By: Scott MacKenzie, Founder and CEO of Gaslight Studios
Walk into the local supermarket or liquor store and its beer and wine sections all have one thing in common – a diverse array of macro, micro and craft beers all competing for the customers’ attention.
With all this visual noise, how can you ensure that your beer will stand out in a crowded and highly competitive marketplace? While product quality and taste are important, it is not always a guarantee for success. Often, success comes from a combination of factors that are led by an impactful visual identity that connects with your target audience.
Developing a successful brand is not simply designing an eye-catching label or logo. It requires the development of a powerful narrative that authentically connects with and motivates your existing and potential customers. What is your brand story? What promise are you making? What are your key attributes and fundamental pillars? What is your brand personality? Are you refined and sophisticated? Are you bold, edgy and sarcastic? Are you heartfelt, understanding and caring? Maybe you are a combination of all these traits.
Brands aren’t born iconic, but they do need to be strategically and meticulously crafted and launched with intention so as to allow for the opportunity to become widely recognized and well-established. With this in mind, the first step in developing your brand is understanding who you are, what you stand for and what values you wish to convey. As you solidify these fundamental tenets, you also need to dive head-first into the world of your customer base. Who are you selling to and what are their wants, needs, preferences and expectations?
Does this all sound overwhelming? Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be. Whether you’re preparing to launch your first craft beer brand, opening a brewpub or taproom, or have been in the beverage business for years and decided now is the time for a thoughtful re-branding, it’s imperative that you do your due diligence to guarantee that the brand you cultivate is the correct brand for the market. And how do you do that?
Understand the Sandbox You’re Playing In
Knowledge is power. Gather all available data on your marketplace, customer base, competition and if you’re an existing brand, your own history of successes and failures. What is your consumer looking for? What are your competitors providing? What is the market demanding and missing? Conducting extensive discovery and market research will allow you to make more informed and better decisions as you craft your own brand. Nothing happens in a vacuum and ignoring external factors as you cultivate your own image is a recipe for failure.
Beware the Lure of Trends
Trends come and go, so while you can ride the trend train in some of your marketing efforts, it’s best to ignore that tempting, low-hanging fruit as you develop your core identity. If what is popular in the moment is fundamentally tied into the foundation of your brand, the minute those trends go out of fashion, your brand will feel old and outdated. Brands that last feel timeless.
Strike the Right Balance – Be Different – Feel Familiar
Your brand needs to stand out from the crowd, but it should also feel like it belongs. Be new and fresh and different, but not to the point that it feels completely out of place. Strong brands differentiate themselves from the competition but also evoke a sense of familiarity and connectedness.
Don’t Try and Be Everything to Everyone
Know who you are and connect with your target customer base where they live through a sense of shared values and common sensibilities. While you want to cast the widest net possible to maximize potential sales, you also need to drive in the appropriate lane and take the right route to get where you want to go. Sometimes, trying to create a ubiquitous brand that is everything to everyone makes you nothing to no one.
Verbalize and Agree Upon Your Company Goals
It is essential that you and your branding team are on the same page. Work together to ensure a mutual understanding of your short and long-term company goals. Do you want to always be a local or regional brand? Do you have lofty goals of national and international sales? Do you want to maintain an existing customer base while opening new markets? While this may not necessarily influence your brand narrative, it’s important to fully understand the factors that require consideration.
Set Brand Boundaries
To guarantee that the brand remains consistent over time, it is important to develop strong brand guidelines that will ensure proper representation of the brand through the various channels of execution over the life of the brand, such as advertising, public relations, digital, signage, etc. If these brand boundaries are not firmly established, the brand can easily veer off course as you implement new campaigns and diversify your product offerings.
Crafting a new brand takes the same level of care and attention to detail as making an award-winning double IPA. It also requires slight adjustments throughout the development process to ensure that the end result is what you want and need. So, assemble the right team, get crafting and never underestimate the power of a good tagline.