Join 7,500+ other subscribers

Expert analysis that helps your team make better branding decisions and build a more resilient business.

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to field subscriber-submitted questions on our 2024 Beer Branding Trends review.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

2024 Beer Branding Trends Report

1. Can a smaller brewery actually pull off a craft lager brand?

2A. What’s the best packaging format for Hop Water?

2B. Why hasn’t ABI released a Hop Water?

3. What does the beer industry look like in 2030? (Hot takes only.)

4. Is fudging a beer’s style as a positioning tool disingenuous? 

5. Do you have any thoughts on the Bud Light controversy?

6. Should we feature awards (GABF, World Beer Cup, etc.) on our packaging? 

7. No mention of Cannabis in your report???

8. What are the downsides of building a contract brewed / lifestyle brand? 

9. Do you think we’ll see more private equity in the beer industry over the next few years as there are deals to be had?

10. White Claw NA: Stupid or brilliant?

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 8,000+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/067-2024-branding-trends-report-qa/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss craft lager and how your brewery can nail this positioning challenge.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. 2024 Beer Branding Trends Report

2. How we built the Cold Drinking Beer brand

3. Time Traveling with the Beer Can Archaeologist

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/066-the-year-of-craft-lager-the-year-of-craft-lager/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 065

Rebranding to clarify your message, increase sales and maintain momentum

Morning!

A few admin items here before we get started:


1. For a more immersive experience, you can read this entire post over on our blog.

2. We recorded a fun conversation with Jacob Virgil, Director of Strategic Development at NoDa Brewing. He’s got a great voice, and we’re considering having him replace Cody or me (probably me) on the podcast because of it.

Listen for yourself here.

Okay, let's discuss NoDa's rebrand. 
 

 

Legacy Breweries are facing a unique set of headwinds today. 

They’re big enough that they have to compete with much larger Big Beer brands off-premise, but still small enough that they compete with smaller, more nimble (and in many cases, more relevant) local breweries in the on-premise. 

In addition to these challenges, Legacy Breweries are often facing some sort of identity crisis.

This can range from a surface level issue (e.g. a severely disjointed brand identity and packaging where nothing hangs together) to a more existential crisis where founders and leadership are questioning what they stand for, where they want to take the business and even what to focus on on a day-to-day basis.

We’ve made it 15, 20, 30+ years, but don’t know where to go from here.

NoDa Brewing was somewhere in the middle here—not quite wrestling with existential problems, but not quite crystal clear on next steps either—when they reached out to CODO to discuss a rebrand back in 2022.

(Above): NoDa's previous branding and packaging.


NoDa founded in 2011 in a vibrant Charlotte, North Carolina beer scene.

And they’re a perfect example of CODO’s expanded Legacy Brewery definition (founded around the start of the beer boom in a market that has since exploded with new entrants). 

NoDa was dealing with several compounding factors that lead them to the realization that they needed to make some major changes for the longterm health of the business. 

They developed a multi-pronged plan (to address production, distribution and hospitality issues), and tagged CODO in to help frame their Brand Strategy en route to a brand refresh and package design overhaul.

This case study will cover the following:

– NoDa’s background and project context (including pain points & opportunities)

– NoDa’s Brand Strategy (and defining their visual equity)

– A walk through their brand identity and package design process 

Let’s get into it. 

(Above): NoDa's previous branding and (all over the place) packaging.



The situation on the ground (a handful of problems)
 

1. A shifting meaning of the NoDa name

NoDa was founded in the North Davidson neighborhood in Charlotte (hence, NoDa). Or technically, the brewery was founded near the NoDa neighborhood. 

If you want to get really pedantic technical—they’re about a block from the *officially* defined neighborhood border. 

And as they’ve continued to expand, opening additional production facilities and taprooms, being tied to a specific neighborhood became less important.

Overtime, the NoDa name has come to reflect more of the breweries core values (and how they overlap with the broader neighborhood itself) than a particular neighborhood or street.

In Jacob's words:

“What NoDa stands for aligns with the ethos of our brewery and is a big reason why we wanted to refresh the brand. Being the arts district, NoDa has always been an inclusive, creative and edgy spot. 

Our approach to beer, our brand and our taproom has always been to create a quality experience and product that is welcoming and approachable for people from all walks of life.

Beer is our art; regardless of whether or not we're still on North Davidson street.

As our brand aged we felt that it had lost some of the edgy / artsiness that NoDa is known for and we wanted to bring that back by emphasizing street art style illustrations on the packaging.”


 

2. Stock illustrations & dated visuals 

NoDa has used stylized 1950’s illustrations across their packaging for years. 

This Mid-Century aesthetic was very on trend back in the early 2010s.

In 2024, it just feels dusty (and not at all aligned with the exciting things happening at NoDa).

Another issue on this front is that some of NoDa’s primary imagery—including their best selling Hop Drop brand—is comprised of stock illustration that anyone can buy online. And they’ve built several major brands around these assets. 

This means that any other business, including a brewery, can use the same assets on their packaging. 

The takeaway here is that you shouldn’t build your identity around stock assets. You can’t police any of it from an IP standpoint, and you can’t build any unique visual equity either.

Using stock assets in your identity will always be a liability.

 

3. Charlotte as a rapidly changing community 

Two breweries existed in Charlotte when NoDa opened shop in 2011.

Today, there are more than 100.

In that span of time, each new brewery opening meant more niche, more hyper-local and more on-trend craft beer hitting the market.

And elder outfits like NoDa inevitably were seen as less novel and less (for lack of a better word) relevant.

All of this lead to NoDa being regarded as….


4. “Grocery store beer”

NoDa came out swinging and found early success (particularly with their renowned Hop Drop ’n Roll IPA). 

That brand—awarded best IPA in the world back in 2014—allowed their beer to become ubiquitous throughout Charlotte, and eventually North and South Carolina. 

Today, NoDa is widely regarded as making some of the best beer in a state that’s lousy with great beer. 

But, in a weird quirk that plagues anything just outside of the mainstream (music, art, film, fashion), NoDa’s success cuts both ways.

In our field work and interviews, we heard people pejoratively describe NoDa as “Grocery Store Beer,” as in, NoDa isn’t authentic, local, independent (capital C) Craft Beer anymore. 

(Your reward for blazing a trail in a market is that you get punished for being successful. Great.)

Jacob had an interesting perspective on this in our podcast (this topic starts around the 14:30 mark).

He views being carried in grocery stores and chains as a signal that you're reliable—that your brand can be depended upon to deliver. Every time.

(I agree with this, for the record.)

But Jacob and I don’t speak for the broader North Carolina beer drinker.

So the challenge remains: How can NoDa stay relevant while continuing to grow and build a successful business?

(Above): NoDa wanted to move away from stock assets and create unique, ownable illustrations and IP through this process. 



 

Now that we’ve covered NoDa’s primary pain points, let’s explore their Brand Strategy and design process.

 

NoDa’s Brand Strategy & Positioning 

Three big ideas emerged from all of our fieldwork and stakeholder interviews:

1. NoDa is an epicenter for all the cool, creative stuff happening in Charlotte. 

2. NoDa is your reliable, local brewery. No trend hopping here: Just well-executed styles. Again and again and again. 

3. NoDa is your companion for whatever outdoors pursuit you choose in the Carolinas. 

 

 

A quick note on these ideas:

These are all classic craft beer tropes: Celebrating the local community, making quality beer and a love of the great outdoors. 

From a positioning standpoint, hanging your hat on a trope doesn’t mean that an idea isn’t true.

But what’s more likely is that any number of other local breweries can also claim to operate by the same ideas. 

To wit: How many California breweries talk about the beach or surfing? And how many breweries in Colorado adorn their labels with mountains?

There's nothing wrong, or untrue about these things.

But it’s our job to figure out which idea a brewery can most credibly claim, that they’ve historically stood for, and have materially supported over time.

(Oh, and that actually matters to consumers.)

The first Brand Essence — “North Davidscene” — checked all these boxes and resonated the most with the NoDa team. 

They’ve always viewed beer as a through line in the emergent local art, music and food scenes. 

And this idea best aligned with their values (that is, how they operate their business, including behind the scenes moves that no one will ever know about), plus where they wanted to continue taking the brand in the future.

In other words, it is the most distinct, defensible, ownable and true idea that NoDa can build on. 

This direction positions NoDa as a vibrant, confident and progressive voice in Charlotte beer.

(Above): A few pages from NoDa's Brand Strategy doc.

These Brand Essences include a preliminary writeup, including brand voice and personality attributes as well as visual cues.

They also include mood boards to art direct the idea itself so the NoDa team can understand what a direction could look and feel like.




 

Defining NoDa’s Equity & Tackling Their Identity Refresh 

With Brand Strategy and art direction set, we now get to dig into NoDa's brand identity and packaging update. 

Location issues aside, NoDa’s previous logo was somewhat sacrosanct. (They’ve used it since founding, tens of millions of people have seen it and it’s plastered across their market on POS, vehicles and merch). 

Our job was to evolve it in this new brand voice and look and feel: To give it more heft and make it look more intentional.

So how can we beef up their core identity while building out a more utilitarian system of secondary iconography?

Our initial concepts ranged from a straight-line evolution to a more quirky option that leaned into the local art and creativity idea.

The NoDa team favored the more clear evolution so we rolled right into revisions. 





*Note to reader: I’ll fast forward here. Basically, we spent a million hours (approx.) refining their main mark and rounding out their
Modular Brand Identity System.

 

(Above): Initial concepts, including a whoooole lot of rejected work from our first identity presentation.


 

A few things to highlight as we wrapped up revisions: 

– The more expressive colors called out in our Brand Strategy work are now able to come to life in NoDa’s identity. This punched everything up and kept it from being too staid. 

– The core mark became more simplified as we made our way through the revisions. I remember a great conversation with the NoDa team where we discussed how you communicate the idea of confidence. 

Our answer?

Talk less.

Simplify the system.

And let the beer speak for itself.

The Package Design Phase

We kicked off the packaging phase by focusing on NoDa’s best selling brand, Hop Drop ’n Roll.

We explored several different ways to evolve their dated (and stock) late 50’s Mercury illustration style.

It took a few rounds to get the composition and illustration style itself nailed down. But once we got there, knocking out the rest of their portfolio was fairly straight forward. 

Here’s a glimpse at some of what we looked at along the way, including initial sketching, revisions, illustration evolution and several follow on brands (seasonals, variety pack, etc.) we developed after NoDa’s initial scope was wrapped up.

Brand Launch & Beyond

We opened this case study by outlining the (many) challenges Legacy Breweries face every day.

But as we wrap up, I wanted to say that a rebrand is NOT a panacea. A rebrand won’t solve the problem of having too many competitors. And it won’t magically make younger drinkers start clamoring for your beer.

But done properly, a rebrand is an opportunity to concretely define who you are and what your brewery stands for. It's a chance to plant a flag that welcomes all comers to the fold, old fans and new. 

And if you get all that right, a rebrand is an opportunity to drive an increase in sales, even in this challenging market. 

NoDa knew all of this and we're proud to have helped them chart a path for their brand moving forward.

Around the Shop

Dive deeper: NoDa x CODO on the BBT Podcast

We recorded a fun conversation with Jacob Virgil, Director of Strategic Development at NoDa Brewing. 

It's interesting to hear his perspective on why the NoDa team decided to rebrand now (on the heels of a 25% YoY increase in sales and in the midst of a major expansion project).

Feeling warm & fuzzy

We’ve always been bad about asking for client testimonials. It just feels awkward.

“Hey, uhh, can you please give us a few sentences about how much you enjoyed working with CODO? Really lay it on thick. It’s not like you’re busy or anything. Thanks.” 

Anyway, sometimes testimonials come your way unsolicited. 

(And it’s such a nice feeling when they do.) 

Read more about the entire Cold Drinking Beer project below.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/newsletter-draft-enter-title-w-out-numbers/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 064

The year of craft lager? (the year of craft lager!)

Morning!

This is your final exclusive issue from CODO's larger 2024 Beer Branding Trends report. 

If there’s someone on your team who you think would benefit from reading these, please forward this email to them or have them sign up here.

As a reminder, we're currently fielding subscriber-submitted questions for a Q&A podcast episode. If you've got questions on anything in this issue or our annual review, please shoot me an email

Thanks so much for being a BBT subscriber!

Let's get into it.


There’s a decade-old running joke in the beer industry that next year (at the very latest) will finally be the Year of Craft Lager.

Now, I’m not bold enough to call 2024 the *official* Year of Lager (sorry for the clickbait title there…), but damn if this doesn’t feel close.

Granted, I’m not sure what we were all expecting—craft lager to dethrone IPA as the face of craft beer? Hype breweries to drop $29 4-packs of Czech Dark Lagers??

But for some anecdata here, CODO has branded more all-lager breweries and created more lager brands (Sub Brands and standalone brands) over the last year than at any point in our 15 year history. 

(Above): Birdsmouth Beer is an all-lager brewery out of New Jersey. Read more about their naming, positioning and branding here.




And we’re seeing people approach the segment correctly, with horizontal tanks, step mashing and decoction—all manner of fun, esoteric production techniques to turn out a quality product.

So I can feel it. And I bet you can too.

But why now? Why is lager trending today? 

– Is it because we’re looking at several years of inflation that has consumers pinching their pennies, and your answer to this is to offer a slightly more expensive, yet still craft option for the budget-minded shopper?

– Or is it because breweries are scrambling to find pockets of incremental growth wherever they can, including historically-overlooked, if not outright disparaged segments like light lager?

– Or is it to offer an easy drinking, beer-flavored-beer option to the growing cohort of fatigued craft drinkers who are 1) getting older, 2) having kids, and 3) can’t smash IPAs like they used to?

– Or is it because Montucky Cold Snacks started from scratch and scaled to produce somewhere in the neighborhood of 70k+ bbl over the course of ~10 years (and partied the entire way there)?

– Or is it because your grandpa drank lager? And grandpas (and grandmas!) are universally cool.

– Or is it because modern day craft beer means going to a local brewery and choosing from one of twelve hazy IPAs? (Thrilling.)

Couple this with the mind-melting 4–5 years that we’ve all collectively experienced in this country and I think there’s comfort to be found in making an easy choice.

I don’t want to sort through 18 different beers for this weekend—I’ll just grab Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Or a Pivo Pils. Or Dead Guy.

Or, choose from a growing contingent of craft lagers that are vying to own this important space—go-to fridge packer brands that still have Craft bona fides without all the Craft baggage. 





Or is it a combination of all of these things?

I don’t have an answer here, but I do know that lager is trending.

So let’s explore a few broad themes we’re discussing in our work branding, positioning and promoting this most lovely of beer styles.

(Above): Lion's Paw Lager from Fernson Brewing.




A quick note on terms

We’re going to speak broadly about lager here, including beautifully made craft lagers and those positioned more in line with domestic light lagers.

Some of what we point out (particularly when it comes to COGS and positioning) will apply more towards craft breweries trying to compete in the Sub Premium space.


But let’s not get too wrapped up in delineating between these (we’ll do that where it makes sense) and look at the overall trend of more craft breweries making more lager as a whole.


Light lager: The positioning challenge 

The value prop of craft light lager is tricky to nail.

Offering a similar beer that is positioned alongside much cheaper, and better known, offerings that is roughly 50% more expensive isn’t the best position to be in. (Who knew?!?)


On one hand, it’s almost impossible for a small producer to compete on cost with the entrenched macro brands. (For reference, Montucky contract brews, so they’re able to price aggressively low, often at or even below common Domestic Sub Premium pricing.)

On the other hand, as we outlined earlier in this report, lager is a brand. A cool one.

So you can create a
somewhat craft, somewhat macro brand that allows drinkers to show that they’re cool (more on this idea here shortly).

From a COGS standpoint, a lower price to consumer means a lower margin on the backend. The goal then is to drive more volume to make everything, not just pencil out, but realize a profit.

And as
we’ve written before, you can’t compete with High Life (or Bud, Miller, Coors) on price. Hell, you can’t compete with the Oskar Blues or Sierra Nevadas of the world on price, so this is a very, very tough space.

The sweet spot appears to be to not try to compete with Domestic Sub Premium brands head on (those in the ~$15–$18 per case range), but land at a final price that’s only a few bucks more but still a touch lower than other craft beers in the cold box.

Bump Williams Consulting gave us a great beer pricing tier breakdown a while back. Check out this conversation for more context here.

But then how do you position these brands? Who should buy them?

And why would a consumer who might usually grab a 12-pack of High Life or Banquet switch it up for your offering at $3–$5 more?  


It starts with what you call the beer itself so people have a touchpoint for comparison. 

 

So what do you call them?

Earlier in our annual report, we made a case for why beer style names are more important as a positioning tool today than they are from a specific TTB style designation standpoint.

And this jostling, myth making, and in some cases, outright mental gymnastics is best exemplified by the various naming conventions we’re seeing in craft lager right now.

Some examples we’ve seen:

– Light Beer
– Classic Light Beer 
– Small Batch Light Beer 
– Beer (bonus points for brevity)
– Premium Beer 
– Premium Lager
– Heritage Lager 
– Light Lager (heads-up: “Lite” is trademarked and policed by Molson Coors)
– Craft Lager 
– Industry Lager 
– American Light Lager 
– Domestic Lager
– Lager / Pilsner / XYZ lager variants
– Cerveza (for Mexican-style lagers, obviamente)

Two quick additional thoughts:

We're starting to see a gradual shift away from the word "Craft." And I think the rise of lagers is actually going to accelerate this. We'll be talking more about this over the coming year in some upcoming case studies. (Stay tuned.)

We're also seeing "Cold" used a qualifier. This is fun in a Big Beer Super Bowl ad kind of way. What kind of beer do you want? A cold one!



There’s a world of difference between a “Light” Lager and a “Craft” Lager, but maybe less so with a “Craft Light” Lager.

Choose whichever nomenclature best serves your positioning goals and lean into it. 

(Above): What do you call lagers, and lager-adjacent crushable beers so that consumers understand what they are and when to buy them?



 

Lager as a Signal 

Let’s talk about signaling and the story that lager allows people to tell themselves, and the world, about themselves. I believe this is an important mechanism that’s driving lager sales right now.

Lager—craft or macro—is a way to signal cool confidence.

In the mid-2010s, if you showed up to a cookout with a special 4-pk IPA, everyone was happy. Now? C’mon, what is this, 2018? It’s 95° out here for God’s sake. Give me something crisp.

(To wit: This is exactly the spot Sierra Nevada Pale Ale occupies—a comfortable, flexible classic.)

But craft lager (and some macro lager brands) rides a fine line where you can show up to a party and not look like a cheapskate but still look cool and in the know.

Plus, lager is blue collar and authentic. It’s a working man’s shift beer—and there’s real cachet there.

This emotional dynamic is tough to balance, but it’ll be well worth the hassle if you’re able to pull it off when building your lager brand.

Now that we’ve given you a lay of the land on positioning and pricing craft lager, let’s look at a collection of visual and branding approaches we’ve seen across the segment.
 

Nostalgic Regional
Lager’s visual canon

“Nostalgic Regional” is a term CODO coined several years ago to describe lager’s de facto visual canon (if you’re feeling spicy, you could less charitably call this aesthetic “fauxstalgia”).

And this look and feel stems from the earliest days of the craft beer boom as breweries were bringing back the well-worn romance of locally-produced beer.

All across the country, people were rehabbing old brick and timber warehouses, decayed factories, and all manner of other buildings that had sat dormant for years.

Visually, this was all wrapped up in nostalgia to speak to the brewery’s authenticity, or to lend a sense of provenance.

While there are no hard and fast rules, the category convention here aims to look old. How old? We’ve predominantly seen the 1940's through 1970’s as the main period of influence. 

This branding can look like an authentically old brand, as though it were picked off of a shelf in a five & dime  in 1960. Or, it can be designed to live as a product of today, but still evoke this bygone era—a contemporary reimagining of something old. 

It tends to be tactile, often evoking a mostly bygone industry: Think automotive, manufacturing, lumber, tobacco, textiles and agriculture.

Check out our conversation with David Maxwell, aka The Beer Can Archaeologist, for more granular details on how beer packaging design and formats have shifted over the decades. 

This positioning works because beer is, historically, a blue collar product. It also works because of nostalgia—harkening back to a “Golden Age” (whether real or imagined) where deals were done on a handshake and good breaks came easier.

Logically, we know that the past wasn’t perfect, but this aesthetic addresses the nagging feeling that things used to be just a little bit better.

And looking around at the world in 2024, who can be blamed for chasing a little bit of this comfort?

(Above): The "Nostalgic Regional" aesthetic is lager's de facto visual canon.




Reviving heritage IP
Instant Provenance 

If the Nostalgic Regional beer branding trend aims to evoke a bygone era with a newly-created brand, then the spate of brewers across the country reviving genuine heritage IP would be its more authentic foil.

This trend started years ago with the resurgence of PBR and High Life, Hamms, Rainier and Narragansett (stuff you’d drink while fishing with grandpa).

On the smaller craft side, we’re seeing breweries across the country obtain IP for a defunct (usually pre- or just post-prohibition) beer brand and faithfully reproduce it, recipe, branding and all. 

This works because it’s fun (!) and brings an instant story to the table—a sense of historicity.

It’s an opportunity to lean into that authenticity and create a connection with your customers.

And from a portfolio and Brand Architecture standpoint, it’s also an opportunity to create a strong brand that can drive incremental growth and travel to markets your brewery’s parent brand might not be able to.

(Above): Fun Heritage IP examples from around the country, including one CODO is wrapping up right now.




Personality plays 

Another approach here is a straight lifestyle appeal, in the vein of PBR or Montucky Cold Snacks.

Heavy on personality (and memes), this targets a specific subculture and a well-defined audience.

This approach takes a lot of effort and continual investment to get right, but can be well worth it if you can pull it off. 

(Above): Personality plays are heavy on social media and lifestyle cues. And if done well, they're a fun way to cut through the noise of today's cold box and connect with people (often well before they even have a chance to buy).

Read more about the Cold Drinking Beer brand here.




Occasion plays 

I would argue that lager is the quintessential occasion beer (it never steals the show or gets in the way).

And this thread highlights some smart on-the-nose naming and positioning we’re seeing to tie craft lager brands to specific activities. e.g., lawn mower beer, at the beach, on the boat, at the cookout, post workout.

I think this can be smart, provided you don’t beat around the bush—tell people exactly what this beer is and when they should drink it.

If your branding and value props are strong enough, then people might reward you for being forthright.

(Above): Lager is the quintessential occasion beer. 




Lager: It’s Brand all the way down

We’ve said this a few times throughout this year’s report, but it bears repeating. In an era where traditionally-defined beverage alcohol categories are blurring, consumer drinking habits are shifting, as are LDA demographics themselves, the beverages you produce—the actual liquid itself—will become less important.

Assuming a baseline level of quality is there, it’s your Brand—your story, your personality, your identity, your reason for existing—that will differentiate you and help you scale moving forward.

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/bbt-exclusive-4-the-year-of-craft-lager/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 063

A quick & dirty guide to brewery co-branding

 

Morning!

This is the third of four exclusive topics we’re covering here in our newsletter from our larger 2024 Beer Branding Trends report. 

We aren't publishing these insights on the main report, so if there’s someone on your team you think would benefit from reading these, please forward this email to them or have them sign up here.

As a reminder, we're currently fielding subscriber-submitted questions for a Q&A podcast episode. If you've got questions on anything in this issue or our annual review, please shoot me an email

Thanks so much for being a BBT subscriber!

Let's get into it.





Let’s discuss a fun, emergent trend we’re seeing in the beer industry right now: Co-branding. 

It seems like every other week, a client will reach out to us with a new project on this front (“We’re partnering with XYZ baseball team / XYZ pickleball league / XYZ donut shop and need help with the packaging.”).

I don’t have any deep insight into why this is happening right now, but I can say that I really like it. (Deep observations here at CODO, I know.)

These arrangements are fun and usually produce cool products.

We’ve previously written about stunt partnerships (e.g., a mayo brand partners with a vodka brand and… profit???).

But these sorts of relationships are more meme fuel than a bid to create lasting value (or, “vaporware” as Dave Infante calls them). So we’ll set those aside and instead focus on the rise in craft breweries meaningfully partnering with cool, local institutions. 

So let’s define co-branding, outline the most prominent examples we’re seeing today, as well as some other Brand Strategy considerations to keep in mind as you weigh whether or not this could be a good move for your brewery. 

(Above): Stunt / meme collabs. These *are* co-branding examples, but not the type of meaningful partnerships we’re discussing in today’s BBT issue.


 

What is co-branding?

Co-branding is a strategic partnership between two companies to create a product that bears both of your names.

This move leverages the strength of each brand to create something cool while introducing each company to the other’s customer base.

It can also help you each achieve deeper market penetration within your own respective category or tap into a new category altogether.

Basically, you’re pinning your brand to the associations and goodwill of another brand, and vice versa. And if done well, each party benefits. 

There are a lot of considerations that go into vetting and executing this sort of partnership, but there’s one piece of criteria that is so important, it acts as a go / no-go decision point for whether or not you should partner with a particular group in the first place…
 

Values, values, values (and values)

The most important thing that determines whether or not your brewery should collaborate with another business is how well your values align. Do your teams gel? Are you on the same page? Are you into the same things?  

This is critical because: 

1. Why would you want to work with someone who doesn’t share your values?

2. Why would this other business’ customers care about your brewery if you stand for something that they themselves don’t care about (or disagree with)?

3. Be aware that even a short lived collab can carry long term consequences. A misaligned partnership can harm your reputation long after the fact.

TLDR: If you don’t share the same values as another business, then there’s no way a co-branded product can work.



Types of co-branding we’re seeing right now in beer  

Co-branding can be an overly-complex subject. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds debating the various types of co-branding approaches you can employ (e.g., co-branding vs. co-marketing, ingredient co-branding, same company co-branding, sponsorships, and on and on…).

So let’s bypass that entire conversation—all the theory—and simply highlight a few of the most applicable examples we’re seeing in beer and the broader CPG space that you might consider right now at your brewery.

 

1. Brewery x Local Business 

Partnering with local businesses is a fun way to celebrate your city, tap into new fans and reinforce your local bona fides.

This is a wonderful move for Legacy Brewers and younger outfits alike.

Food partnerships, in particular (e.g. donut, candy and chocolate companies), also present an easy opportunity for fun LTO and seasonal releases. 

Common businesses we see on this front include: 

– Iconic local brands (sky’s the limit here—barbershops, clothing companies, bookstores, tattoo parlors, etc.)

– Coffee roasters

– Donut shops 

– Candy / confectionery companies 

– Orchards / farms / CSAs / farmers’ markets 

– Restaurants / hospitality companies 

This last example is a particularly interesting opportunity that I think more breweries should consider as well. Can you partner with a hospitality group to produce a house beer—something along the lines of a table lager?

We saw this in our field work a few times in the mid-2010s, but it seems to have waned since. (Let me know if your brewery makes a house beer for a local restaurant or hospitality group. I’d love to ask you a few questions about the arrangement.)

(Above): Brewery x local business co-branding examples, including iconic regional beverage brands, small coffee and donut shops, a regional ice cream chain, a casino and a radio station.




2. Brewery x CPG Food / snack brand 

This is a classic co-branding example you see a lot in national consumer package goods (CPG) food and snack categories.

By using the partner brand's product as an adjunct in beer, you give people a quick reference as to what flavors they should expect.  

The big difference between this collab and the previous one is a matter of scale. Think along the lines of a top 50 brewery partnering with a household name brand vs. a 2,500 bbl per year brewery partnering with a local donut shop.

One is not better than the other here, but there will be way more IP and legal work to sort through with the former.

(Above): Brewery x larger CPG co-branding examples, including: condiment brands (olive oil, hot sauce), snack brand (peanuts, popcorn), ingredient brands (pickles, salt, cheese, fish), and larger beverage brands (bourbon, coconut water). 



 

3. Brewery x (usually college) Sports Teams

Another common partnership we're seeing here is craft breweries partnering with sports teams (colleges, pro team franchises, stadiums and esoteric sport leagues).

And this spans beverage alcohol—so craft beer, to RTDs, seltzer and beyond. 

We’re seeing a flood of these sorts of partnerships right now, so much so that I’m wondering if some sort of specific big beer contract sunsetted or a regulation changed. 

Whatever the reason, this is a high profile way that can move real volume and ground your brand in a fun occasion and experience that people can more easily recall.

(Above): Brewery x sports team co-branding examples.



 

4. Brewery x NPO / Charity 

This is similar to co-branding with local small businesses, but with an emphasis on a specific cause.

It's also a great way to get in front of your city’s leaders and enmesh yourself in the community with likeminded people. 

Quick aside: I can hear you out there—shaking your head and grumbling about the horde of (well meaning!) nonprofits requesting donations that may come your way if you co-brand with a local charity.

My best advice to deal with this is to clearly lay out criteria and rules on your website—set an official policy—for how people should send in these requests, when your team will review them and how you decide which groups to support and so forth. 

Common examples we’re seeing here include: 

– Non profits (humane societies, environmental groups)
– Zoos & aquariums
– LGBTQ groups
– Parks
– Civic groups 

(Above): Brewery x NPO co-branding examples, including: veteran causes, humane societies, LGBTQ groups and zoos.


 

5. Clear Lifestyle Plays

A great way to build a Lifestyle Brand at your brewery is to co-brand with similarly-positioned brands outside of the beer space. 

Lifestyle brands hinge on tapping into existing subcultures, so finding a brand that already caters to this group is a great way to put your brewery’s brand in the same mind space.

This can shortcut the process of bringing an aspirational angle to your brand.

There are a handful of evergreen craft beer tropes, including blue collar outdoorsy brands, technical mountain town-y brands, heavy metal skater culture brands, etc.

But don’t limit your partnerships to just these worlds: You can tap into any activity that you find great meaning in.

(Above): Brewery x lifestyle brand co-branding examples, including: clothing companies (wool, boots and shoes), hunting and country living brands, surfing and beach brands and motorcycles.




6. Brewery x Brewery (or beyond beer brand)


Brewery collabs are as old as the modern beer industry.

While these tend to be even more ephemeral than all the other examples we’ve listed here, they still present great opportunities to build your brand and tap into a new audience.

I don’t have any guidelines for what size brewery you should partner with (e.g., same scale, much larger, smaller). In most cases, I think this boils down to either who you’re friends with, or some common cause (and values) between your breweries. 

(Above): Brewery and other beverage co-branding examples.


 

7. Brewery x XYZ Celebrity (band, personality, athlete)

Co-branding with a celebrity (especially a household name) can seem like a no-brainer, though it’s probably not feasible for most breweries.

To wit: Will this be a co-branded partnership where you both have skin in the game, or will this simply be a paid endorsement? There’s a big difference there (and I bet that most folks can spot it).

There's one more important caveat (on influencers) that we'll outline here in a second.

Other than these points, I think this can be fun and a cool branding opportunity, provided your values align with your partner (seeing a pattern here?).

(Above): Brewery x celebrity co-branding examples, including musicians, athletes, and whatever Guy Fieri is.



 

Misc Notes


On measuring ROI / KPIs


Some co-branding opportunities won’t result in a clear-cut ROI. Obviously sales and profit are important metrics, but I think you should consider more qualitative outcomes to evaluate these sorts of partnerships.

– How much positive Brand Equity, reputation and earned media are you each generating?

– What did you learn from working with another corporate team?

– And sometimes, this can just be an excuse to do something fun with your friends and a company you respect. Or a way to raise money or awareness for a cause. There’s a lot of value in that in its own right


Can you retain customer data?

We’ve already talked about why email marketing is an important function that more breweries need to be focusing on right now in another section of this year’s report.

To support this idea, an important thing you should try to capture and retain in any co-branding partnership is customer data. Namely, email addresses and relevant demographic info.

This will be critical for vetting and segmenting your audience by specific interest for future releases, collaborations and more tailored marketing.

So think through how you can best capture people’s emails through this co-branded release. Some quick ideas here:

– Co-brand specific landing page
– Out of stock / restock notification signups 
– Purchase confirmations 
– Sweepstakes / contest entry, etc. 
– QR code / SMS opt-in as part of a broader campaign 

Again, this advice isn’t limited to co-branded releases.

Capturing customer data will prove vital for all of your communications and marketing over the coming years.

But the amount of new customer data you can gather from a co-branding effort can help you determine whether or not it was successful and what you should change / test the next time around.


Tap into a lifestyle brand (or create a lifestyle product)

We touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating. If you’re interested in building a Lifestyle Brand—either by positioning your brewery’s parent brand as such or through a Sub Brand, co-branding with an aspirational brand in another industry is a great way of tapping into those consumers and occasions. 

This is such a valuable return, that it might even trump turning a profit on the partnership.

This doesn’t mean you should set out to lose money, but there’s a lot of value in reaching new audiences who can eventually turn into customers.


Limited Time Only (a powerful nudge)

We talked about this concept in our BBT issue on brewery merch.

But no matter how dead set you are on creating a lasting, year round co-branded product, consider first releasing it as a limited time only (LTO) basis. 

A little bit of scarcity can be all the nudge someone needs to grab a fun LTO product. 

And this approach also gives you valuable data: How well did your first drop sell? Who was buying it? What sort of feedback did you receive? What can you do to improve on the product, customer experience, marketing—anything—next time around?

(Above): This isn't a craft example, but I've been following Miller Lite's influencer partnerships for a while. I think they do a great job of finding well-aligned partners and building a lifestyle angle to their brand.




On Brand Architecture & Intellectual Property

If you’re co-branding with your brewery friends across town, then getting your IP squared away probably isn’t a big deal.

But if you’re partnering with any other business, it’s a good idea to take the time to document the product’s IP in a proper legal agreement.

This can include getting mutual trademark licenses in place to allow your brewery and partner organization to use the other’s IP in their marketing.

This sort of agreement should include clauses defining how long the relationship is in place, how you can renew or sell the IP, how to terminate the partnership, etc. 

But you’re also creating new IP through this product launch, so you’ll want to define who owns what and for how long as well.

And you’ll want to trademark and protect these assets just as you would any of your other IP. 

I’m now firmly outside of my lane, so consult your attorney (and urge your co-branding partner to do the same) so you don’t get derailed by an annoying admin thing, or misunderstanding, down the line.

 

A note on co-branding with influencers 

We wrote earlier about how co-branding with a celebrity can be a good move (sometimes).

One thing to think about when partnering with any person, or brand, is where their audience is.

Yeah, getting The Rock® to hawk your beer could be fun. But can you scale and actually sell your beer to every single one of his followers? (Another important thing to consider here—some of whom might not even be LDA?)

This brings up “nano” or “micro-influencers.” These are generally characterized as anyone that focuses on a specific hobby, topic or interest and has 1k up to 100k followers. 

Social proof is a real phenomenon, so this can be a smart play. 

My caution here would be that you actually meet with this person, in person to feel them out and make sure they’re actually a decent person (not a degenerate who just happens to be charismatic on social media).

There are historically bad examples of celebrity endorsements and co-branding partnerships backfiring.

But I think this threat is just as real for a smaller brewery, and smaller influencers.  
 
Again, this all comes down to values. Does this influencer person align with your brewery and what you stand for? If so, co-brand with them all day long. 

(Above): Co-branding / endorsement disasters. Partnering with a celebrity can be great. Until it isn't 


 

Co-branding = signaling 

Co-branding is a fun marketing strategy. 

And I think the underlying mechanism that makes this really compelling isn’t just slapping another company’s logo on your can.

It’s that co-branding sends a signal that your brewery is cool—that other brands want to associate with you. 

This may seem like it’s putting the cart before the horse, but hear me out.

If your brewery is co-branding with a cool local company, that means that your brewery is also cool.

Beyond sales, profit and all the important business stuff that we track and obsess over on a day-to-day basis, this idea may actually be one of the most valuable results you can get from these relationships.

Around the Shop

CODO is presenting at CBC in Las Vegas TOMORROW

Cody and I are having fun prowling around the CBC trade show floor and sitting in on other seminars.

But the fun and games stop tomorrow at 1:30pm Pacific when we take the main stage for our presentation.

Just kidding. There will still be plenty of fun and games (and beers) afterwards,

Come join our seminar if you're in town and want to learn how you can use Brand Architecture to scale your brewery and future proof your new product development work.

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/bbt-exclusive-3a-quick-dirty-guide-to-co-branding/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 062

The Regional Brewery Playbook (What we're seeing in our Regional branding work)

Morning!

This is the second of four exclusive topics we’re covering here in our newsletter from our larger 2024 Beer Branding Trends report. 

We aren't publishing these insights on the main article, so if there’s someone on your team you think would benefit from reading these, please forward this email to them or have them sign up here.

As a reminder, we're currently fielding subscriber-submitted questions for a Q&A podcast episode. If you've got questions on anything in this issue or our annual review, please shoot me an email

Thanks for being a BBT subscriber!

Let's get into it.





The entire beer industry is dealing with a down economy.

But mid-market and Regional Breweries are dealing with a uniquely challenging set of headwinds today.

They’re small enough that they face competition from more nimble, local outfits, but are still big enough that they often compete with Big Beer for placements (and price and distribution channels).

Today's hyper-competitive market sees more breweries than ever in operation while we're also seeing troubling consumer preference shifts (i.e. they're drinking less beer).

Throw in a labor shortage and increased interest rates and it’s not hard to see why so many larger breweries are dealing with flat (to declining) sales.

So, not a super rosy picture.

But take heart—it’s not all doom and gloom.

We’ve worked with several Regional Breweries over the last year who are making smart moves aimed at shoring up their flanks and better positioning their business for the long term.

Here’s what we’re seeing in our projects and field work.

(Above): The Brewers Association (BA) defines a Regional Brewery as any outfit that produces between 15k and 6 million barrels per year.

Internally at CODO, we consider any brewery that produces approximately 7k bbl to 75k bbl per year and distributes across state lines to be a Regional. (This is a little more precise than a 5.9M+ range.)





Brand Strategy as a Diagnostic Tool 

Brand Strategy is an integral part of our branding process, and for good reason: Without framing your brewery’s positioning and differentiators, key messaging, values, personality, voice, vision and essence to guide downstream design deliverables, anything we design will just be pretty form making.

Could it help you sell more beer? Sure, maybe.

But properly defining your Brand Strategy allows us to understand your entire context, including pain points and threats to resolve as well as opportunities to seize.


We usually go into projects with a well-defined scope (e.g., revamping your brand identity, packaging or building a new website), and frame Brand Strategy en route to knocking out that work.

Today, we’re seeing a rise in Regional Breweries who are wanting us to frame their Brand Strategy as a diagnostic to figure out where they currently stand, pain points they can address and opportunities they should consider targeting.

As we mentioned earlier in our annual review, there can be a sense amongst older breweries of having no idea
where the hell they even are right now.

And a Brand Strategy process can be an insightful way of bringing in an outside set of eyes to size up your situation, tell you where you sit relative to your competition, and make recommendations that you might explore based on what we’re seeing.

(Above): Several Brand Strategy, Brand Essence and art direction docs, including one for Birdsmouth Beer.



 

Less rebrands & more brand refreshes

We’re seeing less wholesale rebrands amongst our Regional Brewery clients and more brand identity and package refreshes.

Read more about the differences between these approaches here.

There are a few reasons why this could be—rebranding is never without risk, and people are becoming more risk averse and budget conscious due to the economic environment we’re in. 

And unless your brand identity and positioning poses an immediate and existential threat, it can be easier, faster and less risky to look for opportunities to drive incremental growth.

What are some quick wins you can rack up this year, or next?

So, a brand refresh that addresses annoying inconsistencies, or a core package refresh that breathes new life into your on-shelf presence may be a better investment than burning everything to the ground and starting fresh 29 years in (even if that's what your heart really wants). 



Heavy rationalization & package refreshes

The last several years have seen breweries dramatically revise and decrease the size and range of their portfolios.

But we’re seeing this even more aggressively amongst our Regional clients. 

We’ve seen figures like 50+ brands removed from rotation last year with 50+ more slated to be retired this year.

And this makes sense in a tighter market.

Can you afford to make an amber ale that may be a fan favorite, but only accounts for 6% of your revenue?

You have to set emotion aside here and be craven when defining your priority brands moving forward. 

 

We’re seeing them re-entrench on current footprint

This point often goes hand in hand with heavy SKU rationalization.

We’re seeing Regional Breweries pull out of lower performing markets in favor of doubling down on their current footprint and/or home market.

2024 is not a time to be a mile wide and an inch deep.

Owning your backyard will be crucial moving forward.

(Above): Smart Brand Architecture moves from leading Regional breweries, including lots of Sub Brand development, Line Extensions, co-branding and variety packs. 



 

Growing via Brand Architecture

Most of our Regional Brewery work over the last year has included a heavy Brand Architecture component. A few examples:

Brand Architecture to guide future innovation: That could be Brand Architecture mapping to get a sense of all of a brewery’s brands, locations and as a tool to guide new product development.

Building new brands and Sub / Endorsed Brands: We’re helping a lot of our Regional clients launch entirely new brands (lager, hazy IPA, Hop Water, NA beer) and/or taking a best-selling brand and spinning it out as a Sub Brand (or, scaling the Sub Brand Ladder).

Beyond Beer: I still believe the future of beer is, well, beer. But a diversified portfolio, to include non-alcoholic products, RTDs and FMBs and spirits, will be crucial to recruiting new drinkers and staying relevant for your current fans moving forward.

Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) City: We’re seeing a lot of M&A activity this year, to include: Breweries buying other breweries, buying (or selling) brands, creating new concepts / brands to serve as a beachhead in a new market, selling off brands or forming joint ventures to find more scale.

(Above): This Brand Architecture Map charts out short and medium term category opportunities this brewery could explore based on our broader Brand Strategy recommendations.



 

A final note here for Regional & Legacy Breweries: On acting your age

We’ve had several philosophical conversations with Regional Brewery founders and CMOs recently on the idea that everyone is looking for the next moon shot.

In the words of one of our clients, “You’re seeing a lot of breweries flailing around and throwing stuff at the wall.

Maybe we should launch a hard tea? Or a hard juice? How can we find our own Voodoo Ranger? How can we attract younger drinkers?”

A quick note on this, if I may:

I agree with this sentiment. It’s a tough market right now, but rather than throwing a bunch of new products out into the world to see what sticks, I’d suggest taking a more clinical look at your brand and acting your age.

In this context, acting your age means bringing to bear all of your experience—all of your QA/QC and innovation capabilities, and your marketing and sales resources, and your distribution network—to fundamentally reimagine your portfolio. 

What have you historically stood for? What do you stand for today? And where do you want to take your business moving forward?

Is there an opportunity to dip into your back catalog and re-introduce an old favorite? Or treat a bygone brand as an LTO offering?

And on new product development, specifically, where can your brewery credibly play? What new products will track with your current fans, and what would just confuse people?

New beverage categories will rise and fall.

Acting your age means being thoughtful about how you innovate, where you take your brand and how you build your brewery’s business for the long haul.




(Below): Legacy Breweries who are only getting better with age.

Around the Shop

CODO is headed to Vegas for CBC

CODO Design will be in Las Vegas next week to host a seminar on Brand Architecture. 

Shoot me an email if you'll be there and want to grab a beer and talk shop.

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/bbt-exclusive-2-the-regional-brewery-playbook/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 061

Tools & tactics for defining your brewery's Brand Equity

Morning!

This is the first of four exclusive topics we’re covering here in our newsletter from our larger 2024 Beer Branding Trends report. 

We aren't publishing these insights on the main report, so if there’s someone on your team you think would benefit from reading these, please forward this email to them or have them sign up here.

As a reminder, we're currently fielding subscriber-submitted questions for a Q&A podcast episode. If you've got questions on anything in this issue or our annual review, please shoot me an email

Thanks so much for being a BBT subscriber.

Let's get into it.


Defining your Brand Equity is an important part of successfully rebranding your brewery. 

Which existing elements stay and which can be jettisoned often provoke some of the liveliest debates during our work. But the frustrating thing about this entire subject is that *concretely* defining which visual signifiers are mission critical for your brand, and which aren’t, is more art than science. 

We've fielded a nonstop stream of brewery rebrands and refreshes since 2018 and this refrain has been a through line in a lot of that work:

“We want to build on what we’ve developed over the years, but we’re not quite sure what to build on.”

So, for this 2024 Beer Branding Trends Exclusive issue, I wanted to outline some of the ways that we measure visual and Brand Equity.

This will give you some different perspectives to consider and tools to use to define your own equity, for if or when you embark on your brewery’s rebrand.

(Above): Dogfish Head has refreshed its packaging several times over the years. A constant through all of these updates has been there iconic shark and shield badge. This is a powerful piece of visual equity that, if lost, would likely result in a drop in sales.




On Brand Audits

The first step in framing your equity is a brand audit.

This is a rigorous examination of all of your brewery’s internal and external communications going back to your earliest days. This includes any existing positioning and brand strategy work (brand guidelines, style guides, Brand Architecture maps), identity and package design (primary and secondary formats, tap handles, merch), digital assets (website, social media, email), events (parties, beer festivals, tap takeovers), relationships, news and earned media.

Through this, we’re working to define your visual and Brand Equity.

We’ve defined these before, but as a refresher:

Brand Equity is the total amount of goodwill your brand has with your customers. This is more brand-level stuff focused on your messaging, positioning, values, value props, personality, voice and key communication pillars.

How do people talk about your brewery? What role do you play in your community? Are you generally top of mind?

Like your brand itself, these connotations, associations and stories live inside your customers’ minds. They inform your visual identity and packaging but are upstream of them.

Visual equity are all the cues that, if lost through a rebrand, could set you back in the off-premise (e.g., people may not be able to easily find your iconic packaging because you’ve changed it too drastically).

This can include things like SKU-specific colors that you've used for years, unique packaging hierarchy, naming conventions, your interior design style, an illustration style, custom typography and other iconography.



 

Brand Equity, while the fuzzier concept of the two, is actually easier to frame.

Consumer surveys and stakeholder interviews can quickly suss out how people perceive your brand, what associations they make with your brewery, your overall reputation, where you sit relative to your competition, and so forth. 

But your visual equity is where you’re kind of guessing (or at least, leading with your gut). 

So, let’s now examine some of the ways we’ve helped our clients define their equity ahead of a rebrand.

(Above): Prost Brewing had zero Visual Equity to carry forward through their rebrand. This allowed for a more profound break from their previous identity and packaging.





How we determine what visual and Brand Equity is actually valuable 

 

1. The value of consistency over time

A lot of our brand audit conversations center around the value of consistency over time. If you’ve consistently used a particular illustration style, or brand voice, or packaging format, then there can be important equity there.

We generally give more weight to an element’s visual equity if you’ve been consistently using it for several years, during which you saw growth. 

This qualifier is important: No matter how you define growth—top line revenue, profit, annual bbl production, whatever metrics you choose to look at—you should see an overall upward trend in those figures. 

Why? 

Because if you’ve used the same look forever but haven’t seen growth, then who cares how much recall it might have? (This is like continuing to eat Doritos when you’re trying to lose weight, because, well, you’ve always eaten Doritos. Ahh, Cool Ranch Equity®.)

Important Brand Equity almost always includes your brewery name and beer names. It often includes composition components of your logo, so maybe not the entire logo itself, but its general shape and format. 

And it usually includes SKU-specific colors and iconography. e.g., “We’ve used the same color on this IPA for 12 years, so at a minimum, this is what people would look for on the shelf.”

(Imagine for a moment if Sierra Nevada changed its iconic Pale Ale packaging from green to a vibrant purple? How does that make you feel?)

It’s also common to see illustration style here, though it’s been our experience that the fact that you use illustrations itself carries its own equity rather than a particular illustration style.

This may seem counterintuitive, but you may have a good amount of leeway in how you update an illustration so long as you don’t completely jettison the use of illustrations altogether. (Of course, YMMV.)


2. When you just *know* something is important

When rebranding a brewery, it’s common to hear some version of, “We can’t change X because it’s important” without any real data to back up the claim. 

While this perspective is qualitative (and therefore unfalsifiable), that doesn’t mean we should discount it. And we rarely do in our work.

We’re hesitant to cast aside anyone’s gut feeling, particularly a long-tenured marketing director or brewery founder.

But you should never accept something at face value without interrogating it with a few of the other concepts we’ll outline here shortly. 

And another point to consider here: It’s worth mentioning that this idea can fall victim to normalcy bias (e.g., you’ve been looking at the same logo or can design for X number of years and you can’t imagine a world where this is substantially changed).

Again, that doesn’t mean you’re not right, but make sure you're thinking through whether your own biases and concerns might be clouding this process and getting in the way of moving your brewery’s brand forward.

Be as objective as you can here.


3. Ball parking the cost associated with changeover

The actual cost to pull off a huge visual changeover is about as concrete a metric as you can get. If it will take you $2M+ to change over all your vehicle wraps, distributor assets, tap handles and so forth throughout your market, then this has to be considered when defining your visual equity. 

We hear this concern a lot from CFO and COO-types during rebrands, and for good reason.

What’s the point of rebranding if you can’t afford to roll out your new look?

This point shouldn’t have the final say in which elements have more equity than others, but it can often serve as a tiebreaker in the decision or at least shape your thinking.


4. Trademark / Trade dress / IP considerations

Intellectual property (IP) is an important consideration in the rebranding process as well because updating a mark, even subtly, can have downstream legal consequences. 

I know just enough here to be dangerous, so in the interest of not sounding like an idiot, read this chapter from Craft Beer, Rebranded for more info on managing your IP during a rebrand. 

And here’s a great conversation with CODO’s IP attorney (and brewery founder), Matthew McLaughlin on this subject as well.


5. Category conventions & competitive set considerations

These considerations are more external than internal, but they should still be considered as you weigh your brewery’s visual and Brand Equity.

I’ll touch on them both together since we view them as two sides of the same coin.

On category conventions: Have category conventions evolved since you came to market in a way that might make any of your visual equity obsolete?

Is there a way to adhere to your category’s must-haves, but rise above them in a differentiated, delightful way that builds on any of your existing equity? 

On your competitive set: How has your competitive set evolved over the years?

If so, how could this affect what value you place on certain elements of your visual and Brand Equity?

A common scenario we’ve seen in our work, particularly among CPG food and Bev clients is that you come to market and completely define a category’s look. (Our work with Sitka Salmon Shares is a good example here.)

What this means is that you may have tons of visual equity, but that this has been eroded by myriad copycats.

This doesn’t mean you have to cede your ground here, but you do need to consider whether a substantial pivot might be a better move to get clear of the crowd once more.





(Below): Defining Left Field Brewery's visual equity was a straight forward process. They came to CODO with a clearly defined positioning and point of view in place. Our job was to build on their visual equity in a subtle way that helps them better tell this story in retail.

(Above): The Recall Test: Could someone recognize your packaging at a quick glance in retail, even if blurred?



 

The Recall Test (or, how to measure your Brand Equity, Fast and Slow)


Our Craft Beer, Rebranded Workbook includes a series of Recall Tests that aim to capture peoples’ most basic understanding of your brand identity and packaging.

This is one of the most concrete ways we've found to quantitatively measure visual equity. 

What have people come to instinctively recognize—without thinking—as your brand identity and packaging indicators.

Could someone recognize your packaging or logo, even if blurred?

(Daniel Kahneman’s work on System 1 vs. System 2 thinking inspired us to create this in case you want more background on our approach here.)

As a preview, we (or, you) direct your taproom customers to draw different components of your Brand Identity and packaging from memory.

The Craft Beer, Rebranded Workbook includes worksheets with various blank formats for this (12oz and 16oz cans, 6-pack carriers, bottle labels, tap handles and merch). All you need to add in are markers or pencils.

(Pro tip: Catch people earlier in the night vs. later for more, let's say, efficacious results.)

Our goal with this exercise is to gather several dozen examples from real world customers. 

Once you’ve gathered everything, review to see what common elements people drew. Is there a particular color people overwhelmingly associate with your brand? Is there a distinctive element on your packaging that people picked up on? Or an icon or interesting typography build from your logo? 

These are the sort of elements that could be considered more sacrosanct as you continue through your rebrand.

Wrapping up

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet for defining your brewery’s visual equity. 

We’ve worked with several top 50 breweries and a few $500M+ consumer packaged goods (CPG) food and bev brands, and even at this level, with all the money in the world (metaphorically speaking) to throw at expensive surveys and tests and studies and focus groups, I’m still not sure you can ever define your equity with 100% certainty.

But don’t let that slow you down.  

These decisions come down to what you want to build your brand around. 

– What is your story? 

– What are your unique differentiators? 

– And what existing stuff—iconography, colors, taglines, etc.—will help you build your brand moving forward?

Define those as best as you can and move forward with confidence.

Further reading

1. Here's a good overview of Tropicana's disastrous (and short-lived) 2009 rebrand. This little maneuver cost them more than $50M and is estimated to have cost more than $30M in sales.

2. Here's our take on Anchor Brewing's rebrand. To be clear, this move didn't cause Anchor to close down after more than 125 years in business. But it was still an abject failure.

(And since we're here, I might as well put this out into the universe: If you, or someone you know, ends up buying Anchor's IP, or overseeing its comeback, please reach out to CODO. We'd love to right that wrong.)

Around the Shop

Catch out CBC presentation live

CODO Design will be in Las Vegas here in a few weeks hosting a seminar on Brand Architecture. 

Shoot me an email if you'll be there and would like to grab a beer and talk shop.

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/bbt-exclusive-1-defining-your-brand-equity-fast-slow/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 060

CODO's 2024 Beer Branding Trends Review is out now!

Good morning!

I'm excited to share our 2024 Beer Branding Trends Review with you. 

This is our annual deep dive on what we see shaping the beer and Bev Alc space (from a branding perspective) right now.

1. Read the report here.

2. If audio is more your speed, Cody and I recorded a companion podcast that serves as high-level overview of this piece. Listen to that here.





As a thank you for being a subscriber, we've pulled out 4 specific portions of this report and sending them to your inbox only over the coming weeks.

These issues include:

1. Defining your Brand Equity: Fast & Slow (April 9)

2. The Regional Brewery Playbook (April 16)

3. A Quick & Dirty Guide to Co-Branding (April 23)

4. The Year of Lager? (April 30)

These issues are newsletter exclusives, meaning they won't be published in our broader report.

So you can brag to your colleagues who aren't BBT subscribers about how much more informed you are on all things beer branding and marketing. 

Or you can just use these insights to build a stronger brand and outcompete them. (Your call.)



If you're reading this, then you don't have to do anything to receive these exclusive emails—you're already in.

If you'd like to make sure your team member(s) receive these exclusive insights, please forward this email to them (or have them subscribe here).



We're also planning to record a Q&A podcast on this year's report in a month or so.

Please email me any questions you have on anything we cover here and we'll field those on the show.



Here's an outline for this year's report:

Section 1: Beer Branding & Positioning

Rebrands & Refreshes: Why are breweries rebranding right now?

• Rebranding to figure out where to go from here
• Rebranding to address Brand Architecture issues
• Refreshing their packaging after heavy SKU rationalization 
• Rebranding a specific beer
• Legacy Breweries are rebranding to find their third wind 
• Breweries are preparing for a change of the guard 
• Defining your Brand Equity: Fast & Slow (BBT Newsletter Exclusive)

Websites

• Your website as a content marketing hub
• An exciting rise in email marketing

Lifestyle Brands, Revisited
 

• Own an occasion 
• Blue collar Lifestyle Brands
• Lean into local pride

What's in a (style) name?
 

• IPA vs. Hazy
• Lager as a Brand

Breweries are taking their merch seriously
 

• Your merch is a direct reflection of your business
• Your merch should reinforce your positioning and story
• Give your fans winks and nods
• Create merch drops and scarcity 
• Please exit through the gift shop
• Driving revenue vs. Branding building

Hospitality-focused Breweries: Taprooms & Brewpubs 
• Multi-use spaces 
• Create a killer bar experience 
• Food as a differentiator

The Regional Brewery Playbook  (BBT Newsletter Exclusive)
 

Section 2: Brand Architecture 

The continued march of Sub / Endorsed Brands

• Sub Brands. So hot right now.
• How to Scale the Sub Brand Ladder
• First Steps: Create a Platform
• Intermediate Steps: Give it some gas
• Final Steps: Take "the Leap"

Restaurant vs. Brewery

A Quick & Dirty Guide to Co-Branding (BBT Newsletter Exclusive)

Section 3: Beer & Beyond (Exploring the Fourth Category)

The year of lager? (BBT Newsletter Exclusive)

The curious case of ABV

Hop Water (+ NA Beer)


• On categorical differentiation 
• How do you position Hop Water?
• Hop Water's Brand Architecture 
• A quick note on NA beer

Hard Cider

• Parallels between cider and beer
• Cider's halo effect
• Cider as a beverage platform 

Teas & RTDs (+ FMBs & Juice)

Section 4: Branding & Package Design Trends

Nostalgia 
• Overview + 70s, 80, 90s/00s

Even more mascots

Dimensional Typography

Gloopy Typography 

Vibrant & Neon

Around the Shop

[Podcast] 2024 Beer Branding Trends Overview

Here's a fun companion podcast that Cody and I recorded that covers everything we see shaping the beer and Bev Alc industry right now.

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/2024-beer-branding-trends-is-out-now/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss Co-branding in craft beer, and why this is such a fun strategy right now.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. 2024 Beer Branding Trends Report

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/065-a-quick-dirty-guide-co-branding/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down with Jacob Virgil to discuss their recent rebranding project with NoDa Brewing.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. Rebranding NoDa Brewing [Case study]

2. NoDa Brewing

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/rebranding-noda-brewing-feat-jacob-virgil/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss what they’re seeing in their Regional Brewery branding work.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. 2024 Beer Branding Trends Report

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/063-the-regional-brewery-playbook/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss how to actually frame your visual and Brand Equity

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. 2024 Beer Branding Trends Report

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/062-defining-your-brand-equity-fast-slow-podcast/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss CODO’s 2024 Beer Branding Trends review.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. 2024 Craft Beer Branding Trends

2. Join the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter to receive exclusive insights

3. How to design better merch

4. How to scale the Sub Brand Ladder

5. Modular Brand Identity Systems

6. Hop Water

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 7,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/061-2024-beer-branding-trends-report-overview/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 059

Let's talk Hard Cider

Morning!

Quick admin note here: We’re less than 2 weeks out from launching our 2024 Beer Branding Trends review. 

All 23,000+ words of it. 

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I wanted to give you a preview of a segment from this report on one of CODO’s favorite beverage segments.

The hard cider market has been interesting to watch.

It’s been quietly growing in the background for as long as the contemporary beer industry, and has actually outperformed beer sales as of late (driven in large part by imperial ciders).

Along the way, several cider outfits have built up impressive empires spanning multi-regional footprints and posting production figures that would put them amongst the top 50 breweries by volume.

And cider itself is an interesting category that mirrors a lot of the self-examining questions the craft beer industry wrestled with in the early 2010s as the category began its rocket ship growth path.

Namely, a (sometimes) heated conversation surrounding defining what hard cider even is.

(Above): Brewery > Cider — I bet we'll see more breweries release Hard Cider brands over the coming years.

Read more about Good George Brewing's cider program here

And the City Roots Cider (formerly Harpoon Craft Cider) is a good example of a brewery scaling the Sub Brand Ladder.



 

What is hard cider?

– Is it a cloying, apple-forward commodity CPG product with a surly tree adorning each bottle? 

– Or is it an artisan product, made from only the finest fresh-pressed juice and served locally in the Old World tradition? 

– Does independence and ownership matter? 

– Do you have to grow your own apples to be authentic?

– Does hard cider have to be apple-based, or can it follow in beer’s footsteps by continually stretching the bounds of what constitutes the category itself?

This latter point is more compelling when you look at broader Bev Alc trends of setting aside quaint notions like category conventions and TTB classifications to focus more on flavor (!) and ABV (!!) and attitude (!!!).

I could go on and on about this category (I love, love, love) hard cider, but I’ll stop now and outline a few big points we’re seeing in our project work in this space.

(Above): Imperial ciders, like imperial IPAs, are a major category growth driver.




Parallels between beer and hard cider

We’re seeing a lot of the same trend lines driving growth in cider that are at play in the beer industry, including:

– Flavors, novel and bold, are driving consumer trial. 

– Imperial Ciders are a big growth driver. 

– Adjuncts (especially non-Apple fruits) are expanding cider’s reach. 

– NA ciders could be a viable segment to explore (though, make sure you mind your Brand Architecture in these cases). 

– Better for you / functional ciders (with esoteric ingredients like Adaptogens & Nootropics) could see growth. 

– Light ciders (low cal and crushable) could see growth. 

(Above): Lagers are trending right now as beer consumers look for familiar, easy drinking options. 

Is there an opportunity for light ciders to see the same growth?




 

Cider’s halo effect

From a messaging standpoint, cider benefits from a perceived “naturalness.” 

This can’t be bad for you, it’s just apples.

Cider’s innate agricultural provenance and orchard connection lends a halo effect to the category as a whole. 

It’s not quite better for you, though there is an angle here to reach consumers who are looking for a healthy, honest drink.

The same can be said for cider’s gluten free claim. 

This value prop punches way above its weight. (i.e. in CPG packaging, if a consumer sees that something is gluten free, they assume it’s a healthier product overall.)

While not necessarily true (e.g. gluten free Oreo’s exist. lol.), this perception does exist. 

And this is a good thing for folks who are building hard cider brands. 

(Above): We're seeing a lot of the same Fourth Category exploration from cideries as we are from breweries.



 

Cider as a beverage platform: Opportunity and risks

We’re seeing the same push into Fourth Category beverages from cideries as we are across the rest of beer and Bev Alc (e.g. cider brands producing sodas, teas, functional beverages, pre and probiotic sodas, RTDs, seltzers, beer, wine and spirits). 

On one hand, I think it’s smart to view cider as a platform for innovation and exploration.

But on the other hand, you have to wonder: 

How far can you push hard cider [away from apples] before a consumer is just buying another (commodity) FMB or RTD cocktail?

I think experimenting with non-apple fruit is a natural, credible play for most cideries, but beyond that, you should think carefully about the positioning and Brand Architecture implications of launching non-cider and further afield products. 

The further away you get from apples as a base, the further you get away from what makes the segment special in the first place.


— 


Wrapping up

We’ve helped breweries launch basically every type of beverage you can dream up at this point—seltzer, RTDs, coffees, kombucha, NA beer, Hop Water, teas, punches, spirits, and on and on. 

But we haven’t seen too many breweries release hard ciders. 

Yet.

I think hard cider could be a great category for more breweries to explore as they look to diversify their portfolio and find incremental growth.

Conversely, for the cideries and cider industry itself, I think that if (or as) beer’s collective share continues to slide, this is all the more opportunity you need to continue ascending and stealing overall share. 

Either way, I bet we see more breweries get into cider over the coming years. 

And I’m here for it. 

Around the Shop

How to produce 100k+ bbl of cider with Schilling Hard Cider

We had a fun conversation with Eric Phillips, CCO of Schilling Cider a few years back. 

This interview touches on:

– Brand Values, and how Schilling invests in its team 
– The benefits of a multi-regional footprint 
– Fourth category options for the cider industry 
– Who's drinking hard cider
– Cider value props
– Expanding by "drafting" into new markets 
– Hard cider in the on-prem vs. off-prem

And much, much more. Such a great conversation.

CODO x CBC

Cody and I have been selected to host a seminar at CBC this year titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop and/or discuss working together.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/lets-talk-hard-cider/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 058

Cold Drinking Beer: Building a Sub Brand that can travel




A few admin items before we get going here:

1.
Click here to read this post on our site (and see much larger images).

2. Cody and I recorded a fun podcast with Robby and Michael from Virginia Beer Co. on building the Cold Drinking Beer Sub Brand. Listen to that conversation here.





Morning! (Glad you're here.)

Today, we’re going to walk through a recent project that sits firmly at the intersection of a few major trends that are happening in craft beer right now.

Namely: Building Sub Brands, the rise of craft lager and lifestyle positioning. 

In mid-2023, Virginia Beer Co. (VBC) reached out to CODO for help branding a new product called Cold Drinking Beer.

Their team was excited about an opportunity they saw to create a standalone beer brand that could travel beyond Virginia state lines.

A few breweries in the mid-Atlantic market are making easy drinking, light(ish) beers, but none that stood apart from their brewery’s parent brand.

So other than a handful of products in that camp, and the entrenched macros, they felt that this was a great opportunity to create something fun that everyone (drinkers, retailers and wholesalers) could get excited about.

This project entailed Brand Strategy and Brand Architecture (so, where does this brand live within the VBC portfolio), brand identity, package design, web design and initial launch / sales assets. 

Let’s walk through the process, highlighting a few important points along the way.

Brand Strategy & Positioning

Brand Strategy is an important part of bringing any new brand to market, but for Cold Drinking Beer, it was mission critical.

This is a very specific play, and if we whiff on any of these foundational pillars, the entire thing won’t go. 

Through this work, we’re framing the following:

– What is Cold Drinking Beer? 
– What style is it? (more on this in a minute…)
– What’s the format / price point?
– How is it positioned?
– What are the brand’s key messaging, tone of voice and personality?
– Who will drink it & what role does it play in their life?
– [In a sea of options,] why does this beer matter?  
 

Here are a few highlights pulled directly from our Brand Strategy work: 

 

On audience definition: 

Cold Drinking Beer will cater to the Fatigued Craft Drinker. “This is a craft beer that doesn’t go out of its way to bill itself as a (capital C, capital B) Craft Beer. We want to appeal to craft drinkers who want a quality beer, but are fatigued by IPAs, industry gimmicks, or scorchingly high ABV. They’re looking for a breather beer that matches their changing palate and lifestyle.” 

 

On messaging & imagery to avoid: 

This is not a brand ripped from the 1970s; we’re not trying to evoke a sense of forced nostalgia (“fauxstalgia”), and we’re not trying to sell the past. Legacy nostalgia brands can come off feeling kind of cheap; this should be the craft answer to that. 


Brand Essences 

We developed three unique Brand Essences to pull all of this messaging and strategy work together for art direction. These included: 

– “Your Old Pal” 
– “Take a Breather” 
– “Celebrate Each Other” 

The feel of the “Old Pal” direction combined with the tone and personality of “Celebrate Each Other” immediately resonated with the Virginia Beer Co. team.

But there were a few other concerns to work through before moving onto design: 

– Make the colors cooler (we skewed warmer in the mood boards to connote warmth and approachability, but the VBC team wasn't feeling it). This beer is cold, after all. 

– Make sure that the beer name is super legible at a glance.

– “We want this beer to have a humble confidence, but are these directions too humble?"

Great feedback here, and it highlights why Brand Strategy and art direction are an important first step in any project.

Had we jumped straight into concept development without these conversations, we would’ve ended up presenting a bunch of stuff that wasn’t right.

And then people’s feelings are hurt and the whole project can go sideways real quick.

Properly framed Brand Strategy prevents this. 

Okay, onto initial concept development (a very churched up way of saying "sketching.")

(Above): Snapshots from our initial sketching. Most of this didn’t make it into the first presentation.

 

Initial concepts 

We shared three initial concepts, and there were a few through lines in this work: Minimal, typography-driven, familiar and slightly nostalgic (without trying too hard).

But each direction still had its own special something. 

– The first direction centered around this grocery store window painted sign vibe (e.g. ice, beer, bait)

– The second direction was the most contemporary of the bunch. It was bold, punchy and really, really proud of itself. “As proud of yourself as you can get without being an asshole,” as someone put it during the presentation.

– The third direction was understated and confident. It was supposed to look like it’s existed for decades without trying too hard to evoke that connection.

After a lively conversation, it turned out we were pretty close to the mark, as-is, with direction 2. 

(Cue awkward-CODO-high-fiving montage followed by shuffling to the kegerator for a well-earned lager at — checks watch — 10:45am?)

Onto revisions.

The Revisions Phase

We were in a good spot after our initial presentation, but there was still a lot of work, internal critiques, and several rounds of revisions to get Cold Drinking Beer where the Virginia Beer Co. team was happy and it met CODO's standard. 

We worked through a lot of stuff here: Dialing in the colors and typography, finessing the packaging composition (primary vs. secondary), developing taglines, iconography and other important trade dress to round out the brand identity.

Rather than bore you with 600 variations of slab serifs and tagline build options, here’s a montage gif to give you an idea of how much ground we covered through the revisions phase.

Sweating the (not so) small stuff 

There were a few important points that we discussed in our initial Brand Strategy work that we couldn’t answer early on.

Instead, we had to see how the design took shape and work through them as we went. 

We dialed these in through the revisions phase, so let’s talk about them now.  

 

On Brand Architecture 

We built Cold Drinking Beer as a standalone brand with zero connection to Virginia Beer Co. (We discussed this decision at length in our companion podcast.)

There were two big reasons for this: 

1. VBC wanted to appeal to a broader audience. And tying this product to a respected (capital C) Craft brewery might narrow their reach. 

2. VBC has regional aspirations for this brand. This is one instance where their (otherwise great) name is a hindrance. 

With so many local options to choose from, why would someone in North Carolina or Delaware or Florida care about a beer from Virginia Beer Co.? 



What’s Cold Drinking Beer's style nomenclature? 

This was an important challenge from our earliest conversations.

Cold Drinking Beer isn’t a lager (it’s more of a Cream Ale). But we wanted to position it like a familiar light beer (so, lager-ish) since it would be vying for similar occasions.

So, what do we call this beer? 

Here, we’re not so much concerned with TTB style designations as we are with how beer styles have evolved as a tool for positioning beer brands.

You know what you’re getting with a light / premium / classic / craft lager.

"Lager" is a brand and it immediately orients you so you understand what type of beer this is and where and when you should drink it.

But anything other than that (e.g. Golden Ale, Blonde Ale, Cream Ale) might just get in the way.

Again, we're not positioning Cold Drinking Beer as a traditional Craft Beer. It’s made with craft ingredients, by a well-respected craft brewery, but that’s not the play here.

So the usual craft beer trappings (IBU, SRM, etc.), including esoteric style designations might just get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish.

Cold Drinking Beer is your classic beer flavored beer. 

But that term is already done to death.

(Quick aside: I remember working with a brewery back in 2012 who wanted to make beer flavored beer to stand apart from other craft breweries. lol.)

So, again, what do we call it?

Is it a Fridge Beer? A Stocker Beer? A Yellow Fizzy Beer? A Light Beer? A Classic Light? A Domestic Beer? A Premium Light?

Our answer: Beer. 

It’s just beer. If you want to get technical, it’s a Cold Drinking Beer. 

We’ll see how people respond to this and adjust as needed moving forward, but our teams really like the simple confidence of this designation.

 

Taglines

The Cold Drinking Beer name itself does a lot of heavy lifting here, but we still felt that an additional qualifier would be helpful for marketing and messaging.

This tagline and accompanying secondary icon ended up being quizzically challenging (maybe only slightly more so than nailing the style designation).

We ended up looking at more than 30 different icons, lockups and taglines before we got it where it needed to be: Serve cold. Chill together. 

Some of my favorite options (that were summarily vetoed) include:

– Chill before serving.
– Just Be(er) Cool
– Keep it cold / cool
– Snap into a Cold One (???)



Once we had this all wrapped up, we knocked out some other important touch points to help the Virginia Beer Co. team prep for brand launch. This included:

– Initial distributor and chain retail pitch deck support (an oft-overlooked step in this process)
– Sell sheets & POS materials
– Merch mockups 
– Brand Guidelines
– A Microsite

Wrapping up

It’s easy (and fun) to focus on branding and package design. And these things are important. 

But if you’re not getting out there and building a brand day after day, it just won’t go anywhere.

The Virginia Beer Co. team knows this. 

​They’ve already secured several great chain placements (ahead of launch!). Their wholesalers are fully bought in. And they’re going to hit the ground running with heavy on-premise programming. 

So keep your eyes peeled. You may see Cold Drinking Beer in your neighborhood sooner rather than later.

Around the Shop

CODO x Virginia Beer Co podcast: Building the Cold Drinking Beer Brand

Cody and I sat down with Robby (Co-Founder) and Michael (Director of Sales), of The Virginia Beer Co. to discuss the genesis of the Cold Drinking Beer brand. 

Their team has been kicking this idea around for a year or more, and this provides an interesting glimpse at how a brewery takes an idea from pilot batches all the way through to recipe development, brand building, earning wholesaler buy in and launching into both the on- and off-premise.

We're 1 month out from CODO's CBC presentation

Cody and I are hosting a seminar at CBC this year titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop and/or discuss working together.

Countdown to CODO's 2024 Beer Branding Trends Review

Speaking of countdowns, we're less than 4 weeks out from dropping our annual beer and beverage branding trends review. 

Nothing actionable for you here, other than to tell your coworkers to join the newsletter so they don't miss out.

Also, if you made it this far into today's issue, shoot me an email with the subject line "peaches." The tenth person to do so will receive a free copy of our Craft Beer Branding Guide

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/how-we-built-the-cold-drinking-beer-brand/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss all things Hard Cider.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. Our wonderful travel experience headed out to CiderCon.

2. Hard Cider segment overview

3. There are several multi-regional cideries that would land in the top 50 breweries by production volume

4. All eyes on Angry Orchard (and Boston Beer’s quizzical lack of investment in the brand)

5. Defining Hard Cider

6. Should your brewery launch a Hard Cider?

7. Brand Architecture & Fourth Category beverages we’re seeing in cider

8. How far away from apples can you get and still claim to be a cider?

9. Parallels between beer and hard cider

10. NA cider’s are an interesting positioning challenge

11. Exploring cider’s halo effect (an inherent naturalness that comes from being tied to agriculture)

12. Gluten free as a secondary benefit

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/hard-cider-branding-and-positioning/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down with The Virginia Beer Co. to discuss their recent collab: Cold Drinking Beer.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. Building the Cold Drinking Beer Brand. [Case Study]

2. The Virginia Beer Co.

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/059-how-we-built-the-cold-drinking-beer-brand/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 057

How should a newer brewery think about Brand Architecture?

Morning! 

Most of our Brand Architecture work over the last several years has been with established breweries.

We’ve handled Brand Architecture as part of larger rebranding projects, we’ve developed Sub Brands within a brewery’s portfolio, or more often than not, we’ve simply helped to launch a product in a new category. 

And all of these examples are a given: Brand Architecture is an important tool for scaling your brand and exploring new categories—for finding new relevance and growth, incremental or otherwise. 

But what role does Brand Architecture play in a startup brewery’s go-to-market plan?

Does this concept matter for a nascent brewery? 

My (wishy washy) answer is that, well, it depends. 

 


Historical context 

We’ve seen a sharp rise in inquiries from breweries in planning, and newly-established breweries over the last year or so, that explicitly need Brand Architecture.

This is a marked difference from, say, five years ago. 

(Though, with the proliferation of Fourth Category products, this isn't surprising.)

Brand Architecture for breweries in planning has traditionally been a straight forward concept.

In almost all cases, you would build a monolithic Branded House out of the gate.

This allows you to build your parent brand and brand equity as early and often as possible—a crucial endeavor for a new business in a competitive market. 

The Branded House model made a lot of sense when breweries were predominantly making beer.

But more often than not, the startups we’re talking to and working with today have plans that span beyond beer.

So it’s usually not a question of if, but when these new releases will happen. 

This opens up an entirely new context and is more challenging than simply building a monolithic brewery brand.

Now, you have to consider which consumer these new products will target, which categories you want to live in, and which occasions and lifestyles you might want to target.

And whether or not your parent brand could credibly stretch to meet all these impending demands  

All of these present interesting Brand Strategy and Brand Architecture problems to work through earlier in your business life cycle. 

Three current client examples 

Here are three start up brewery concepts that we’re working with right now (or have branded over the last year).

1. “We’re opening a traditional taproom model brewery (7 barrel system, 12 taps) and plan to sell 90% of our beer across our bar. But we’re also interested in canning a line of tequila RTDs and possibly a few other tequila beverages (likely a year or so in).”

2. “We’re going to contract brew two different beer brands. We think these could relate in some manner, but we’re planning to target specific lifestyles, and positioning opportunities with each one, so I’m not so sure on how much they need to hang together.”

3. “We’re opening a brewpub and will need flagship packaging (plus a crowler and one-off template) intended for sale as carry out only. We’re more interested in opening additional taprooms than we are getting into distribution.”
 




I'm not highlighting these examples because they run the full gamut of the various Brand Architecture approaches you might need to consider (they don't), but because they're indicative of the types of conversations we’re having with new breweries every other week.

It’s rare that we talk to or work with a brewery that is planning to make only beer out of the gate.

Almost all of our projects these days include some sort of Brand Architecture component.


 

Now that we’ve established that today’s start up brewery isn’t the same as yesteryear’s, let’s use each of these examples to examine how Brand Architecture can shape a brewery in planning’s Brand Architecture.

Above: Birdsmouth Beer Co. has a singular focus on lagers. This approach lends itself well to a monolithic, parent brand-forward naming convention. (e.g. Birdsmouth Pils, Birdsmouth Dunkel…)



Scenario 1: You’re opening a taproom-focused brewery to start, and are planning to eventually package / distribute beyond beer offerings. 

In this case, I still think it makes sense to focus on building your parent brand to start, and consider an overarching Branded House model for your beer releases. 

Yes, you have plans for eventually exploring other categories, but we have no idea to what degree your parent brand will (or should) influence these products yet. 

It is worth thinking about how your parent brand could extend into another category during your foundational Brand Strategy work, but you don’t need to focus too heavily on this now because you need to build a strong foundation first in order to have a brand (and brand equity) that is capable (and worthy) of being effectively leveraged down the line. 

If you’re early enough in the process where you’re still considering a corporate name, it could also be worth considering how a particular name could potentially extend it to other categories.

There are important Intellectual Property considerations here (e.g. can you actually trademark one name in different classes), but you should focus more so on how the messaging might shift as you flex into a different category. 

But here again, you should be focusing on your parent brand first and I’d caution you against making decisions that might not end up serving your parent brand long term.

Don’t let the tail wag the dog here.

 

Scenario 2: You’re contract brewing multiple distinct brands, each with their own audience, occasion and lifestyle focus. 

In this case, it sounds like a true House of Brands model makes the most sense.

Assuming these products are different enough (and target different enough audiences, categories and occasions), then there’s no reason to force them to relate to each other.

And doing so might actually undercut the overall effectiveness of your portfolio.

At the top level (behind the scenes incorporation and legal stuff), you’ll likely form a holding company or “Corporate Brand” vs. a “Parent” Brand.

This entity might not even require branding and just live as an LLC. 

A quick excerpt from The Beyond Beer Handbook on this topic:

In this approach, each brand has its own value proposition, messaging, and positioning, and is completely independent as far as the consumer is concerned. We say “corporate” in this case because “parent” denotes some manner of a relationship with an extension. In a House of Brands model, there is no parent brand connection whatsoever.




One downside of this approach is that it is OpEx inefficient (an churched up way of saying it’s expensive and takes a lot of effort to execute correctly).

Remember, you will be building completely independent brands.

And you’ll have to maintain and market them separately, each with their own digital footprint and eventually, their own teams.

That doesn’t mean this approach isn’t valid, or highly effective. But make sure you know what you’re getting into before diving head first into this model.

Above: Left Field Brewery has leaned into Sub / Endorsed  Brand development as a portfolio strategy over the last few years. (Note the Ice Cold Beer line extension—a "lime" extension, if you will.)




Scenario 3: You’re opening a brewpub and intend to sell almost all of your beer across your bar. You will have packaged beer, but this is for carryout and will not end up in distribution.

This is another case where building a monolithic parent brand (aka a Branded House) will likely make the most sense. 

This scenario also induces an interesting question on the importance of package design.

If you’ll be selling your packaged beer solely as carryout—so it won’t end up in retail vying for attention amongst hundreds of other offerings—do you need to invest a significant amount of capital into your can design?

Look, I run a beer and beverage branding firm. 

So I think that everything you put out into the world should properly reflect your story and your positioning and become a special artifact that your customers can enjoy. 

But if you’re not competing out in the off-prem market, it might make more sense to spend your money on your overall brewpub brand and brand experience than on getting gorgeous cans.

(*This isn’t an excuse to produce ugly, shitty packaging. Just consider where your dollars can be better spent.)

Above: Fernson Brewing made a concerted shift away from their parent brand-forward flagship system and towards building Sub Brands within their portfolio.

Read more about this shift here and listen to a podcast conversation with Fernson for even more context here





Closing thoughts

 

On building your parent brand

Unless you’re building a true House of Brands out of the gate, you will want to focus on building a strong parent brand.

Over time, your parent brand will become your most important asset.

It can drive long term growth, and eventually be leveraged into new extensions and categories. 

So even if you intend to explore other beverage categories, make sure you get your parent brand right before you start getting distracted by other opportunities.

Further reading

1. Take the Beverage Extension Assessment Tool (B.E.A.T.) to quickly sketch out which Brand Architecture system could work for your brewery and planned extensions.

2. Revisit our thinking on monolithic, parent brand-forward naming conventions vs. fanciful names and Sub Brands.

Around the Shop

NoDa Brewing just launched their rebrand! 

Shoutout to the entire team at NoDa Brewing for launching their rebrand.

We've been working with NoDa on this for nearly a year and it's exciting to see everything start to rollout.

We’re building a full case study on this project. For now, here’s a glimpse at what went into this.

CODO is presenting at the Craft Brewers Conference in Vegas

Cody and I have been selected to host a seminar at CBC this year titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop and/or discuss working together.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/brand-architecture-for-a-newer-brewery/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 056

How to Line Extend (while maintaining your audience's trust).

Morning.

We had a great question come in from a subscriber and I wanted to field it here.

Feel free to shoot me an email if you have a question that you’d like us to tackle on the newsletter or podcast.

(*Note, I've anonymized this email a touch, so apologies if it reads kind of weird. That's on me and not the sender.)



Hi, Isaac.

Our brewery has a popular Hazy IPA Sub Brand with an Imperial Line Extension. We've heard from our customers, and seen in taproom trials, that people want more variations of this beer. 

After reading your Sub Brand Summer series, our team has been toying with the idea of pushing this brand even further, possibly beyond the IPA category (would that be a Brand Extension?).

We're not sure how far we want to get away from IPAs (or if we should at all), but would like to release seasonal variants under this Sub Brand, as Line Extensions, that riff on this brand—so a wheat in the summer, a Märzen in fall, etc. 

And that brings us to our issue: Our team is split completely down the middle on this. One half thinks we shouldn't create any non-IPA beers under this brand, and the other half (which includes me), thinks we've built the brand to be broad enough that we could expand it to offer a more diverse range of styles. 

We’ve seen a few other brands do this: Dale’s Pale Ale > Dale’s Lager and Voodoo Ranger > Voodoo Ranger Hard Tea. 

I know we can do this, but want to make sure we're not setting ourselves up for some bigger issue down the line.

What do you think? 

– Jamie



This is an interesting question and one that I think more breweries should think about as they continue to build and scale Sub Brands within their portfolios. 

Let's start with some quick definitions and then dive into this.

A Line Extension is a strategy for extending a brand within the same family or category. This is usually done with a new flavor, style or seasonal variant. (e.g. Sculpin, Grapefruit Sculpin, Aloha Sculpin)

A Brand Extension is when you use your brewery’s name on any product in a non-beer category. (e.g. Dogfish Head Brewing > Dogfish Head Distilling)

For Jamie’s question specifically, these new releases would be Line Extensions since they still fall within the beer category (though I understand her confusion since they are considering venturing into different beer styles).

If she wanted to push this brand into an RTD cocktail, or some other non-beer category, then this would be a Brand Extension.

(Above, Top): Line Extension examples from Ballast Point.

(Above, Bottom): Brand Extension examples from Dogfish Head and Rogue Ales & Spirits.




There are no hard and fast rules here, but I will offer a few thoughts. 


Be careful not to reposition, or dilute, what your Sub Brand stands for

One of our main through lines in The Beyond Beer Handbook was that you can launch extensions, but not at the expense of your parent brand’s reputation and positioning.

Your parent brand is your most important asset and needs to be protected at all times, especially when leveraging it to launch new products. 

This isn’t meant to steer you away from releasing new products. Far from it. But it is a warning to take this all seriously. 

And we should apply this same line of thinking to extending your Sub Brand.

Your (Sub) Brand has specific connotations and values (and messaging, positioning, voice and personality), no different than your parent brand.

And the beer style itself—in this case, a Hazy IPA and an Imperial Line Extension—can be a big part of this overall perception.

So we should treat these sorts of decisions like any other Brand Architecture consideration.

– What does releasing this product (say, a Märzen) say about your parent brand (or in this case, the Hazy IPA Sub Brand)?

– Can my Sub Brand credibly release this new variant? Does it align with what your Sub Brand is known for?

– Will releasing this product tied to your Sub Brand brand help or hinder the Sub (or parent) Brand?

– Are you reaching out to your existing audience or branching out to new drinkers with this new product?

– Could this new release cannibalize sales from the original brand (or any other brands in your portfolio)? 

If your Sub Brand is primarily known as an IPA brand, then IPA extensions (hazy, imperial, west coast, etc.) will be an easier leap than a non-IPA style extension.

Again, this doesn’t mean this isn’t possible.

But you have to carefully weigh the upside, and downside, of the move. 

​Can incremental growth be enough to offset any potential longterm damage / confusion you cause to your Sub Brand by extending into a new style?

(Above): The Beverage Extension Assessment Tool (B.E.A.T.) will help you navigate these sorts of decisions.



 

Trust is a precious commodity

Your brand, and brand identity, is an assurance that you’ll always deliver.

Your word is bond; a promise.

Your brand is your reputation. And with thousands of options a beer drinker has to choose from today, your reputation is more important than ever. 

Allow me to set a dramatic scene for you to illustrate the risk of Line Extending beyond your Sub Brand's style, and how this can break your brand's promise and harm your reputation.

 

 

Maddie has been a loyal customer of yours ever since releasing your XYZ hazy IPA brand. (It's what introduced her to IPAs in the first place.)

She's been happily buying every variant you’ve released for the last few years.

And this Thursday afternoon is no different, as she grabs your new 6-pk from Kroger along with a few odds and ends she needs for this weekend's meals.  

Later that evening, after dinner (and baths, and reading, and story time) and *finally* getting her daughter to bed, she slips downstairs to have a drink and plan for tomorrow. 

She grabs a can from the fridge, cracks it open and takes a long draw and WHAT THE XXXX IS THIS?!? 

She looks at the label and sees that this isn't the Hazy IPA she's accustomed to.

It's not even a West Coast IPA. Upon further inspection, it’s… a… Sour Ale?

Maddie finishes the can because she’s a hard working mom and was looking forward to her night cap. But she won't be drinking the rest. 

And the next time around, she won't be so open to buying what you're selling. 

This brief moment—an important ritual for her—was a let down.

A broken promise. 

Your brand failed to deliver what it has worked so hard to stand for in Maddie's mind.

*end scene*

 

 

You get my point here: Your brand, including your Sub or Endorsed Brands stand for something in people's minds.

And beer style—along with guardrails around what’s allowed and not allowed from an accepted flavor profile standpoint—is a big part of this.

It's important to give your customers great products and service that live up to their expectations.

(Above): A few examples of Sub Brands that have ventured beyond their original style.

Sierra Nevada's Little Thing started out as a Hazy IPA brand and has grown to include a Sour Ale, a Wheat Ale and a Light Lager.

Oskar Blue's Dale's Brand has been retooled as a Sub Brand and now includes their eponymous Pale Ale as well as a Double IPA and a Light Lager. (Over/under on seeing a Dale's Hard Tea in 2024?)





Let’s now look at a few of the examples Jamie mentioned, including Dale’s and Voodoo Ranger, as well as a few other Sub Brands that have expanded beyond their initial style.

– Sierra Nevada's Little Thing line (a hazy IPA brand family) extended to include a Wheat Beer, a Light Lager and a Sour Ale.

– New Belgium's Voodoo Ranger (an IPA brand family) extended to include a Light Lager, a Hard Tea and a pumpkin beer.

And if you want to really get in the weeds, we could even count their Fruit Force as an entirely different style (IPA used to stand for something, man).

– Oskar Blues expanded Dale's from its flagship Pale Ale to include an Imperial IPA and Light Lager extensions. 



A few notes on these: 

 

On Dale's 

Oskar Blues is actively Scaling the Sub Brand Ladder by spinning the Dale's Sub Brand into its own brand family.

​A quick snapshot of this move: 

– They've bumped Dale's up to the Sub Brand level (acting as its own parent brand).

– They've Line Extended with two new variants (an Double IPA and a Light Lager), in addition to their flagship Pale Ale. 

– They've also created a standalone Dale's website, social channels and hashtag.

– And I suspect that they will have Dale's-specific sales reps and ABPs in the coming years, separate from their overarching Oskar Blue's programs, (if they don't already). 

This is a good move right now, or at least it's in-line with what we're seeing some of our biggest clients, and the largest breweries in the country building today. 

The big challenge for Oskar Blues is whether or not they'll be able to break nearly 30 years of people associating Dale's with Pale Ale (say it out loud, it's actually hard to not automatically finish the name: Dale's…).

(Above): A handful of Voodoo Ranger Line and Brand Extensions.



 

On Voodoo Ranger

Voodoo Ranger is in a choice position where they've grown so successfully, that a lot of these seemingly weird choices (pumpkin, light lager, hard tea) are likely just their team exploring where they can credibly take the brand. 

As an example, I'm not sure the Voodoo Ranger Devilishly Light Lager ever made it out of trial. (And if this is the case, I’m going to bet that’s not because the quality of the beer, but that the positioning ended up not aligning with the broader Voodoo brand. Not to mention how challenging the light lager segment is).

At this point, Voodoo Ranger is its own brand that has eclipsed New Belgium in every metric that matters.

Yes, there's a small New Belgium Endorsement on pack, but I imagine that this has no real bearing on people's purchasing decisions in 2024.

I think of Voodoo Ranger as an IPA brand, but I imagine they're known more for flavor, novelty, high ABV and fun branding (and brand voice) than that style alone.

In other words, if it hasn't already, Voodoo Ranger has transcended style and become a Lifestyle Brand

Again, Voodoo Ranger has the credibility and license to play in whatever categories it wants.

And right now, hard tea is a good bet. (Especially in the convenience channel where they already dominate.)

And if this is the case, that gives their team more freedom to extend into other emergent categories, and do so at scale.

So does a Voodoo Ranger hard tea make sense?  

That's up to Voodoo Ranger drinkers (many of whom are younger and looking for more flavorful, novel, higher ABV options) to decide. 

 

 

We've been talking about behind the scenes Brand Strategy and Brand Architecture stuff today, but it's important to not lose sight of your customers in all this.

And especially so with any sort of extension.

​If you're considering a move like this, pause and ask yourself:


Is a —— drinker a —— drinker?


– Is a Voodoo Ranger drinker a Hard Tea drinker? 

– Is a Dale’s Pale Ale drinker a Light Lager drinker?

– Is a Hazy Little Thing drinker a Sour Ale drinker? 

If you think so, and it won't affect your Sub Brand's positioning, then you can move forward and Line Extend with confidence.

Around the Shop

CODO Design is speaking at CBC!

Cody and I have been selected to host a seminar at CBC this year titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop and/or discuss working together.

Nice article on CODO client Forest Road Brewing

Here's a cool feature on how Forest Road Brewing bought Russian River's brewhouse and then shipped it all the way around the world to London.

It's wild that this happened. And wilder still that the entire plan actually worked and they're now kicking out some of the best beer in the UK. 

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/can-you-line-extend-to-a-different-style/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 055

How to make your packaging work harder for your brewery.

Morning! 

Before diving into today's issue, I wanted to announce that CODO will be presenting at CBC in Las Vegas this April.

This is a huge honor, and we'll have more details on the seminar in the coming months.

I'll include a brief overview in the resources section at the bottom of this email in case you'll be there and want to attend our talk or grab a beer.

Anyway, couldn't wait to announce this.

But enough about us. Let's talk about you (and your brewery's packaging).





I was on a call with a brewery to discuss a package refresh recently and heard something interesting. 

“We’re not sure what we should feature most prominently on our packaging. We’re all over the place now and can’t decide if it makes sense to highlight our brewery’s logo, or the beer name and illustration, the style or some combination of these things.” 

This is actually a common pain point we hear in our work.

And if properly sorted, it can help you sell more beer. 

So that’s what I want to talk about today: Some thoughts on managing your package design hierarchy based on what we’re seeing in our daily project work here at CODO. 

We’ll start with a few strategic considerations and then get more tactical and immediately actionable.

This will give you some things to think about in case you’re considering a package refresh sometime soon. 

Let’s get into it.

(Above): Fernson Brewing had a clear understanding of what issues they wanted to address and what opportunities they saw in their market. Read more about how we helped them pivot their portfolio from a monolithic Branded House towards a series of Sub Brands.




Getting started: Identify your pain points, opportunities and goals

Before making any decisions, you first need to understand your pain points and goals.

You’ll likely do this before deciding that you need to refresh your packaging in the first place. But in case you haven’t, stop and answer the following questions:

– Why are you refreshing your packaging? 

– What isn’t working? 

– What would you like to do better?

– What opportunities do you see to improve things, in small ways and big? 

This may seem like an obvious point, but if you take some time to shake out what exactly it is that you want to address and accomplish through your revamp, you’ll have a clearer road map for how to get there. 

 

You need to understand your broader brand and portfolio strategy, positioning and Brand Architecture

Once you’ve framed your pain points and opportunities, you need to work through your overarching Brand Architecture.

In the interest of not adding another 1,200 words to this issue, you can learn more about this entire subject in our latest book, The Beyond Beer Handbook.

But at a glance, this is an important step because understanding whether you should build a monolithic Branded House vs. a series of Sub / Endorsed Brands vs. a portfolio of standalone brands will drive different design and hierarchy decisions. 

 

 

Once you have these initial strategic parameters defined, you can dig into the nuts and bolts of sorting out where all these info types should go on your packaging.
 

(Above): A look at the various info types you'll have to prioritize and layout across your packaging.


 

How to organize & prioritize your content

For a quick lay of the land, let’s take a look at all the information you have to balance on your packaging:

– Your brewery's brand identity (your core logo)
– The beer’s fanciful name (if applicable)
– The beer’s style
– The beer’s specific art, e.g. colors, illustrations and iconography (if applicable)
– The beer’s tasting notes and/or description
– The vessel size (e.g. 12 fl oz)
– Tagline / ethos statements
– Misc. violators (e.g. Awards, BA Independent Seal, specific health claims, provenance claims, etc.)
– Admin panel (e.g. Government warning, barcode, Brewed & Canned by statement, adjunct or special ingredient declarations, "please recycle,” be kind, rewind, etc.)
– Born on / best by dates 
– Nutritional Facts (if applicable)
– Quantity (for cartons, if applicable)
– Printer / can manufacturer indicia (if applicable)






So… that’s a lot of info to fit on a 12 or 16oz can. And even tougher if you’re bottling (which is essentially a business card-sized canvas). 

Here are a handful of things to think about as you set out to organize and prioritize all of this.

(Above): Bottles present another challenge due to their small canvas size. This usually means the carrier has to carry a lot more info (story, beer description, secondary iconography, etc.). 


 

Visit your retail partners and look at packaging in context (how will your beer be merchandised?)

This point has two benefits. 

1. It gives you a zoomed out view of your competitive set. You can see how your competition looks, what strategies (if any) they’re using and spot opportunities for differentiation.

2. It gives you a real world, unglamorous view at how your packaging will be merchandised. 

Why is this important? 

Because you sell beer in the real world (and not the hermetically sealed, and perfectly designed confines of Adobe Illustrator).

Example: There may be lip on a cooler rack that covers up an important piece of info on your packaging (e.g. your beer style or brewery name). 

Similarly, if you’re lucky enough to get a floor stack, will any critical info on your cans / cartons be cut off by the a ~3” side of your tray. (Also, design your trays. I know this is a throwaway piece here, but sweat the details.)

This is also an opportunity to see (and ask) how retailers will merchandise your beer.

Do they orient your 6-pk perfectly up right so the main hero side panel faces out (like you so lovingly envisioned during the design process)?

Or do they shove it in the cold box however, and wherever, it fits? 

A tactical note here: We’ve started making all 6-pk / 12-pk cartons more flexible for this very reason. Our goal is to give a retailer multiple merchandising opportunities, so that wherever, or however they stock your beer, the most pertinent info will be displayed. 

An example is swapping the orientation on each end—so one end of your carton can be displayed upright and the other can work horizontally.

Those, along with a well-designed side and top panels should cover you in all use cases. 

This asymmetry may hurt your sensibilities as a designer (it did ours, at first), but we’re designing this packing to work in the real world and sell more beer, so don’t pull any punches.

Get the important info out front and center where it needs to be.

 

Primary vs. Secondary Packaging

If you don’t use cartons, skip right ahead to the next section. But if you do, then you have a wealth of options when organizing all this information. 

Three points to start off:

1. Your cartons do all of your selling. It’s important to design a beautiful can that can stand on its own, but your carton is what people will see in retail. 

2. Each format has a different use case.

Your cartons need to billboard and jump off the shelf. Whereas your cans (or bottles) provide a more intimate experience (imagine someone drinking it and spinning it in their hand to read the back, or peeling the label, chucking it at a passing train, etc.) 

3. Your cans and cartons can, and likely should contain different information. They don’t have to be identical. 

What this means is that your cartons can be more brand forward—so taking advantage of color blocking, pushing your brewery’s brand (if appropriate), highlight the beer’s style and ABV (if these are important value props), etc.

You have to decide what your most important info is—what you want a consumer to see and immediately grasp so they pick your beer up. 

That’s usually your brewery’s brand, beer name, style, ABV and overall vibe.

Anything beyond this (the more technical / admin TTB-type stuff) can live on your cans (or elsewhere on your carton). 

This also allows you to expand on an illustration or some visual elements that may otherwise be hemmed in on a smaller can. 

And finally, think through how your cartons can billboard on shelf to punch above their weight in retail.

So make sure you think about your portfolio's broader gestalt across your different cartons as you’re designing them—how can they work together to better stand out from the set?

(Above): Your primary and secondary packaging can, and often should contain different information. Your carton is an opportunity to reach out across the aisle and grab someone's attention whereas your can offers a more detailed, intimate experience.

Read more about Good George Brewing's branding and package design process here.





The bottom of your carton is NOT a junk drawer 

Speaking candidly here: The bottom panel of your cartons can turn into a junk drawer where we throw all the other stuff that didn’t make it into the main panels (sides, ends, top) of your carton, but that you still insist we include.

Don’t do this if you can help it. (We try not to.)

Design your bottom panel with as much intention as the rest of your packaging. 

A few things we like to include here include:

– Your brewery’s story 
– Social media handles / activations 
– A map highlighting various taproom locations (if applicable)
– The barcode (if your retail partners allow you to put it down there)
– Best by / born on date codes (if you have an efficient way to add these to your cartons)
– Some sort of coupon / nudge to get someone to visit your taproom (if legal)
– Easter eggs. Something funny for people to find and share with friends. (Any opportunity to bring more wit and delight into this dark world should be taken. Give your fans a fun aha moment.)

Anything more than this can just clutter everything up. 

Avoid the junk drawer.

(Above): How does your packaging billboard? And how does it hang together if it's not merchandised together (if a retailer organizes beer by style vs. brand)?

You need to plan for all of these use cases and design your packaging to hang together (if strategically appropriate). 





On Duping (a tactical point here…)

Another tactical point here: If you’re using Paktechs, Hi-Cones, or any similar can ring packaging, you’ll inevitably run into facing issue in retail (where your cans spin around, preventing a customer from seeing the “front”).

One way we combat this is by “duping” the can design, that is, putting the exact same art on the “front” and “back” of the can.

You’ll still have an admin panel to contend with, but this gives you a much better shot at displaying what you want people to see. 

This isn’t always appropriate, given your can design, goals and competitive set, but it’s a good move if it is.

A final thought: If everything is important, then nothing is important

There’s a meme in the design industry: "Make the logo bigger."

And we’ve seen this in our work as well. 

Can we make the beer name bigger? And our logo? And can the style size be bumped up a bit?

Properly designing your packaging involves determining what info is most important so your potential customer knows why they should grab your product. 

So think about your customers. Create a clear hierarchy that they can easily decipher.

Make their decision easier. 

And sell more beer.

Around the Shop

CODO is presenting at CBC this April!

Cody and I are honored to be presenting at this year's CBC. 

Our seminar is titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

(New record for longest seminar title in CBC history???)

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop.

Otherwise, learn more about the presentation at the link below.

Shoutout to CODO client Prost Brewing

Congratulations to David and the rest of the Prost team on opening their North Glenn production facility.

This move has been year's in the making and we're excited to see how they scale with this new capacity in place.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/get-your-packaging-hierarchy-dialed-in/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 054

When should you endorse, and when should you just launch a new brand?

Morning (and happy new year!).

We’re written before about the nuances between Brand Extensions and Sub Brands, as well as the fine line between Sub and Endorsed Brands

Today, I want to talk about Endorsed Brands vs. creating a new, standalone brand, and use cases for when you might consider one approach over the other. 

We’re seeing this decision come up more often in our work these days as breweries launch new products (beer or beyond), or bring a new taproom concept online, or figure out how to handle the branding for a business they recently acquired.

This is an interesting topic that you may encounter this year, so let’s get into it.

(Above): Today's issue focuses on the right side of the Beverage Brand Architecture Continuum.




First, a few quick definitions. From The Beyond Beer Handbook here:

An Endorsed Brand is built to stand mostly on its own, but with some sort of endorsement—an assurance of quality, trust and credibility—from your established parent brand. An Endorsed Brand leverages the mind share and reputation of your parent brand while insulating it to varying degrees.


A standalone, or new brand has zero connection with your parent brand. Under this approach, each brand has its own positioning, brand identity, personality and voice, value props and messaging, and is completely independent as far as the consumer is concerned.



Now that you've got a lay of the land, let's explore when an Endorsed Brand can make sense.

(Above): Endorsed Brand examples.




An Endorsed Brand can make sense when:


When you are a specialist and planning to make something markedly different than what you’re known for

This point is so important, that it acts as sort of a go / no-go question on our Beverage Extension Assessment Tool (B.E.A.T.). Meaning, if you’re a specialist brewery, that is, you’re known for making a singular style (all lagers, all sours, etc.), then anything you release that runs counter to this style risks muddying your parent brand’s positioning.

So an Endorsed Brand (at the very least) can make sense for your new product if there’s a compelling reason to maintain some tie to your parent brand. That could be that you’re targeting the same audience, but maybe a markedly different occasion, or you want to take advantage of existing distribution channels, or if you expect your parent brand to see a nice boost (the halo effect) by being associated with this exciting, new product.

 

Consider the halo effect & how this can benefit your parent brand 

One of the biggest risks of overextending your brand, via Line / Brand Extensions and overall category creep, is changing what your brewery stands for in people’s minds. This is a phenomenon we refer to as repositioning your parent brand. (E.g. is Bud Light a beer brand, or a hard soda-seltzer-lemonade-cider-chelada brand?)

We’re currently writing a standalone BBT issue on this topic—stay tuned—but we can touch on it here briefly. 

Repositioning your parent brand (due to misaligned extensions) is almost always framed as a negative thing. But there are instances where you can positively reposition your parent brand via association with a wildly successful new product.

And this is one variable you may consider when deciding between launching a new product with an Endorsement vs. as a standalone brand. What benefits can your parent brand see from this association? 

I use (and will continue using—see below) Bud Light as an overtly negative example here.

A positive example would be Voodoo Ranger, which still maintains a small Endorsement from New Belgium even though, I would wager that functionally, this brings nothing to the table at this point in terms of nudging people to trial the Voodoo line itself.

Instead, this Endorsement exists to invite Voodoo Ranger drinkers to look into other New Belgium products.

(Above, Top): Note the simple New Belgium Endorsement on all Voodoo Ranger products.

(Above, Bottom): 
Is Bud Light a beer brand, or a hard soda-seltzer-lemonade-cider-chelada brand? ABI has hollowed out this brand with countless Brand and Line Extensions. An Endorsed approach could have taken some of the sharper edges off of some of these new products (Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda… what are we doing here?).


A standalone (new) brand can make sense when: 

 

A link to your parent brand just doesn’t make sense 

An obvious point here is when any tie to your parent brand will hurt the credibility of the new product, or your parent brand 

This can be due to misaligned values, target audience, occasion, category, price point—whatever the reason—a connection doesn’t make sense.

 

When you want to create a brand that can travel 

We’re seeing a small trend right now, especially amongst our Legacy and Regional Brewery clients of re-entrenching in their home territory. That is, pulling back from further afield markets to focus on their backyard. 

And this makes perfect sense in a world with ~10k breweries. But even with these moves happening, there’s still a desire to find growth by reaching into neighboring markets, if you have a product that consumers actually want—that has an actual reason for existing—and if that brand can credibly travel into those adjacent markets to serve them.

One specific tactic we’re seeing here is launching a new brand, with zero tie to your parent brand, specifically to go out into neighboring markets in a way that your parent brand might not credibly be able to do. 

Here, you're still facing the long term work of building up a new brand, but at least you're not doing so under the yoke of your parent brand's reputation.

(Above): Sierra Nevada's growing beyond beer range gives us some great examples of these different Brand Architecture approaches. 

Their Little Thing line is an Endorsed Brand, whereas Strainge Beast Kombucha is an entirely new brand. The former is a beer that aligns well with their current positioning, whereas the latter is an entirely new product. And Kombucha, in particular, is a tough positioning challenge, at the category level. So much better to swing wide and not tie this to their parent brand.





Some finer points & caveats 

 

Is there a cost difference between these approaches? 

Functionally, an Endorsed Brand and a new standalone brand will require the same level of budget and time and energy to get off the ground.

Counterintuitively, an Endorsed Brand may be more difficult (from a design perspective) because you have to sort out to what degree you bring the parent brand into the fold vs. creating a new brand where you can just design something to stand on its own from the jump without having to resolve this relationship.


Do you have the capacity to pull this off? 

One reason you might choose a Sub Brand vs. an Endorsed Brand is that you generally don’t need as much capacity (time, budget, staff) to promote and build a brand that is closely aligned with your parent band. This is one of the Sub Brand's main draws—any move you make to build your parent brand, or the Sub, can work hand-in-hand to raise awareness of your entire enterprise. 

This becomes an important distinction for considering an Endorsed Brand or a standalone brand. In either case you'll have to bring the same resources to the table to build this brand as you do your parent brand.

That means you’ll need people and budgets and annual planning to build a new brand.

So if you’re a smaller brewery with limited resources, you may want to consider some level of Endorsement instead of creating a new brand (at least initially) because this gives you an important connection with your parent brand that can act as a force multiplier for a smaller team. 

Though if you're really resource strapped, it may make more sense to firmly align this new release with your parent brand as a Sub Brand (assuming doing so won't harm your parent brand and will set up the new brand for success).


Be wary of Brand Dilution

A final caveat here: As with any of Brand Architecture move (e.g. Line and Brand Extensions, Sub Brands, Hybrid Brands), balance is key. An Endorsed Brand can be a great way to extend into another category, but if you overuse this and launch dozens of Endorsed Brands, you can start to weaken the strength of the parent brand in the minds of your customers, no different than if you release a series of misguided Line Extensions. 

Around the Shop

CODO is presenting at CiderCon!

Cody and I will be taking the main stage at CiderCon this year to discuss how Brand Architecture can help you scale your cider business. 

We'll be meeting with several clients, and prospective clients, while out there, but we should still have time to hang if you'll be at the conference.

Shoot me an email if you're in Portland January 17–19 and want to talk shop.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

If you’re enjoying the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter, we’d love if you shared it with a friend or two.

You can send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/endorsed-brand-vs-new-brand/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to field our latest round of listener-submitted questions.

Episode Notes

Listener submitted questions:

1. Can a brewery handle its rebrand in-house or should this always be outsourced?

2. Does CODO prefer branding new breweries or rebranding established ones?

3. Did CODO ever considering opening a brewery? Plus, what beverage category would we launch right now if we were in the market to?

4. Do you think it’s worth putting the Brewers Association’s Independent Seal on packaging these days?

5. How should we deal with a delicate IP / beer naming situation?

6. What are some tips for how to be a terrible client? (???)

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/058-can-you-rebrand-in-house-plus-what-do-we-think-about-the-bas-independent-seal/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss qualitative and quantitive reasons for rebranding a brewery, and why all roads ultimately lead to increasing revenue.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. Should all brewery rebrands lead to growth?

2. On Fat Rare and Samuel Adams’ recent rebrands.

3. Various reasons for rebranding we’ve heard from our clients:

– “Our packaging is all over the place visually. And with 25+ new releases per year, it’s always getting worse.”

– “We’ve got multiple locations now and want to develop a consistent look and experience that spans the entire company.”

– “We’re not really sure what our story is. Sure, we’ve grown a lot and people love our beer, but I feel like we could be so much further along if we actually spent time dialing in our marketing and branding.”

– “We’re shifting to a new format (moving from 12oz to 16oz cans) and want to make everything hang together on shelf.”

– “We’re buying a brewery and, other than the name, think everything about the existing branding and packaging needs to change.”

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/all-rebrands-should-lead-to-growth/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss the merits of a Branded House Brand and why this could be an important part of your brewery’s portfolio.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. What is a Branded House?

2. In defense of the Branded House [BBT Newsletter]

3. Beverage Brand Architecture Continuum

4. The Branded House for the new brewery

5. The Branded House for an established brewery coming out of a rebrand

6. Mission Brewing’s rebrand as an example

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/in-defense-of-the-branded-house/

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss the nuances between a rebrand and a brand refresh (and why your intent matters more than anything).

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. “Do you think this will be a rebrand or a refresh?”

2. Craft Beer, Rebranded

Learn more about brewery rebrands: www.craftbeerrebranded.com

Learn more about Brand Architecture: http://www.beyondbeerbook.com

Have a topic or question you’d like us to field on the show? Shoot it our way: hello@cododesign.com

Want to work together? Email Isaac to start the conversation.

Join 5,500+ food and bev industry pros who are subscribed to the Beer Branding Trends Newsletter (and access all past issues) at: www.beerbrandingtrends.com

https://beerbrandingtrends.com/rebrands-vs-brand-refreshes-revisited/
*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 053

Year end action items to set yourself up for a stronger 2024.

Morning!

If you haven't already, please take our year end survey (less than 3 minutes).

This will help to shape our content in 2024.

And as a thanks for your time, we'll give you a code for 20% off any of our books.

Okay, let's talk year end planning.
 


 

I wanted to talk with you one more time before CODO goes dark for our year end break. 

Year end is always an interesting time: I personally go back and forth between wanting to burn the ships and sprint into the new year like a maniac aaaaand not doing anything but hang out with my kids and catch my breath.

No matter where you fall on that spectrum, this is a good time to look ahead to the new year.

I originally sat down to write about how CODO conducts its annual business review, but figured that would be boring. And besides, we’re a branding firm and not (checks notes) a brewery. So I'm not sure how useful our process would be for your business.

Instead, I want to give you a few valuable things you can do to improve your branding and marketing as you head into 2024. These are all ideas that we’ve run across in our project work this year with breweries and Bev Alc companies across America and around the world.

Call these gifts to yourself and your team, or, new year’s resolutions. However you want to frame them, these items will help to make your brand and marketing stronger next year. 

Check this all out and share with your team if you see anything you want to act on (have them subscribe to the newsletter here).

And in case you don’t make it all the way to the end of this issue, I wanted to thank you for reading BBT this year.

It’s rewarding hearing back from you after sending these out each month. I appreciate you being here, and I hope you have a lovely, restful holiday break.

Let’s come back recharged and get after it in 2024.

!!! Please take our year end survey (& save 20%) !!!

1. Start building your newsletter subscriber list

I believe we're going to see a bevy of new regulations on how Bev Alc companies can market themselves in the coming decade, including which social channels they can and can't use, specific language requirements, new rules on how they're merchandised in retail, and so forth.

Through these changes, it will become more critical than ever to stay in contact with your customers. And I believe email marketing will be one of your most important promotional channels because of this.

But you can't can't begin email marketing unless you have a list of subscribers (revelatory insights here at BBT, I know). 

That makes building your email marketing list one of the most valuable things you can do in 2024. 

Even if you already have a healthy number of subscribers—2k, 5k, 10k+, you need to continually be building (and maintaining) your list. I’m starting with a low bar here: At a minimum, you need to be collecting email addresses. This should be a central CTA on your website and through your POS system if possible.


2. Create a rough content marketing plan / engine (& define your key communication pillars)

This idea can be intimidating when you’re first starting out. What channels do we use? What do we write about? Do we need to use video? Etc.

And indeed, many of our clients have multiple employees on their marketing team (CMO, brand director(s), in-house designer(s), social media lead, eComm lead) to share the load.

But let’s set all that aside and in a broad strokes way, sketch out the 3 or 4 big messages that you want people to take away from your brewery's marketing.

What do you want people to think about when they hear your brewery’s name? How do you want them to describe your brand to their friends?

Have everyone on your team answer this question: If you could go into someone’s head and put 3 or 4 big messages about your brand in there, what would those be?

Once you’ve defined these points, create a note (in whatever app you prefer: e.g. Apple Notes, Drive, Evernote, Notion) and begin charting out all the different topics and ideas that you could write about that fall into these buckets. 

Here’s an example: 

Pillar 1: We make world class barrel aged beer.

Content ideas to support this message:

– What is the history of barrel-aged beers? 
– Why are you passionate about this program? 
– What is a Cooperage?
– Brandy vs. Whiskey barrels
– What is char?
– What is a bung? (lol)
– What is the best type of lumber for barrels? 
– Why is barrel-aged beer so expensive? 
– How does time in the barrel affect flavor?
– Why does barrel aged barley wine make me want to fight my uncle?
– Food & barrel aged beer pairing ides


… you get the idea, and you can probably come up with 15 more compelling ideas on this in the next three minutes.

Continue building this list daily. Anytime an interesting idea pops into your head, you have to write it down or it will disappear forever.

Once you have a system for documenting your ideas in place, your next step is to figure out how you want to craft these stories and where you should put them (newsletter vs. social channel vs. blog vs. podcast vs. YouTube vs. …)

I’m going to cut this short here because actually implementing this plan is a major investment in time and energy. 

Some homework for you: Look into how to develop an Editorial Calendar. This can make your content planning a much easier process.

But for now, just start collecting ideas and organizing your thoughts on what sorts of stories interest you and your team.


3. Start emailing your list 

Notice I didn’t say, “start email marketing.” No, just email your list, and do it in a way that’s sustainable for you.

This can be once a month, daily, every two weeks (like we try to do)—you pick the cadence. But whatever it is, make sure you can keep it up over the next year. 

What should you send them?

There are two big buckets you can start with. Eventually, these can be broken into different segmented lists that people can join over time: 

– Utilitarian Info = new beers, menu changes, news & events 

– Lifestyle Stuff = behind the scenes, stories about your people and products, how you shape your community, any interesting stories (especially from that list you made in the last point)

This is all broad stroke. Eventually, you'll have a well thought out content marketing plan and a clearer picture of what you need to be sending, when you need to be sending it, and get more granular with your segmentation.

But worry about that later. For now, just get going.


4. Build your media library 

Here’s a small, tactical point that can make your life easier: Create a central repository for all of your important digital and marketing assets. 

This can include sales sheets and label die lines and working files, typography files, Brand Guidelines—all the things you need to effectively run your brewery's marketing. 

But more germane to our conversation here would be clearly labeled folders with product photography, videos, text docs—anything you use to sell your beer and tell your story, put it here so you can go back and reference it later. 

You’d be surprised just how much good content you can accrue over a year and this will come in handy down the line when you go to redesign your website, or put together new posters, etc. 

Where do you put this info? This doesn't really matter so long as it's on the cloud and accessible by everyone on your team (and shareable). So that can be Dropbox, Drive, Brandfolder, or any other relevant DAM system. 


5. Intellectual Property (IP) Hygiene

One of the more common issues we run into during the course of our work is IP troubles. And unfortunately, this is usually uncovered later in an engagement.

Example: we’re working through Brand Strategy as part of a rebrand and it turns out that the name for your best selling IPA isn’t federally trademarked. Oh, and there’s a brewery who did trademark that name a few states over. (Cue foghorn)

If you've got an IP issue that you’re aware of, and have been kicking it down the road until now, you should consider tackling it today.

Yes, knockout searches and trademark work costs money. But this is an investment that protects your most important asset as you grow. 

Shoot me an email if you’d like a beer & beverage IP attorney referral. We work with one of the best and would be happy to pass their info along.


6. Take your brand and Brand Architecture seriously

I know, the beer and beverage branding firm guy telling you to consider updating your brand is like asking a barber if you need a haircut. But hear me out.

We're seeing a litany of complex Brand Strategy and Architecture issues in our work right now. And we're helping breweries across the country unspool issues that, in some cases, have been building for decades.

If you have, over the last few years…

– Opened a new location 
– Purchased another brewery (or a brand)
Built a Sub Brand
– Launched a beyond beer product 
Rationalized your portfolio
– Experienced a change in leadership 
– Tried to evolve your eCommerce platform 
– Signed with a new distributor 


… and you haven't paused to think about how these changes impact your brewery's brand and positioning, you may want to consider doing so. 

Does your current portfolio align with your brand story and positioning? (Do you know your brewery's brand story?) Does your messaging support these things? Do you have a clear idea of your brewery's values?

I want you to take your brewery's brand seriously in 2024.

Think about where your business is today, and where you want to take it over the coming years.

And take the steps to begin that journey.

(Above): Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion workbook are a step-by-step guide to help you map out a successful strategy for rebranding your brewery.


 

Some quick hits here: 


If you’re thinking about a rebrand…

If you’re thinking about some sort of refresh in 2024—a subtle brand evolution, a package revamp or a wholesale rebrand, here are a few things you should be thinking about now.

– What do you want to accomplish? What pain points are you trying to address and/or what opportunities are you wanting to move on? 

– You should think about your teamWho needs to be involved to ensure a successful project?

– You should think about your visual and Brand Equity: What visual signifiers and reputational considerations do you own that are sacrosanct? And what can be jettisoned? 

– Start thinking about how you will launch your rebrand. (Yes, even before kicking the project off.).

– Read Craft Beer, Rebranded for a complete roadmap for this process.

(Above): How we refreshed Fernson Brewing's packaging.  




If you’re thinking about launching some sort of Extension… 

– Get a handle on your overall Brand Architecture system. Our Beyond Beer Handbook will make quick work of this. 

– If you're considering some sort of Sub Brand (e.g. Sub / Endorsed Brand), revisit our Sub Brand Summer series. Read issues 1, 2 and 3.

– If you have a drilled down product idea and just need quick orientation for how to launch it within your portfolio, take the Beverage Extension Assessment Tool.
 

If you might buy a brewery or brand (or form a JV)…

We're fielding several new inquiries each month from brewery owners who have acquired another brewery or specific brand. This has been happening steadily for the last 18 months, but we're seeing (anecdotally) a major uptick in this activity. 

There are deals to be had if you're looking. And if you are, here are a few resources to make sure you go into this situation with a better idea of what you want to accomplish: 

– Revisit our thinking on buying a brewery.

– Read about our work with Mission Brewing after their ownership changed hands. And here's a companion podcast if you'd prefer that medium.

– We're working on a deep dive series on this topic slated to roll out in summer 2024. It's gonna be a good one. Stay tuned.

(Above): Some fun feedback on our post-acquisition rebranding work with Mission Brewing.




(and finally) Take care of yourself

I'm not going to be so bold as to tell you how much alcohol you should or shouldn't drink, or how many times per week you should work out, or how much screen time you should get. (I'm still figuring these out myself.)

But do make sure you’re taking time away from work to recharge regularly—to fill your cup. Whatever that means to you, take this seriously.

In the end, all we really have is our health and our family anyway. So make sure you practice whatever self care you need to to better show up wherever you're needed.





Thanks again for reading BBT this year. We'll catch back up with you after the new year.

Around the Shop

CODO is presenting at Cider Con in Portland

CODO will be out in Portland, Oregon this January to present at CiderCon. 

We've been immersed in hard cider (not literally, though that could be nice?) over the last year and are excited to step on stage to discuss how Brand Strategy and Architecture can help you scale your cider business.

We'll be meeting with several clients while out there, but should still have time to hang. Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and want to talk shop.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook