Chapter 1
You Brew Beer. So What?
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BREWING GREAT BEER IS IMPORTANT. BUT BRANDING AND POSITIONING ARE NECESSARY TO MAKE YOUR BREWERY STAND OUT IN A CROWDED MARKET.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering opening a craft brewery. Chances are you’re a brewer yourself. Or maybe you’re in charge of marketing, are an investor or an industry groupie (hello there!). If you’re reading this, I probably don’t have to tell you about the explosive American craft beer industry. I don’t need to cite statistics about overall craft market share versus macro beer. I don’t need to tell you how many jobs this industry creates and while I’m an avid home brewer, I’ve got no business telling you how to fine tune your recipes for mass distribution. No, I’ve got no business telling you about any of that.

But, I can tell you about an enormously important business aspect that most brewery startups fail to consider when drafting their business plan—positioning and branding. So much of planning to open a brewery revolves around quantitative stuff. How many barrels will you brew in your first year? Where will you be located? Should you (or can you) self-distribute? Will you can or bottle? These are all important, but so many new breweries fail to consider their branding and positioning in a meaningful way.

For the sake of clarity, let’s define these:

Your brand is your customers’ perception of your company, including your products and your culture. It’s their gut feeling about what you do and ultimately shapes why they either love or hate you. Why do they think you’re different? How do they describe you to friends? Why do they (or don’t they) support you? This messaging manifests through many touch points, but most importantly, your identity, package design, web design and marketing. It probably goes without saying that the quality of your beer and your brewery’s community involvement also play a crucial role here.

Positioning is the strategic act of defining your brewery’s core concept, main audience, and how you’re different from your competition.

Clearly positioning yourself in the market is only the first step. Then, how do you effectively communicate what’s unique about your brewery to the thirsty masses? What images, colors, typography, packaging and web design elements reinforce this idea every time you come into contact with your customers? How can your branding shape the way people talk about your beer with their friends?

Brewing great beer is only half the battle. Then you need to get the word out in an attractive, strategic way.

 

North Pier Brewing

North Pier Brewing Co. out of Benton Harbor, MI worked with us in order to stand out from a stacked Michigan craft beer scene. See how we accomplished this here.

 

Together, branding and positioning tell your story in a compelling way to current and potential customers. Given the finite amount of shelf space in local liquor stores, tap handles in bars and room in beer drinkers’ minds, it’s going to be harder and harder for new breweries to come out and make a splash without properly telling their story—particularly when opening in an already crowded market.

Yes, whether you buy a new or used brewhouse is a big decision, but we can’t stress enough the importance of digging to understand your story. What kind of beers do you brew? Why do you do it this way? And who are your ardent customers? By taking a hard look at yourself and refining your brand messaging and positioning, you can tell a great story about your company that will fit seamlessly into beer drinkers’ lives. From there, all you have to do is brew great beer.

 

Throughout this guide, we’ll discuss how to accomplish  the following:

  • 1

    Frame your Brand values

  • 2

    Define your Brand Essence (and Core Brand Messages)

  • 3

    Determine your brewery's positioning

  • 4

    Outline your brand's personality & voice

  • 5

    Tell your story through compelling branding & design

  • 6

    Design your brand identity, packaging, website & taproom