Expert analysis that helps your team make better branding decisions and build a more resilient business.
Transitioning from Brewery to “Beverage Company” A focus on Brand Architecture
One of the biggest sea changes we’ve seen in the beer industry over the last few years has been a move away from being a single category company (e.g. a brewery) towards being a “house of brands” that offers a diversified portfolio of products in different categories to capture different consumer sets.
In this context, a brewery’s parent brand often falls to the background (or disappears entirely) as it releases non-beer products.
What drove this?
Was it a flattening of the beer category after so many euphoric years of growth? Was it that 8,000th brewery that finally made competition too mucky? Was it Covid coming through and laying waste to every strategic plan in sight? Was it consumer trends shifting abruptly to drink other non-beer beverages, or, less alcohol in general?
All of these factors are at play. The biggest trend driving this shift has been the rise of hard seltzer (the first non-beer beverage breweries have moved to produce en masse). But this has accelerated the already in-motion trend of consumers shifting away from beer specifically and toward a variety of other alcoholic (and non-alc) beverages in general. Think RTD cocktails, CBD-infused everything, THC (where legal), kombucha (about to “tip” if not already there), non-alcoholic seltzer, functional beverages and teas. This is what people in the beverage industry (cringingly) call “Share of Throat.”
So what does this mean for brand builders?
If you’re thinking about launching an extension in 2021, you need to consider what role these products play in your portfolio and how your current positioning helps, or hinders, their chances for success.
Let’s look at 2 examples—the specialist brewery and the generalist, both planning an extension.
1. The Specialist Brewery
If you’re an all sour brewery (and renowned for that), releasing anything other than sour beers can harm that positioning. You want people to think of your brewery when they want a sour beer. This example can apply toward any brewery that is known for a singular style—lagers, Belgians, functional better-for-you beers, barrel aged beer, etc. In this case, it might make sense for the sour brewery to create an entirely new brand—name, identity, packaging and website—for this hard seltzer.
2. The Generalist Brewery
If you’re known as a generalist brewery, you have more flexibility in what you can produce because that’s what people will come to expect. Releasing a Pils one week and a Baltic Porter the next are the norm and would, in a way, give you more leeway to release a hard seltzer under your parent brand (because you’re not known for any one thing). In this case, it could* make sense to launch the hard seltzer under your current brand.
*But even this isn’t always the right choice.
We’ve found that Brand Architecture isn’t black and white. Even when building fancy decision trees and rule sets, a decision should be weighed just as much against your core values, market opportunity, demand, and your parent brand’s positioning.
We’re working on a cool resource to help breweries manage this process. Stay tuned, more on this later in 2021.
1. Consider your parent brand’s positioning when launching a non-beer extension. Does this new product add to, or detract from our parent positioning?
2. Will your current customers be receptive to this new product / category, or will it cause them to question what your broader brand represents?
The most important goal of any brand should be to position itself as the first name you think of when you need that thing. Once you achieve that status, anything you do to distract from it, like release a new product (with different value props) under the same brand name, will dilute the very core brand positioning that you’ve fought to own.
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.