper that you put over the whole thing once you’ve figured out your perfect pale ale recipe, and something to put in beer that no one else has ever put in beer ever before! Not so much.
Brand is a strange animal. The word itself reeks of jargon, and the deeper you get into it, the worse it gets. I have a personal blacklist of brand-wank terms that make my toenails curl. All of them are likely to be thrown around when you talk about brands: unique, pop, edgy, new, challenger, with a twist…
Answer the question: why should someone buy your beer? That’s when you enter the world of brand. And you don’t get to leave until you’ve answered that question. Nasty.
Names matter, tap badges matter, bottle and can designs matter. The way to talk to bar managers and customers about your brewery and beer matters. Your stand at the beer event matters. Your posts and tweets and Instagram matter.
People may buy your beer because it’s the new thing, but that’s one time. They’ll buy it again when they recognise your logo and name the next time you’re on tap or a shelf. And that’s where you make the money to go on with.
Garage Project are the most prominent example of how it’s done. But you don’t need to ‘do it like’ Garage Project. You won’t, anyway. Someone said to me: ‘I have these designers and I really want them to make a great label design for my bottles. You know, it really has to pop on the shelf.’Garage Project are the most prominent example of how it’s done. But you don’t need to ‘do it like’ Garage Project. You won’t, anyway. Someone said to me: ‘I have these designers and I really want them to make a great label design for my bottles. You know, it really has to pop on the shelf.’
Look at the craft beer isle at good supermarkets, like New World Thorndon.
In fact, go to at least three or four bottle stores that specialise in craft beer. Look at the shelves and imagine you’re just a punter with not much of an opinion on breweries or beer styles. Your brand will not ‘pop’, there’s no way.
There was a time when one could come up with a bottle design that was different from all the other beers and stand out – but that time is well and truly over. Craft beer packaging is now notorious for the flood of colours, fonts, images. Marketing and customer researchers are starting to describe ‘choice paralysis’, which leads to customers just grabbing the same thing they always buy.
Brand matters, but that doesn’t mean you have to find a way to be completely different from everyone else and try to out-pop the poppiest on the shelf. And neither should you trust that your beer will fly off the shelves because you have found that one clever design or name that no one has thought of yet.
Good brand comes from vision, and you can’t fake your way to that. You can pay someone to have a vision for you, but you’ll need to keep paying them for a long time. And if all of this sounds like hogwash to you, you either have a vision that no one can take away from you, or you’ll frankly never get there.