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VOL. 027

What is a Modular Brand Identity System?

Morning.

We've put together a short year end survey (less than 3 minutes) to make sure this newsletter stays sharp and provides value for your team in the coming year. 

Please take the survey here (if you have time).

Thanks!

Now, onto today's issue.




Most of our BBT issues focus on upstream brand strategy considerations—positioning, Brand Architecture, portfolio management, creative process management, etc. 

Today, I want to focus on something more tactical because I think it will be valuable for startup breweries and those who are considering a rebrand alike. 



When Cody and I graduated and founded CODO back in 2009, a common pain point we’d hear from our clients was that their current logo was "too long and skinny" to use on Facebook. 

"We need a circular (or square) logo to use as our profile pic. But also a wider one to work on our banner." 

I tell this story because it's funny to look back on how simple this all was just ~13 years ago (remember when Facebook was an important channel?). But it also highlights an early need for a logo system that works across multiple formats. Something that works equally well in print and digital. Something that can be scaled up to the size of a billboard and down to fit on a business card while still being legible (and attractive). 

Our process, and specifically, what we develop for our clients has evolved a lot over the last 13 years. And even more so over the last few years as a brewery’s digital footprint (on social media and third party eCommerce platforms) has become even more important. 

Let’s explore what makes a Modular Brand Identity System work and why, if built correctly, it can set your brewery up for long term visual consistency and success.

Modular Brand Identity System for Lost Nomad Brewing.




What is Brand Identity 

Your Brand is your customers’ perception of your company, including your products and your culture. It’s their gut feeling about what you do, and ultimately shapes why they love you, hate you, or completely disregard you. Why do they think you’re different? How do they describe you to friends? Why do they, or don’t they, support you? 

Your Brand captures what you stand for, what you value and believe, the value you offer, the promises you make and the role you play in your customers’ lives.

Your Brand Identity is surface level. It is a collection of visual elements—symbols and signifiers—that work in concert to tell this story to consumers so they can identify and differentiate you from your competitors. 


This can include things like your:


Primary Identity Components

– Logo system

– Color palette

– Typography palette 
 

Secondary Touch Points 

– Packaging (primary & secondary)  

– Website & social channels 

– Print materials 

– Merch 

– Point of Sale materials (PoS)

– Environmental design (taproom design, wayshowing, vehicle wraps, festival booths, etc.) 

 

 

A logo, on its own, is no more a brand than it is a brand identity. 

Your brand is your story, reputation and promise. 

Your brand identity is a collection of visual tools you use to convey this story to the world.

Top: Modular Brand Identity System for Good George Brewing out of New Zealand. We're working up full case study on this rebrand now. Stay tuned. 

Bottom: Modular Brand Identity System for Mission Brewing.




A point of contention 

There are those in the design industry who would argue that my Brand Identity definition is incorrect. They would argue that your Identity also includes deeper strategy components—things like your brewery’s positioning, brand voice & personality, Brand Essence, key messaging pillars and brand values as well as your visual signifiers. 

Those people are wrong. 

All of these things live under your Brand and broader Brand Strategy. And the distinction between your Brand and Brand Identity matters.

For example: If we’re helping a brewery navigate a Brand Refresh, that usually means that their Brand—that is, their positioning and messaging (and Essence and brand voice, etc.) are all working well and in a good place to support their business into the future. 

In this case, the work—the actual deliverables we’re designing—are more surface level and centered around their Brand Identity than with addressing structural Brand and Brand Strategy issues. 

If we’re rebranding a brewery, then we’re defining (or redefining) all of that upstream Brand Strategy stuff (Brand Essence, positioning, messaging, brand voice & personality, key differentiators and value props, etc.) en route to designing the surface level Brand Identity elements.

Top: Modular Brand Identity System for Left Field Brewery

Bottom: Modular Brand Identity System for Southern Brewing.




What is a Modular Brand identity System? 

A Modular Brand Identity System (a churched up term we coined more than a decade ago) is a flexible system of identity elements that can be deployed as needed to best suit a particular touch point. 

This is our answer to that problem we outlined up top. You need a logo that works equally well large and small. In one color and multicolor. On different materials and across various print and digital applications. 

But one logo can’t do all that. 

This approach helps your brewery’s brand identity stay fresh and lively across different channels and touch points while still being consistent and familiar (and building visual equity).


A Modular Brand Identity System includes: 
 

A Primary Mark 

This is your main mark, and as such, should be used on all major touch points. Think packaging, website and social avatars, building signage, etc. 
 

Secondary Marks 

This includes a few key icons that clearly relate to the primary mark. These are set up to accommodate specific use cases you’ll run into out in the wild—horizontal builds, vertical builds, one color applications, comically small logo placements, etc.
 

Tertiary Assets 

This is the supporting cast that provides extra spice and depth to your entire identity system. This can include things like tagline builds, other non-secondary icons (“bugs”), textures, and alternate logo builds. These are usually used in conjunction with your primary mark to add more detail to something (e.g. the admin panel on a can or the side of a 6-pack box, etc.).



Another important part of this system is a concise visual style guide. This keeps your team and any vendors on track so your identity remains consistent over time without wandering off course.  

Visual style guides outline the following:

– All of your logo files and hierarchy (e.g. Primary, Secondary, Tertiary marks)

– Your color palette (including CMYK, RGB and Hex values)

– Your typography palette (including specific weights and combinations as well as directions to purchase your own licenses for continued use)

– Application examples (showing how the system can be used across merch, packaging and built environments)

– General rules that your brewery can follow once you deliver all of these assets (e.g. "don't stretch this icon, you bastard," don't change the color, only use this typeface) 

 

A change that’s happening right now…

Motion is becoming an increasingly important element in brand identities. You can thank Instagram, Tik Tok and now YouTube Shorts for this.

I don’t think having a logo that lends itself to motion graphics is a necessity yet, but it will become an important consideration in the coming years. So keep this in mind if you're planning to brand or rebrand your company.

Modular Brand Identity System for BitterRoot Brewing.




Another benefit: A Modular Identity System sets you up for easy merchandising 

Breweries in planning often want merch, but don't have thousands of ravings fans (yet) to buy any of it. So in most cases, it doesn't pencil out to have your branding partner make some cool, custom stuff. 

This is another place where Modular Brand Identity Systems shine: They essentially give you a baked in merch program. 

All those secondary icons and tertiary elements help you move beyond the dreaded “logo slap” that is endemic in startup brewery merch. This is when you apply a single logo to a bunch of different stuff so your customers’ only real choice is whether they want your logo on black shirt or a green one. Thrilling.

With a Modular Brand Identity System, you can build out a decent merch program and spin up an important revenue stream right off the bat (without having to pay your branding partner to develop additional bespoke, merch-specific pieces). 

Top: Left Field Brewery's stellar merch program, built following our brand refresh.

Bottom: Our work with Frankie's Pizza Parlor is a good example of how a Modular Brand Identity System can also lend itself to interior design and way showing.




An important caveat 

 

Modular Brand Identity Systems require a deft hand

It would be easy to learn about this concept and think, "Okay, got it. Create a bunch of extra icons and call it good." 

But an effective Modular Brand Identity System isn't about creating a bunch of extra stuff. It's about creating only the most important additional elements that work together to help you tell your story.

Anything beyond this core group of assets is just noise. 

And it can actually work against you, making your branding less cohesive and more frenetic.

So if you have any additional elements that you're on the fence about through your identity design process, ditch them. While you do need more than one standalone logo, paradoxically, less can actually be more under this approach.
 

 

If you’re starting a new brewery or beverage company, make sure your branding partner develops a Modular Brand Identity System.

This will set you up for long term success (and far less headaches) as your business grows.

Around the Shop

Talking Shop with Upland Brewing Co.

It's always fun grabbing a beer and taking shop with David Bower, former CEO of Upland Brewing.

In this conversation, we discuss the merits of chasing distribution vs. doubling down on tap room experiences, how to build brands over time and what it takes to revive a legacy IP beer brand.

Downsizing vs. Right Sizing

"If you’re not growing, you’re dying." 

(Unless you grow too fast, over leverage, run out of cash, lay everyone off and have to move to another state under an assumed identity.) 



This is an interesting move by Lost Abbey, and frankly, it's refreshing to see a renowned brewery do something like this. I would even offer that it takes real backbone to publicly scale down your operations. 

The business world fetishizes growth. And in beer, we've seen an outsized focus on vanity metrics, specifically top line revenue and annual barrel production.

By selling their overly-large brewhouse and getting into a smaller footprint, Lost Abbey is right sizing for the coming decade. And my guess is that they'll become way more profitable because of this move.

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?

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VOL. 026

Some early thoughts on Hop Water (the next big beyond beer trend?)

Morning.  

Today we’re going to talk about Hop Water, and why I believe it could be a big trend in the coming year. 

Before diving into this, I’d like to say that I rarely make these sorts of bold claims, and would like to outline a few caveats. I’m hesitant to trend forecast like this for a few reasons. 

1. I don’t want to be wrong — real brave, I know — but this is because… 

2. I don’t want to steer our clients and subscribers (you!) wrong. 

3. I usually find pieces like this (e.g. "XYZ is the hot new trend!") to be more throw away content and click bait-oriented than focused on actionable insights. But this is my own personal baggage, so we can disregard it entirely and make. Some. Predictions.





As of November 2022, Hop Water is not a trend in the you-see-it-everywhere-and-everyone-is-talking-about-it sense. Though the category has actually been around for several years (as far back as the early 2010’s from what I’ve seen), Hop Water is still relatively new as far as consumers are concerned. 

Indeed, this entire category could fizzle out and get lost in the veritable sea of new product development we’re currently enjoying across the beverage industry. BUT, as hard seltzer loses steam (or at least, as the newness that drove seltzer’s wild ascendency continues to wane) and the non-alcoholic (NA) category continues to expand, I think Hop Water is in a perfect position to flourish.

There are enough on-trend and compelling value props that could make Hop Water a decently-sized category in its own right, and something that any brewery who is producing beyond beer products might want to consider. 

If you’re seeing what I’m seeing, then it could be worth experimenting with this style over the winter ahead of spring/summer 2023. (Clock starts now, folks.)





This might be confirmation bias on my part (I love Hop Waters), but CODO has seen a sharp uptick in inquiries for Hop Water branding projects. Sharp uptick as in we received one inquiry in all of 2021 and nearly a dozen this year.

These inquiries (two of which became fun, ongoing projects) have come from startup Hop Water brands, to smaller breweries (~1,500 bbl per year) and all the way up to regional breweries.

Another interesting point here: We've also seen a steady decline in the number of breweries reaching out to discuss non-alcoholic beer branding projects this year. We had a lot of movement on this front throughout 2021 and even into early 2022. But this has since quieted down almost entirely.

While anecdotal, this context matters. There’s movement here, at all levels, and there are land grabs available for early movers who get it right. 

Okay, preamble over. Let’s hop to it. (Go ahead and unsubscribe, I dare you.)

Props to HOP WTR, by the way. They literally trademarked what became a category name. Brilliant.


 

What is Hop Water?

Hop Water, in its simplest form, is just hops, water and carbonation. That’s it. There’s an infinite amount of tinkering you can do with it, but it's a simple beverage. 

And it’s worth noting that most of what we’re discussing here can apply to any beer adjacent, NA hopped product, from Hop Water to Hop Tea and Soda, (coffee?), etc. 

I think Hop Water is the most immediately exciting product in this category, particularly as a potential foil against NA beer, but these will all likely grow over the coming years. 


What trends & value props could drive Hop Water's growth? 

 

It’s a sparkling water (so it’s familiar) 

Sparkling Water has been trending for years (see LaCroix, Polar, Topo Chico, Spindrift, Bubly, Waterloo, etc.). What this means for Hop Water is that you don’t have to work to educate your consumers on what this product is. They already have familiar drinking experience cues to pull from when being introduced to your brand, particularly in off-premise, where they will likely encounter your Hop Water for the first time. (Consumer eduction is an ongoing issue for the kombucha category, for example.)

 

It’s got nothing (which makes it better for you)

Hop Water has no alcohol, no calories, no carbs, no sugar, no sodium, no gluten, no adorable bunnies harmed during the brewing process. Nothing. This means that it's healthy to drink, which follows a broad cultural shift towards balance, wellness and overall fitness. 

Look for this to be a major point of differentiation, particularly if Hop Water starts squaring off with NA beer. And as far as what categories Hop Water could steal share from, my bet is squarely on NA beer because of the shared audience and this key differentiator.

 

For the brewer specifically (COGs and path to market)

1. Hop Water could hit a sweet spot for (the growing number of) brewers who are interested in releasing a non-alcoholic beverage, but aren’t set up to properly make NA beer.

2. In its base form, Hop Water can be high margin (similar to hard seltzer) and relatively easy to make (compared to NA beer). However, the COGS can increase significantly depending on what additions go into your final beverage. 

I reached out to a CODO partner in the flavor development & ingredients industry to discuss the costs to produce Hop Water and he gave me a thorough run down. I’m including this at the bottom of this email for anyone who is interested in exploring these products. 

3. Offering options like this in your taproom are a no brainer. You can get patrons to stick around longer and increase your average ticket size. Whether they enjoy a Hop Water as a pacer in between beers, or finish their evening off with a few, you’re still banking an extra $5 – $8 (whatever you charge for it in your taproom) per pour. And a good deal of that is profit. 

We wrote about the myriad benefits of offering great NA options in your taproom in our 2022 Beer Branding Trends Review. Revisit that piece here.

4. Hop Water, like NA beer, is good-to-go for direct to consumer (DTC) shipping. You can mail it out to anyone in the country. Hell, you can buy Hop Waters on Amazon.

This is cool because eventually, shipping beer will be made legal (or at least, easier). This is definitely a boon for larger producers, but for smaller outfits, you can still take advantage of this (or at least, put in place a DTC plan for when/if shipping beer actually becomes less onerous and more viable at your scale). 

Broad (early) thoughts on branding and positioning Hop Water 
 

Can Hop Water move beyond a beer-drinking audience? (or, does it need to?) + Opportunities for Categorical Differentiation

1. I think we’re still in Phase 1 of Hop Water (think ~2018 for hard seltzer) where consumers are still not entirely aware of it. And the breweries that are moving on this category are leaning heavily into the hop angle. 

This first cohort of Hop Water brands are being positioned as beer alternatives. Or, a beer alternative-alternative (an NA beer alternative). With as fast as trends move today, I see this phase lasting a bit longer before we start to see established brands and new entrants alike start to carve out other (categorical) positioning opportunities en masse. 

2. I've outlined my doubts before about the long term runway of NA beer. (NA discussion starts around the 26 minute mark on this podcast.) As a refresher, why would a Zoomer who isn't interested in beer, but is largely sober, reach for a non-alcoholic beer? Or in this case, a (beer-adjacent) Hop Water?

In this same vein, a key challenge for Hop Water as the category matures, will be in reaching beyond a traditional beer drinking audience who is in search of a more wellness-focused beer-ish option. Though with an aging Millennial cohort (seeking more beer alternatives), and more growth across NA beverage in general, there may be plenty of runway (or at least, opportunities for incremental growth) with a traditional beer drinking audience as is. 

 

Hop Water as a platform (or, a blank canvas)

We should think of Hop Water as a platform for experimentation. There’s the immediate angle of exploring different hops, and dry hopping and overall level of carbonation, etc. 

But I think Hop Waters are a perfect chassis to accept other macro beverage trends. Consider the litany of better for you, functional ingredients, the more emergent and esoteric the better (e.g. nootropics, adaptogens, super fruits, mushrooms, electrolytes, caffeine, THC, CBD/CBN).

All of these could work in a Hop Water, so long as they don’t add to the calorie or carb count. Again, having a traditional beer tasting note while being calorie and carb free (and refreshing) is the real value prop here.
 


Hop Water is also a blank canvas when it comes to visual rule set and category cues.

It’s so new (and hasn’t had a rocket ship to define what is and isn’t allowed, visually, like White Claw or Truly did for the seltzer category), that there are no category norms, constraints, or visual canon yet. There are no preordained formats, colors or iconography. Nothing. 

This is exciting from a brand building standpoint because we can swing big and make some beautiful stuff.

Hop Water's category nomenclature 

Similar to how Hop Water has no defined visual canon yet, there are also no rules (from a consumer standpoint) that dictate what we call these beverages on pack.

We've seen Hop Waters (and a variety of non-alcoholic water-based beverages) called "seltzer," "carbonated water," "hop-infused sparkling water," "soda water" and "sparkling water."

If I was forced to pick one of these, I think "sparkling water" is the most approachable for the lay person. Though your broader positioning goals for this product (along with any label requirements and nutritional facts) should dictate which route you go here.

Two additional thoughts to shape your customer experience: 

1. While calling a Hop Water a "seltzer" is technically correct, I think this is a mistake from a messaging standpoint. In 2022 and beyond, legal drinking age consumers will see "seltzer" and assume it's a hard (alcoholic) seltzer.

2. As your brewery continues to expand its portfolio beyond beer, it will become increasingly important to delineate between your alcoholic and non-alcoholic products.

Hop Waters are non-alcoholic and should be clearly noted as such so your customers can make an informed purchasing decision. Don't assume people know this out of the gate (the category is still too young for that). 


Think about your Brand Architecture

Hop Water could be a great beyond beer fit for many breweries because it’s so beer-centric.

From a Brand Architecture standpoint, you might not have to be overly-worried about protecting your parent brand, and can likely position your Hop Water as either a straight Brand Extension or a Sub Brand. 

But if you’re considering these two options in particular, think about the long term runway of this brand.

– Could your Hop Water sell like crazy and carve out a large part of your portfolio?

– Can you envision line extensions and even brand extensions spinning off of your Hop Water brand (into hop teas or sodas, etc.)?

– Could your Hop Water steal sales away from another Low & No offering in your portfolio? 


If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might want to explore more of the middle ground option (Sub / Endorsed Brands) on the Beverage Brand Architecture Continuum.



 

This Brand Architecture portion was painted with a super broad brush. Your positioning and parent brand’s reputation, as well as your competitive set and goals for your Hop Water line will all drive whether or not this is correct. 

Take our Beverage Extension Assessment Tool (B.E.A.T.) to make sure your Brand Architecture approach is dialed in before making any big decisions on this front.

1. Is Hop Water as big an opportunity as I think it is, or will this fizzle out before gaining any real traction.

Shoot me an email and let me know what you think.

2. Doug Veliky (Chief Strategy Officer at Revolution Brewing) has put out a few great videos on Hop Water over the last month. Check out his first one for an additional perspective. 

Additional Reading

Hop Water COGS: Let's run some numbers!

While hops are not the least expensive of products and prices continue to rise, Hop Water could have limited ingredient costs (Hops, Water, Yeast, Citric Acid (if Used), Preservative / Pasteurization (if used), etc.)

I think for a brewer, it comes down to tank space [opportunity cost] considerations, and if they would have more profits by keeping a beer or another beverage in their tanks.

I think more factors like how much hop addition, variety of hop, hop contracts and sourcing come into play as well.

Given everything I’m about to outline, it could be more effective for a local craft brewer to outsource production to a larger co-packer that has better hop contract pricing and overall economies of scale.


Let’s run some numbers:


Let’s say you add 1# of hops per 5 gallon production.

1# of hops = 453 grams. Highest production yield of 2.22 cases of final product [2.25 gallons per case of 24 units of 12oz] = up to 53 bottles max. 

Let’s decrease 10% for yield production / liquid loss sake, and say that yields 48 bottles, so 2 cases. 

Hops at $6# would be ~ $3.00 per case / $0.125 hop cost per unit (can / bottle). 

Hops at $12# would have $0.25 per unit. 

Hops at $18# would have $0.375 per unit.

(this doesn’t capture other inputs like packaging format, labeling, time in tanks, labor, etc.)




Anyone expanding into this space should ask how can I get someone to pay $1.50 to $3.00 for a can / bottle of Hop Water, and what are thresholds of premiumization?

Where a Lagunitas 4-pack may be $5.99, and a HOP WTR 6-pack is $9.99 – $11.49 / 12-pack is ~$20.99, and a Sierra Nevada 12-pack $20.00, etc…

A customer is paying $1.67 can for Sierra Nevada straight from Sierra. And Sierra Nevada simultaneously sets a benchmark for quality and cost efficiency. 

So right out of the gate, I know it is going to cost me [your brewery] more than Sierra to produce, so I would ask myself what can I do to warrant $2.25+ a bottle? 

Branding is obviously important here, but the product itself needs to step up. 

Which unique identifiers—and not necessarily hops, unless a brand does a great job educating the consumer on hops varieties and finds ways to truly market and educate that hop aspect—can command that premium cost position?

If I were starting a Hop Water brand, I think adding additional functional ingredients (e.g. electrolytes) would be the play right now. 

Around the Shop

Consumers gravitating towards Brand over Style (via: Brewers Association)

Here's a great breakdown from Bart Watson, Chief Economist at the Brewers Association, on their latest Harris Poll. 

There are loads of valuable insights in here, but the most striking was the trend line of consumers preferring brands over exploring and buying broadly across a style. So in practice: I'm going to buy Voodoo Ranger Hazy Imperial IPA vs. buying a new-to-me Hazy Imperial 6-pack. 

There are other great insights in this presentation, including changing legal drinking age demographics (women drinking more than men, Gen Z drinking hardly anything, etc.).

Shoutout to Deadwords Brewing for bringing home a *GOLD* GABF medal for best American-style Lager

CODO client Deadwords Brewing (Orlando, FL) brought home a GOLD medal at last month's Great American Beer Fest.

Well done, David (& team).

Anyone down for a road trip to Florida to crush some crispy bois?

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 025

So you bought a brewery… to rebrand or not to rebrand?

Morning! 

A few pieces of housekeeping:

1. As a reminder for our Canadian readers, Cody and I will be giving a presentation about Brand Architecture at the Ontario Craft Brewers Conference next week. If you're attending, come say hi and let's grab a beer. 

2. Cody and I recorded a podcast episode on today's topic. Listen here for more background context on how to handle branding during a brewery sale (including the important question of timing). 

Okay, let's get to it. 





Today, we’re going to discuss a quiet, behind the scenes story that we see unfolding across the craft beer industry.

Since about Q3 of 2021 to today, we’ve fielded loads of inquiries and projects centered around brewery sales. In most cases, these aren’t headline grabbing M&As like Stone or Modern Times, but rather, small-to-medium (say, 500–15k bbl per year) outfits. 

So the people we’re talking to (and working with) are usually in one of two camps: They are either about to buy a brewery and want to figure out their immediate next steps from a branding and positioning standpoint once the deal closes. 

Or they have recently acquired a brewery and as part of getting everything up and running during the transition, realized they need to address their branding and packaging in some way—generally a refresh or outright rebrand. 



I’m not sure if all of this is a good sign or a bad sign. The industry has been around, in its current form, since 2010, so it may just be that there are a lot of founders who have been at this for 5 to 10 years who are ready to move on.

And let's not forget 2020, in particular. 

The industry is still dealing with fallout from the pandemic — mandatory shut downs, revenue dropping as much as 90% over night, major channel shifts, changed consumer drinking habits, obscene input cost increases, labor shortages, inflation, and recession… But unlike 2020, there are no stimulus checks or PPP funds coming. And the RRF seems like it’s tapped out as well. And again, we’re in a recession. 

So any one of these could be the deciding factor to pack it in for many founders.

I’m guessing here since CODO’s interaction in these scenarios is almost always with the purchasing party and not the outgoing group. (But this isn't too hard to imagine, right?)

Either way, the reasons driving these sales doesn’t matter for our conversation today. What matters is that there are a lot of brewery sales happening right now in the United States. And I suspect this will continue over the next several years. 

So back to those folks who are reaching out to us to discuss these sorts of projects. What do you do with a brewery’s brand after you buy it?

Let’s discuss this situation and give you some things to think about if you’re shopping for a brewery.

We worked with the new ownership team at Three Rivers Distilling on a thorough rebrand, post-acquisition. (This isn't a brewery, but they answered the same questions we'll outline below.)




There are three important questions to consider whenever we discuss a situation like this with a potential client:

1: What are you actually buying? 

2: Is there any visual and/or Brand Equity to be retained?

3: What is your vision for this brewery?

 

 

Question 1: What are you actually buying? 

A brewery sale can include a lot of things. Firstly, you’re buying tangible assets—a commercial facility, furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE), the brewhouse, tanks, cold storage, all that beautiful, shiny back of house stuff. 

Other things that are generally included in a brewery sale are any leases, existing contracts, sales data, account relationships and even other businesses within the brewery business. So that could be a distribution company, a catering company, etc.

For this conversation, we’re focusing on a brewery’s Brand Equity (reputation and goodwill) and Intellectual Property (I.P.). 

Tangible assets are usually the most valuable part of a sale (you’ll likely need all of that stuff to continue brewing beer and possibly for securing debt on the entire deal), unless you’re buying a hugely popular brewery. In that case, you might place more value on the brand (and I.P.) itself. 

As an example, Ballast Point wasn’t sitting on $1 Billion worth of physical assets when it was originally acquired by Constellation. The Ballast Point brand itself (and where Constellation believed it could take that brand) was an outsized portion of that valuation.

When we say brand and I.P. here, we’re talking about things like a brewery’s:

– Name
– Brand identity system
– Beer brands (specific names)
– Trade Dress
– Recipes
– Social channels
– Key events (festivals, beer releases, etc.)

If you’re buying a brewery, you need to consider whether you are buying it primarily because of its tangible assets (and the brand doesn’t really factor into your decision), OR, because it has a solid brand with loads of potential. 

The new ownership team at Mission Brewing saw huge potential in the brand's ability to find new relevancy and scale distribution throughout San Diego. And the brewery facility itself is sized appropriately to allow them to pursue that goal.

Check out our recent podcast and newsletter for more background on this rebranding process.
 




Question 2: Is there any visual and/or Brand Equity to be retained?

If you think you’ll want to maintain any of the brewery’s existing I.P. through an update, then you’ll want to conduct a thorough Brand Audit to determine what should stay and what can be jettisoned. 

We’ve discussed weighing Brand Equity and Brand Audits at length previously. In the interest of keeping this issue from becoming overly-long, here are a few resources to revisit if you’re interested in this topic:  
 

Brewery Rebrand vs. Refresh (Evolution vs. Revolution) [Podcast]
 
Brand Audits [Craft Beer, Rebranded book]


Important reminder here: Just because the existing brewery brand has some equity doesn’t mean that this equity will help you build the business moving forward.


Here’s an excerpt on this topic from BBT #014: What is Brand Equity?:


Evolution vs. Revolution (vs. Brand Equity)

… Let's start with the idea of having loads of equity when you're completely wiping the slate clean during a rebrand.

The obvious question, and one that spurred a great conversation with our brewery partner, is why are we hanging on to equity, any equity, when we're purposely moving away from all the things—the story, positioning and perception—that this equity evokes in the first place?

This is like losing 100 pounds and still wearing the same size 52 jeans.

If you've determined that a brand refresh is in order, then any positive equity may be more important to retain since any forthcoming changes could end up being more subtle and in line with your current look and feel and messaging.

If you're rebranding (updating your positioning, messaging, brand essence, identity, packaging and certainly when developing a new name) then any existing equity might not be important because you're changing the narrative in a more profound way.
 




Question 3: What is your vision for this brewery? Where do you want to take this business?

Our final question centers around why you’re buying this brewery. What do you intend to build? Here are a few scenarios:


“We’re going to build something amazing and take over our market.”

If you have grand visions for the brewery and the current branding (identity, packaging, taproom and/or reputation) hinders that in any way, then you move closer to considering a thorough rebrand. 

 

“We’re going to brew some beer and sell whatever we don’t drink!”

If you see this as more of a lifestyle business (we've seen several of these operations for sale in particular: e.g. ~3.5 barrel brewery + turnkey taproom for ~ $250k, etc.), then it might not make sense to turn around and make a large investment in your branding. 

You might still consider (or need) a brand refresh, but it’s not as pressing if your goals and vision don’t call for it.

The new ownership team at Prost Brewing purchased the brewery because they (correctly) believed there was a market for traditionally-brewed German-style beers in Denver and beyond. But in order to attract the right audience and scale, a top-to-bottom rebrand was in order.

Read about how we worked with Prost on this process, including the phenomenal ROI they’re seeing, here.





Broad Stroke Guidance 

It’s tempting for me to tell you that you’ll need to revamp your branding after buying a brewery no matter how you answer these questions because this would set you up for a running start either way. But a strategically-sound answer is going to be more nuanced than a blanket recommendation like this. 

Here are a few broad stroke ideas for you to think about if you’re in this position:
 

When buying an established, popular brewery 

The more well-known and established a brand (how long it’s been open, number of active accounts, annual bbl production, distribution footprint, etc.) the more likely you will want to retain (or at least honor in some way) the brewery’s visual and brand equity. 

And it’s a safe bet that this equity is probably a driving reason for the purchase in the first place.

So in this case, you could go through some sort of refresh—address some pain points, clean things up and set your team up to manage everything better—but probably not a sweeping rebrand. 


When buying a smaller (or even mid-size) brewery 

If you’re buying a smaller, or newer brewery (limited production capacity, limited-to-no distribution, likely a small taproom, etc.), then you likely have more leeway to change things up in a major way.

So you might consider a thorough rebrand if that aligns with your vision and goals for the business. 

As always, your project context, competitive set, broader brand strategy and goals should drive all of these decisions.





Check out our Craft Beer, Rebranded book bundle for a comprehensive overview of the rebranding process. The Workbook, in particular, will give you some great tools for conducting a Brand Audit and weighing your Brand Equity.

Around the Shop

Australian Craft Beer

What's up with Australian Craft Beer?

We sat down with Matt Kirkegaard from Australia Brews News to discuss all things Australian craft beer, including:

– What parallels are there between Aussie and U.S. beer? 

– Does craft's quintessential origin story (David vs. Goliath) resonate with today's Aussie beer drinker? 

– Why are so many Australian breweries rebranding?

– What are some labeling oversight and regulatory differences between the States and Australia (and what is our responsibility as designers, brewers and parents)?

– Where does Australian craft beer go from here?

Mission's Rebrand was featured on Brand New

Our rebrand for Mission Brewing was just featured on Brand New.

We spend a lot of time talking about ROI and helping breweries sell more beer via brand strategy, but sometimes, it's nice to have our plain old graphic design lauded (and critiqued).

Brand New is where the global design community comes together to critique and (generally) shit on branding work. And the response to Mission's update was bizarrely(?) positive. Go figure. 

Unfortunately, there's a paywall to view this article. If you don't have access, I created a high quality graphic that captures the overall spirit of the review. Enjoy.

Congratulations to Birdsmouth Beer!

Shout out to Andy, Rocco and the rest of the Birdsmouth team on opening their brewery in New Jersey.

Birdsmouth is one of a handful of startup breweries we worked with throughout the pandemic, and it's rewarding to watch them finally open their doors.

We'll develop a full behind the scenes look at this project sometime early next year. But for now, swing out to New Jersey and crush some lager.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 024

How can your brewery enter the budget market? (or, on the perils of competing on price)

Morning!

I'd like to thank the 150+ of you who have purchased a copy of The Beyond Beer HandbookThe response thus far, including those of you who have written in about new products you've got in the works, has been rewarding.

Last week, Cody and I put out a Q&A podcast on Brand Architecture and it's already become one of our most downloaded episodes. We even touched on today's newsletter topic there. Give it a listen here if you're interested

Okay, onto today's issue. 



We’ve had interesting conversations with two breweries and one distillery over the last month about opportunities for creating budget products specifically as a hedge against the economic downturn. 

To give concrete examples: the distillery is planning to create a line of budget well spirits for carryout. And both breweries were considering a large pack light lager approach.

To make this even more concrete, the breweries we talked to wanted to create a real deal, cheap light lager that would be priced along the lines of a Bud or Miller 12-pack—so somewhere between 10.99 and 12.99 per.

At first blush I have two competing thoughts: 

1. This entire notion seems like more of a Big Beer / Large Craft conversation because in order to enter a lower cost space, you have to have the volume, both in ingredient costing / production capabilities and sales, to compete with a variety of already entrenched brands.

2. But then creating a budget option also makes sense at a cursory glance. If our customers are getting hammered by inflation (and at the gas pump, and on increasing rent, and groceries …) then let’s give them a cheaper option that they can still enjoy. And for what it’s worth, all three of these conversations were in this spirit—these people care about their customers and want to keep them happy.

So while noble, I want to address this idea head on because of all the Brand Architecture strategies we’ve discussed on this newsletter and podcast, releasing a markedly cheaper product can potentially be one of the most damaging moves you can make.

Now three conversations certainly don’t make for a trend, but with the economy trending the way it is, I imagine that these sorts of plays could become more common over the coming year.

In that spirit, let’s explore why creating a budget offering can be so dangerous, and discuss some practical ways to de-risk the move should you decide to ignore everything I’m saying and move forward anyway.

Why is this risky?

Can something be high quality (craft) and cheap at the same time? Not a great deal, per se, but a premium quality product at a mass market price?

Can you find a luxury vehicle for $15k? Or how about a luxury watch for $250?

Can you have an artisan burger at a McDonald’s price? I asked everyone on my team (and even bugged some people in my extended network) and couldn’t find a single example of this out in the wild anywhere in the country. (Let me know if you can think of one. I’m a fatty and will go spend all my money there.)

It’s just not possible.

You can’t use high quality ingredients, and proper manufacturing methods, and pay your people well and still offer a high quality thing at a cheap price. There’s always a catch.

And everyone knows that.

This isn’t how the world works and anyone who is paying attention would view this with suspicion. What corners did they cut to get their price this low?

When you buy a 12-pack of Bud Light, you’re buying it because it’s cheap. No value judgement there—the beer fills that mass market role well. 

By attaching your brand name to something that is of lesser quality than your typical offering, you are creating a potential level of mistrust that can spread to the rest of your portfolio. 

Yeah, they shit out this light lager. But I’m sure their IPA is up to snuff.

How to determine whether or not this is a good move


Let’s start by working through three key questions: 


1. Is there a market opportunity?

The first (and most obvious) point to consider when launching any new product is whether or not there is an actual need. Do people want something that they’re not currently able to find? Does your market need XYZ (a light lager, a budget seltzer, a cheap NA beer, affordable well spirits, etc.)?

I can’t think of a market where this sort of unmet demand exists. For any of this. That doesn’t mean there’s not a market out there where this strategy could work, but there’s a beer at basically every price point in every market in this country already. And glut of well-known options in the budget space.

 

2. Can you compete? 

The second point is whether or not you can realistically compete with any existing competition. 

I’ll use the light lager example from above because it's the most immediate move in the craft beer context. Can you, a small (hell, even medium size) craft brewery, get your COGs to pencil out in such a way that you can actually compete with Big Beer on price (and still stay in business)? 

And another fun wrinkle: Will your distributors, who may or not also be delivering truckloads of that same Big Beer, be open to carrying this new product? 

And let’s step down from Big Beer. Can you even compete with Big Craft? Can you price your beer such that you can compete with the Yuengling’s and 805’s and Oskar’s Lager’s of the world (and still stay profitable)? 

We've worked with more than 70 craft breweries, including some of the largest in the United States, and I don't think there's a single one we've come across that can actually pull this off. 


3. How will this affect your parent brand’s positioning and reputation (and ability to charge a premium)?

The third point, and perhaps most germane to this newsletter itself, is how your parent brand will be affected by this move. Not just in the short term, but over the long haul. 

Can you safely maintain a premium (craft) positioning at the parent level while also offering a lower cost, budget option? 

The real risk in all of this is of repositioning your parent brand itself. If you release a cheap (super cheap, budget) beer, what will that say about the rest of your portfolio? 

You can undo years of hard work in one move by changing what your parent brand stands for in your customers’ minds.

And that change won’t be positive. 

A few paths forward

 

Endorsed Brand vs. Creating a completely new brand 

If you decide that you still want to release a budget option, you need to be extremely careful with how much of your parent brand comes through on this product. I would think a subtly Endorsed Brand could work at the very most

But even then, I would still be hesitant. I still think your overall reputation and positioning could be damaged so much that, if you have the capacity—budget, time, ongoing resources—to do so, creating an entirely new brand might be a safer bet. 

Revisit a recent BBT Podcast on the Beverage Brand Architecture Continuum for more background on these particular strategies.

 

Why not level up instead of level down?

I’ve seen some compelling YTD data this summer that suggests category loyal customers—specifically, Craft consumers—aren’t trading down thus far in this shitty economy. But this phenomenon is happening across a myriad of other CPG categories.

And even within Craft, sales in the Premium+ tiers ($40–$54.99 per case) are looking stronger than ever. (Here's a great conversation we had with the Bump Williams Consulting crew on the different tiers of craft pricing for some background.)

This may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out: If you want to hedge against a tough economic landscape, it may actually be a better move to create a higher priced, premium offering than a budget option.

Yes, not everyone one will buy it, but two things could happen. 

If you position it properly, you could get Craft buyers who are trading up (buying less, but better) on their beer spends. 

And even if that doesn't work out perfectly, you can still raise your overall level of quality perception and reputation by doing something cool and more expensive.

I’ve over-simplified this (there are certainly other Brand Architecture considerations at play if you want to go this route). But between going premium and going budget, the former tactic at least stands less of a chance of completely ruining your reputation in the long run.

Around the Shop

0–100k+ Barrels: How to Scale a Cider Brand with Schilling Hard Cider 

We had a great time catching up with Eric Phillips, CCO at Schilling Cider, to discuss how their brand has quietly scaled to become one of the largest Bev Alc companies in the country. Their production volume would actually rank Schilling as one of the largest breweries in the country (if not for those pesky apples they insist on using).

We discussed how Schilling is extending beyond cider, the concept of "drafting" into new markets to achieve a multi-regional footprint and how they genuinely use their brand values to make business decisions. Great stuff here.

Answering YOUR Brand Architecture Questions [Podcast]

Cody and I had a lot of fun fielding questions from newsletter subscribers (you!), podcast listeners and folks who have purchased The Beyond Beer Handbook. 

As a preview: What do Vince McMahon, Rolex and erotic business fiction(?) have to do with Brand Architecture? 

Do yourself a favor and listen to this one.

Grab a beer with us at the Ontario Craft Brewers Conference

Cody and I are excited to speak at the Ontario Craft Brewers Conference this October, and I believe this is one of the best presentations we've ever put together.

This talk captures everything a brewery needs to know about Brand Architecture and will give attendees immediately actionable steps to decide how they can scale their brand.

I know there are hundreds of Canadian breweries who receive this newsletter (hi, friends!). If that's you, come to our talk and let's grab a beer afterwards.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Want to learn more? Grab a book.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 023

Brand Extensions vs. Sub Brands: A Closer Look

Howdy!

Quick housekeeping before we get started: we're now shipping The Beyond Beer Handbook every where in the world (we heard you all — I'm sorry for the delay). 

Okay, let's discuss a common road block we encounter when helping breweries bring new products to market.



One of the more common problems we help breweries work through when launching a Beyond Beer product is determining how to position it within their portfolio itself. 

And perhaps counter intuitively, deciding that you want some sort of connection (a pinch? a skosh?? a dash???) with your brewery’s parent brand can actually make this all more complicated.

You’d think that would make this easier, right?

Let’s take a look at the fine line between Brand Extensions and Sub Brands, and discuss when each strategy can make sense.

We're talking about the subtle shift between a Brand Extension and a Sub Brand, highlighted in green above. This can be confusing because the parent brand plays a prominent role in each case.
 


The key difference between a Brand Extension and a Sub Brand lies in how much effort, attention and detail is brought to that secondary product in relation to the parent brand. 

With a Brand Extension, there is little-to-no effort put into developing a unique name, artwork or other branding elements related to the product itself. The entire focus is on the parent brand, and this product exists as a mere extension of your portfolio. You are simply using your brewery's brand on a non-beer category product.

By contrast, a Sub Brand will feature a fully developed name, logo or other branding cues in addition to those of the parent brand. The parent is still the main purchasing driver here, but other elements to bring more personality or clarity to the product are introduced.



The below images demonstrate Brand Extensions (Scofflaw Brewing Mimosa & Dogfish Head Distilling Co.) vs. Sub Brands (Rhinegeist Brewery's Cidergeist family).

And while we're on this topic, Cidergeist also uses a fun Brand Architecture tactic called "Linked Naming." This is a subliminal way of linking your parent and Sub Brand (e.g. McDonalds > McNugget > McMuffin > McCafe, etc. 

Recent craft examples would include Bell's Two Hearted > Light Hearted and Cigar City's Jai Alia > Jai Low. 
Fun, right?

If you've determined you want some connection with the parent brand but are stuck on just how much connection there should be (e.g. a Brand Extension or a Sub Brand), a quick way to determine which is the right path is to consider the product's future growth opportunities beyond launch.

A common path for innovation we've seen with our clients goes like this:

Brewery launches a…
Seltzer (or canned cocktail) >
Lemonade Seltzer Line Extension >
Margarita Seltzer Line Extension >
Mimosa Seltzer Line Extension >
Variety Packs with all of the above

Each one of these follow-on extensions is a step further away from your core brand and all that it stands for (here's a podcast on positioning in case you want a refresher on this).

So if you launch that hard seltzer as a Brand Extension—e.g. XYZ Brewing Hard Seltzer—each subsequent Line Extension will also be leveraging your parent brand's equity (thus diluting what that parent brand stands for in your customers' minds).

Your brand strategy, competitive set and project context will determine whether or not this is an issue (though I’d contend that in most cases it is a big ask of your parent brand and can do more long term harm than good). 

This is where a Sub Brand can shine. 

Assuming this product makes sense within your broader positioning and messaging, creating a Sub Brand can give you just enough buffer to extend and scale this new product without further diluting your parent brand’s positioning through subsequent releases.

Client Example:

While branching out to seltzer isn’t too big of a stretch for a brewery these days, Left Field Brewery still wanted some separation between their parent brand and this new product. 

Ultimately, they felt their new seltzer could (and should) still tie to the Left Field brand and occasion (a refreshing break during a baseball game). 

I’m highlighting this brand because of the leeway it gives Left Field. It would’ve been easier, faster and cheaper to bring this seltzer to market as a Brand Extension (e.g. Left Field Hard Seltzer). 

But with follow on flavor ideas and line extensions their team is already kicking around, that would’ve put much more pressure on the Left Field brand itself. 

Over time, this continual march of extensions and new flavors (the name of the game when committing to creating RTDs and FMBs) would undercut Left Field's core positioning as Toronto's baseball brewery. 

Is Left Field the baseball brewery brand or a Pink Lemonade Hard Seltzer brand?

Creating this Sub Brand (technically, a Sub/Endorsed Brand) gives Left Field just enough leeway to extend and grow the 7th Inning brand while still getting all the leverage and benefit from their parent brand. 

Win. Win. 

Actionable Takeaways

Don't lose sight of your parent brand when launching an extension.

Yes, you can leverage your parent brand's equity out of the gate (and in some cases, this makes a lot of sense), but you need to think about the long term impact these seemingly small decisions can make on your overall positioning and reputation.

#CODOreads: How Not to Start a Damn Brewery

This is a fun, quick read on the nuts and bolts of running a brewery. Or at least, trying to run a brewery. And it immediately jumped onto the shortlist of books we recommend all of our beverage clients read.

Kelly Meyer ran his brewery into the ground, but not for lack of trying. This book (and podcast) act as a post-mortem examining where he went wrong and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Great insight from a beer industry veteran

Here's a great article by Neal Stewart over on BrewBound (written as he's exiting the beer industry).

Neal was instrumental in resurrecting the PBR brand in the early 2000's and more recently, lead teams at Mark Anthony Brands, Dogfish Head and Deschutes. We've been fans of his work for years and think this is a timely piece.

His insights on what it takes (and how long it takes) to build a brand are worth reading. And his closing thoughts about making sure you're prioritizing the right things (e.g. your family, being a community leader, mental and physical health) over your work-identity are always worth a reminder.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 023

Brand Extensions vs. Sub Brands: A Closer Look

Howdy!

Quick housekeeping before we get started: we're now shipping The Beyond Beer Handbook every where in the world (we heard you all — I'm sorry for the delay). 

Okay, let's discuss a common road block we encounter when helping breweries bring new products to market.



One of the more common problems we help breweries work through when launching a Beyond Beer product is determining how to position it within their portfolio itself. 

And perhaps counter intuitively, deciding that you want some sort of connection (a pinch? a skosh?? a dash???) with your brewery’s parent brand can actually make this all more complicated.

You’d think that would make this easier, right?

Let’s take a look at the fine line between Brand Extensions and Sub Brands, and discuss when each strategy can make sense.

We're talking about the subtle shift between a Brand Extension and a Sub Brand, highlighted in green above. This can be confusing because the parent brand plays a prominent role in each case.
 


The key difference between a Brand Extension and a Sub Brand lies in how much effort, attention and detail is brought to that secondary product in relation to the parent brand. 

With a Brand Extension, there is little-to-no effort put into developing a unique name, artwork or other branding elements related to the product itself. The entire focus is on the parent brand, and this product exists as a mere extension of your portfolio. You are simply using your brewery's brand on a non-beer category product.

By contrast, a Sub Brand will feature a fully developed name, logo or other branding cues in addition to those of the parent brand. The parent is still the main purchasing driver here, but other elements to bring more personality or clarity to the product are introduced.



The below images demonstrate Brand Extensions (Scofflaw Brewing Mimosa & Dogfish Head Distilling Co.) vs. Sub Brands (Rhinegeist Brewery's Cidergeist family).

And while we're on this topic, Cidergeist also uses a fun Brand Architecture tactic called "Linked Naming." This is a subliminal way of linking your parent and Sub Brand (e.g. McDonalds > McNugget > McMuffin > McCafe, etc. 

Recent craft examples would include Bell's Two Hearted > Light Hearted and Cigar City's Jai Alia > Jai Low. 
Fun, right?

If you've determined you want some connection with the parent brand but are stuck on just how much connection there should be (e.g. a Brand Extension or a Sub Brand), a quick way to determine which is the right path is to consider the product's future growth opportunities beyond launch.

A common path for innovation we've seen with our clients goes like this:

Brewery launches a…
Seltzer (or canned cocktail) >
Lemonade Seltzer Line Extension >
Margarita Seltzer Line Extension >
Mimosa Seltzer Line Extension >
Variety Packs with all of the above

Each one of these follow-on extensions is a step further away from your core brand and all that it stands for (here's a podcast on positioning in case you want a refresher on this).

So if you launch that hard seltzer as a Brand Extension—e.g. XYZ Brewing Hard Seltzer—each subsequent Line Extension will also be leveraging your parent brand's equity (thus diluting what that parent brand stands for in your customers' minds).

Your brand strategy, competitive set and project context will determine whether or not this is an issue (though I’d contend that in most cases it is a big ask of your parent brand and can do more long term harm than good). 

This is where a Sub Brand can shine. 

Assuming this product makes sense within your broader positioning and messaging, creating a Sub Brand can give you just enough buffer to extend and scale this new product without further diluting your parent brand’s positioning through subsequent releases.

Client Example:

While branching out to seltzer isn’t too big of a stretch for a brewery these days, Left Field Brewery still wanted some separation between their parent brand and this new product. 

Ultimately, they felt their new seltzer could (and should) still tie to the Left Field brand and occasion (a refreshing break during a baseball game). 

I’m highlighting this brand because of the leeway it gives Left Field. It would’ve been easier, faster and cheaper to bring this seltzer to market as a Brand Extension (e.g. Left Field Hard Seltzer). 

But with follow on flavor ideas and line extensions their team is already kicking around, that would’ve put much more pressure on the Left Field brand itself. 

Over time, this continual march of extensions and new flavors (the name of the game when committing to creating RTDs and FMBs) would undercut Left Field's core positioning as Toronto's baseball brewery. 

Is Left Field the baseball brewery brand or a Pink Lemonade Hard Seltzer brand?

Creating this Sub Brand (technically, a Sub/Endorsed Brand) gives Left Field just enough leeway to extend and grow the 7th Inning brand while still getting all the leverage and benefit from their parent brand. 

Win. Win. 

Actionable Takeaways

Don't lose sight of your parent brand when launching an extension.

Yes, you can leverage your parent brand's equity out of the gate (and in some cases, this makes a lot of sense), but you need to think about the long term impact these seemingly small decisions can make on your overall positioning and reputation.

#CODOreads: How Not to Start a Damn Brewery

This is a fun, quick read on the nuts and bolts of running a brewery. Or at least, trying to run a brewery. And it immediately jumped onto the shortlist of books we recommend all of our beverage clients read.

Kelly Meyer ran his brewery into the ground, but not for lack of trying. This book (and podcast) act as a post-mortem examining where he went wrong and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Great insight from a beer industry veteran

Here's a great article by Neal Stewart over on BrewBound (written as he's exiting the beer industry).

Neal was instrumental in resurrecting the PBR brand in the early 2000's and more recently, lead teams at Mark Anthony Brands, Dogfish Head and Deschutes. We've been fans of his work for years and think this is a timely piece.

His insights on what it takes (and how long it takes) to build a brand are worth reading. And his closing thoughts about making sure you're prioritizing the right things (e.g. your family, being a community leader, mental and physical health) over your work-identity are always worth a reminder.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

Episode Summary

Cody and Isaac sit down to discuss CODO’s new book, The Beyond Beer Handbook.

Episode Notes

Points of discussion:

1. www.beyondbeerbook.com

2. www.beyondbeerbook.com

3. www.beyondbeerbook.com

4. www.beyondbeerbook.com

5. www.beyondbeerbook.com

6. www.beyondbeerbook.com

7. www.beyondbeerbook.com

Buy The Beyond Beer Handbook today.

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

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

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 020

Rebranding Mission Brewing: Helping a 100+ year old brewery find new relevance in one of America's most competitive markets

Hey there! Some quick housekeeping before we get started: 

1. A quick shout-out to the 82 (!!!) of you that caught our free book Easter egg in the last issue. There was actually a two-way tie for first response between Anita (Pelicon Brewery in Slovenia) and Vivienne (Lineman Microbrewery in Dublin)—hope you both enjoy the book.

2. Yesterday was CODO’s 13th anniversary. We were going to dedicate a newsletter issue to this but figured you would find the following case study more valuable and applicable to your business (not to mention far less navel-gazey). We did record a podcast to mark the event, however, on the changes we’ve seen in the beer industry since we landed our first brewery client back in 2010 (and working with 70+ breweries since).

Give it a listen if you’re interested.

Otherwise, let’s discuss how to rebrand a brewery, shall we?

We’ve worked with several legacy breweries over the last few years that have found themselves at an inflection point—do you continue to carry on as is, maybe tinkering with your portfolio a bit along the way (assuming things are going well)? Or do you, gasp, sell the entire concern and ride off into the sunset? Or, do you reinvent yourself so you can thrive in the future?

In 2020, with new leadership came a new direction for Mission Brewery, one of the standout outfits of the San Diego craft beer scene (and one of the aforementioned legacy breweries). Several years of flat-to-declining sales followed by a pandemic-wracked market presented an interesting crossroads for the brewery: Under new leadership, what opportunities exist to breathe new life back into the storied brand?

With so much noise, well-earned clout and competition throughout California beer in general (and San Diego in particular), how might we re-invigorate a 100+ year old brand to suit the needs of the contemporary scene while cutting through the din of competition?

To discuss this challenging brief, let’s first take a look back (way back) at Mission’s history.

Mission's Background & Project Context 

Founded in 1913 by German businessmen who saw an opportunity to capitalize on an exploding lager market, Mission Brewery was originally placed in an iconic facility off of Interstate 5 in San Diego. But an impending push for prohibition (paired with post war anti-German sentiment) caused the original Mission to shutter just five years later.

While other breweries would eventually make use of this original facility, the Mission brand name would sit dormant for nearly 90 years, until 2007 when the brewery was resurrected by a local home brewer. The brewery’s new location next to Petco Park led to raucous crowds of beer-loving tailgaters lining the bar with sales peaking in 2018. But hyper-aggressive local competition and no real long term vision sent the company into a downturn. 

With new leadership in place, there was an opportunity get the brewery back to sustainable growth.



Named after the Spanish missions constructed along the coasts of California, the name “Mission” evokes an inherent aspect of California history and its cultural fabric. The 2007 reboot logo, associated artwork and brand image for Mission Brewery revolved around a vaguely nautical, historic, swashbuckling aesthetic. 

This iconography can be really fun—I mean, pirates!—but at the same time, everyone involved with the project admitted that it was starting to feel dated and dusty in context. For one, not much thought had been put into consistency of the identity itself, resulting in a proliferation of confusing logo files and packaging that was a little busy, a little dull and easily overlooked in a cold box.

Brand Strategy

But at a higher level: What did this salty, hard-nosed aesthetic say about Mission's beer and the company’s overall positioning? Does it make sense to cleave to such an aggro, quasi-sinister (somewhat problematic) colonial look and feel? In a world of seltzers and RTDs and better-for-you beverages, does the dark-and-surly aesthetic of the early craft beer boom make sense in today’s market? 

Through our brand audit and brand strategy work, we determined that for the most part: no, it does not.

Ultimately, our team decided that it would be a much stronger fit to associate the brand with the local community itself. Our task was to lift Mission out of the old world and into the new, evoking the color and energy and vibrancy of the San Diego scene as it is today while sprinkling in just enough of that charming vintage aesthetic to let you know that this brand has been around for a while. 

This thinking informed our brand refresh from top to bottom.

Brand Identity

After wrapping up the brand strategy phase, we tackled a comprehensive identity overhaul; an exercise in weighing existing visual equity against broader project goals. 

Let's fast forward and look at some of the identity development work. 



Here's a collection of images spanning initial concepts presented through a few rounds of revisions, including the super in-the-weeds stuff that no one outside of our shop will ever notice. Example: "Pull the arm on that 'E' in further, Luke. No, fuuurther!") 

A refreshed brand mark emerged from this process, which allowed us to preserve the iconic red Spanish cross, albeit with a fresher and warmer presentation. 

And we're particularly proud of working in authentic Mission architecture style design cues into the typography where possible, to reinforce the history and provenance behind the brand. Mission's historic typography was quirky and fun, but a little too decorative to accomplish our present communication goals. 

Consider this phase as a balancing act achieved through hours of tweaking and comparison. Does the new typography/mark maintain that iconic “Mission” feel, while striking a fresh, relevant note at the same time?

Incidentally, we made a subtle change from “Mission Brewery” to “Mission Brewing.” Nitpicking, perhaps, but considering company goals to eventually open satellite locations, it made sense to tweak this naming convention while we were working under the hood.

Mission's updated brand identity system, complete with primary and secondary marks as well as tertiary assets for merch and way showing.



Package Design 

This first wave of package design is purpose-built to reintroduce Mission Brewing to the market, and to help customers become acquainted with the revived look and feel. Bold colors and a clean, minimal composition come together in a monolithic flagship template that allows new SKUs to be easily whipped up when necessary. 

For long-time fans, we stayed true to some design cues from the original Shipwrecked IPA, by bringing in that original skull and red/white/black color scheme.

The rest of the flagship lineup reflects a more modern and market-aware mix of beer styles with vibrant color cues to match. The intention here is to to pique the interest of drinkers who are either new to Mission (or have forgotten about them along the way), or perhaps for those completely uninitiated to craft beer itself.

So other than Shipwrecked, the portfolio is all Mission-forward. Once this work is out in the market for a year or two and has found its sea legs (sorry), we can explore developing more individualized brands within the portfolio to support future growth (exploring a proper Shipwrecked Sub Brand family, reimagining the seasonal program, developing variety packs, etc.).

Mission's portfolio received a revamp as well, introducing more current beer styles and formats. A few of these changes include a phenomenal hazy IPA, 16oz six-packs as well as stovepipes (19.2s) to drive single serve trial and get into sports and concert venues throughout San Diego. 



Process Note:
If your brewery is considering a rebrand due to any of the issues we’ve mentioned here—increased competition, flat or declining sales, not understanding your own story or purpose, etc.—it’s important that you look at your beer itself first.

Branding is obviously important, but if your beer isn't as good as it can be, or exciting enough, or on trend enough, then a rebrand might not move the needle. Set your ego aside, listen to the market and be open to changing your portfolio as needed (styles, formats, individual brands, etc.).

We've worked with several dozen breweries who have viewed a rebrand as an opportunity for some heavy duty housekeeping. This can include changing or adjusting distributor relationships (where possible), shifting how they approach chain retail sales, how they conduct field marketing, how they handle new product development, how they recruit and retain talent, etc. 

This process can serve as a hard stop and reset for how you run your business, if handled correctly. 



Here's Mission's final packaging. Look for these to roll out across San Diego this summer. 

Brand Guidelines

We concluded this batch of work with a suite of supporting artwork, typography and specced colors assembled in a thorough set of brand guidelines. This sets the Mission team up to go forth and build a merch program right off the bat (this can be a strong revenue stream if handled correctly). 

It also gives Mission something it has arguably never had before: A focused, compelling message to rally behind and support day-to-day decision making and longterm company vision. 

Mission is the official beer of your next San Diego adventure. This core piece works with the refreshed aesthetic to tell a more future-aware story, while standing tall on the legacy aspect of the brand.

Inheriting a brand with a long history like Mission is a balancing act. Recognizing which elements to honor and keep, and which to jettison can be a challenging exercise.

But whenever we have the opportunity to work with a brand with such good bones, both as beer geeks and design nerds, we get very, very excited. In this particular case, Mission’s team brought their forward-looking vision to the table, and the resulting work is better for it. 

In a market fraught with so much turnover and upheaval, a unique opportunity exists for Mission to reassert its place as a vanguard of the finest craft beer market in the world.

And we’re honored to have played a small part in this endeavor.

Actionable Takeaways

No matter how many breweries we rebrand, the conversation always comes back to Evolution vs. Revolution. The appropriate strategy for honoring your past while setting yourself up to get where you want to go is rarely black and white, and there is real magic to be found in the nuanced middle. 

1. Revisit our podcast episode on this topic.

2. Grab a copy of Craft Beer, Rebranded if your brewery is thinking about undergoing a refresh.

3. Shoot me an email if you'd like CODO's help navigating this process.

Latest CODO Resources / News

Major Moves over at Prost Brewing

Congratulations to the team at Prost for locking down a spot for their new production facility and regional headquarters. Expect to hear a lot more from this outfit in the coming years.

And revisit our case study on Prost's rebrand from a few years back if you want to see a great example of how a rebrand can set the stage for this sort of expansion.

When a Lawyer Opens a Brewery

Here's a deep dive on everything your beverage brand needs to accomplish from an Intellectual Property standpoint, courtesy of CODO's legal partner, Matthew McLaughlin (McLaughlin PC).

And if you want a lawyer with skin in the game, Matthew recently opened his own brewery, Fertile Ground, down in Jackson, Mississippi. We've included a sneak peek of that work in this interview as well.

Lessons from 20 Years of Selling Beer

We first met Al Pils (his real last name) when rebranding KettleHouse back in 2018. And we've worked with him and the KettleHouse team on dozens of new packaging and brand development projects since. 

Al celebrated his 20th anniversary (!!!) of selling KettleHouse beer this year, and we were excited to be to grab an hour of his time to discuss lessons learned along the way.

 

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 019

A Behind the Scenes Look at Branding a Startup Brewery

Howdy! 

And welcome to the ~200 new subscribers (!!!) who made your way here via our annual Beer Branding Trends report—we're glad you're here. 

We spend an outsized amount of time on this newsletter talking about brand strategy for existing breweries—how (and when) you should rebrand, how to launch some sort of extension, creating opportunities for differentiation and incremental growth, etc. 

For today's issue, I thought it would be fun to take a deep dive, behind the scenes look at what a brewery in planning (or any new beverage company) needs to accomplish through its foundational branding process. And rather than create a quick list, I'll give you a sneak peek at some work we’re doing for a current CODO client so you can see a real world example for each of these steps.

As a quick overview, here's everything you need to receive through a branding process before coming to market, plus or minus a few other deliverables as your unique project context calls for:

Positioning [Podcast Episode]
Brand Values [Podcast Episode]
Brand Essence [Podcast Episode]
Origin story
A trademarkable name
Identity system & guidelines
Website & social channels
Brand Architecture (if applicable)
Packaging system (if applicable)
+
Misc. nice-to-haves* like: custom merch, tap handles, business cards, pitch decks, custom email templates, custom email signatures, sales material, vehicle wraps and environmental design (*a lot of these items can come later, unless you're swimming in money and only wear the finest in silks and luxury watches)

We've written about, or recorded podcasts, on many of these topics, so for this behind-the-scenes look, I'll focus on a few key pillars: defining brand strategy (brand essence, positioning, collaborative art direction, story), building the brand identity system, brand guidelines and website for a new brewery.

Project overview 

Let's meet our client, Pete Zimmerman. Pete reached out to CODO to discuss branding his brewery, Lost Nomad, late last year. Here are some high level notes from this first call.
 
Concept

“Exploration through fermentation.” Lost Nomad will debut using a direct-to-consumer model featuring global variations of mainstay craft styles. The brewery will offer horizontal tastings to show customers how beer changes with varied ingredients and cultural influences. Example: you order a flight of lagers, and receive a Munich Helles, a Japanese Rice Lager and a Mexican Lager. (White Labs does something similar with different yeast stains for those fortunate enough to experience their taproom)

Eventually, Lost Nomad will settle down in a brewpub / tap room in Southern Oregon.

Story behind the Lost Nomad Name 

Pete and his family play the part of wandering vagabonds. With a military and diplomatic background, moving around a lot is the norm. The name ‘Lost Nomad’ captures the romance and perspective of constant relocation and the fun exploration of beer styles across the world.

My initial impressions & notes 

This is a rare new business call where I feel my heart rush a bit. Pete’s got a great concept and it’s already differentiated. The name is phenomenal (it's not fun when I have to diplomatically tell someone they have a shitty and/or un-trademarkable name). And bonus points here for our team clicking with Pete. He's good people and should be great to work with. 

We discuss budget, timeline, scope, hopes and dreams. Everything lines up and we’re good to go. 

Fast forward through the proposal / contract / kickoff phase. Let's now look at the Brand Essence and Strategy phase of the process.

Here's a BBT Podcast episode on what a project kickoff looks like if you want some more detail on that process.

Brand Strategy & Essence Development 

Walking our clients through proposed brand strategy is our first formal presentation (at least as formal as CODO gets. Occasionally I will shave, remove any sticks and/or leaves from my hair, etc.). 

The first half of this presentation outlines all of our due diligence to this point and covers positioning objectives, audience definition, core values and key messaging pillars. The back half of the document is where we begin to sketch out (via mood boards) what this could all look and feel like. 

Process Note: None of this strategy is worth anything if the final work doesn't, at a glance, quickly convey the story we’re aiming to tell. Brand Essences and mood boards allow us to quickly prototype what a brand can look and feel like without investing time and treasure into making stuff that ultimately might not be appropriate.  

So we're not just looking at cool pictures here, this is an important process step that allows our clients to be directly involved in the art direction process by giving feedback about what they do and don't like. We then take that feedback and pressure test it against the agreed upon strategy to ensure everything is still making sense. We push back, or ask for clarification as needed, and then move onto the identity design phase once we’re all on the same page. 


Back to Lost Nomad:


Three essences we developed for Last Nomad were titled "Your Favorite College Professor," "Restless Adventurer," and "Home Style Hospitality."

There is subtle overlap in all of these (by design), but enough of a unique point of view that we're able to focus more heavily on a particular value or differentiator. This process focuses 90% on Lost Nomad (as a business) itself—what type of experience Pete wants to build. And the other half on the types of customers Pete wants to attract (what role will Lost Nomad play in their lives). 

After a few revisions, the Brand Essence ended up being titled: Indiana Jones, Minus the Tweed.

Brand Identity Sketching 

With the brand strategy and Essence set, we begin the identity sketching process. 

*** Now if this were a slick video, and not an email, we'd have some fast-paced music here (probably safe, corporate hip hop). And a cool montage of our design team sketching and talking shop over coffee and/or beer (hey, we drink beer in our office, aren’t we cool?!?). We'd be covering our conference room
war room walls with post-it notes and collect lots of B-roll of Cody wildly gesticulating whilst our designers peck away at tablets (oh, they use only the latest tech) and nod way too vigorously. 

There could be some drama—a computer freezes resulting in a week of lost work. Our kegerator's nitrogen tank kicks just as we clock in for the morning. One of our designers spontaneously combusts like a Spinal Tap drummer…

But we're professionals. And most of this shit is designer theater. ***

In real life, CODO's process looks like this: our team has 2 to 3 weeks to sketch on their own schedule. We come together to look at initial ideas internally about 10 days in. We revisit the brand strategy and have a frank conversation about what's working and what isn't from this initial work. Are there any killer concepts here? Or maybe some ideas that can be combined? “Maybe that icon isn't strong enough to anchor the core identity, but it could make for a cool shirt.” Etc. 

At this point, we decide to keep pushing a few concepts and ideas to see if we can get them to a place we’re proud of, or we just start murdering darlings. 

Process Note: We don’t share any of this first batch of work with our clients. 

It’s our job duty as designers to help our clients navigate this entire process—to manifest their vision as closely as possible (and again, to push back and challenge them where needed).

So even though there’s always some really fun stuff in the mix in these early critiques, if it’s not good enough (by our standards), or on message and in-line with strategy enough, or just not compelling enough to present, then we’re doing our clients a disservice by sharing it.

Anyone can sling together a cool logo concept or icon. But that icon has to be appropriate and help you tell your story so you can build your business. 


Off the high horse and back to Lost Nomad:


Here's a peek at some of the initial work our team shared during this internal critique. 

From here, we begin refining to build the client-facing presentation. This is an important point because it’s the first time Pete will see any design work proper. (In my mind, brand strategy is design, but c’mon. No one’s going to get as excited to review a 9-page PDF outlining positioning and messaging objectives as they are when reviewing logo design, no matter how much we church it up).

Process Note: We used to get nervous before these presentations. We would rehearse over and over again. But that was 10 years and 65+ brewery clients ago. Over the years, these presentations have gotten imminently more fun and stress free because our process has evolved to be more like stepping stones than big leaps of faith. 

Our clients should be blown away and delighted by anything we present. But they should also completely understand why we’re presenting what we’re presenting—why it is appropriate, why it makes sense, and how it can help them tell their story. 


Back to Lost Nomad:


Here are a few slides that we shared with Pete during this initial presentation.

From here, we move into the revision phase. Pete had a few pieces of great, constructive feedback (here's a podcast episode on how to give great feedback). He loved the second direction (soaring bird) with some elements from the first direction thrown in. We had a long list of tweaks we wanted to make internally as well, so we began revisions. 

Process Note: Now we enter a point in the process where we spend several dozen hours refining things that no one in the world will ever notice—kerning typography, adjusting stroke widths, meticulously speccing colors, refining every single pixel until it's perfect, etc. 

If Cody and I were better business owners, we would try to quell this enthusiasm amongst our team. But it hasn't steered us wrong in 13 years, so why start now? 

Okay, I'll fast forward here. We refined and finalized the brand identity and began working on Pete's website and brand guidelines.

Website Considerations for a startup 

Pete is far enough out from launch that a simple microsite will work for now (think informational content more than the heavy functionality a more established brewery would need—beer finders and eCommerce, etc.).

This will serve as a placeholder until he opens up shop and requires a more robust build, complete with eCommerce, tap lists and all the usual functionality you expect from a brewery website in 2022. 

Here's the first site direction we presented.

Process Note: We use a program called Invision to prototype websites. This is a great tool because we can essentially build an interactive PDF that a client can view in a web browser and click through as if it were a live site. 

This makes the website process smooth and easy because we’re not asking the client to imagine anything—they can see exactly what we’re proposing on hover states, or CTAs, or videos, etc. 

We're still finalizing the site (as of the time I'm writing this), so I don't have a live link to share yet. But it will be very close to the Invision comp above.

Let's skip ahead to the brand guidelines.
 

Brand Guidelines 

We wrap all of our branding projects up by developing a thorough set of Brand Guidelines. This document serves two purposes. First, it acts as a simple style guide outlining the different logo types, Pantone color values and specced typography palette. 

This ensures that Pete can maintain a consistent brand as he begins working with other vendors (ordering glassware and merch, etc.). 

The second purpose of brand guidelines is to capture all of the brand strategy work we've completed so you can protect your investment. (I’m always amazed when a brewery will drop a huge amount of money on a rebrand only to start putting out inconsistent social media posts, packaging or merch 6 months later. This is occurring less frequently these days, and I like to think that brand guidelines are a part of that change. But maybe that’s just navel gazing on my part?)

And that’s a wrap, on this initial scope, anyway. We’ll continue working with Pete on small projects here and there as he continues to develop his plan, and we'll eventually get to tackle environmental design, package design, custom merch and a more robust website.



Addendum:

If you’ve actually read this far (shoot me an email with the subject line "Bananas" — first person to do so gets a free copy of our first book, the Craft Beer Branding Guide). 

The final (final) step in our process, once the project is wrapped and we conduct our internal AARs, is whichever CODO designer developed the final identity wins the coveted CODO strap.

They then proceed to lord this victory over everyone else in the office until the belt switches hands. Usually on the next project.

Latest Resources

CODO x BrewBound Podcast

We had a fun conversation with Justin, Jess and Zoe on the BrewBound podcast a few weeks back on our 2022 Beer Branding Trends review. 

We discussed Brand Architecture, rebrands vs. refreshes and some specific visual trends that we see shaping beer and Bev Alc industry over the coming years.

*Book Update*

After nearly two years of work, our latest book took a monumental step towards becoming a real, physical thing (that you can read and buy and use and abuse) this month. 

Writing this book and building the core Assessment tool within, and testing and re-testing with dozens of clients on real world projects, has been one of the most humbling things I've worked on in my career. (And I'll count Cody in here too, because this book is just as much his thinking as it is my own). 

We've got a ways to go yet, but we're nearing the finish line.

Book 3 should ship this summer. 

Stay tuned. 

#CODOreads: The Changing Face of the American Alcohol Consumer

Wanted to share this fascinating report from Rabobank about rapidly changing dynamics amongst the American alcohol consumer. Cody and I mentioned it briefly in our BBT AMA Podcast episode last month. 

Big (and surprising) takeaways: 

1. The alcohol industry (and obscenely ageist advertising industry) completely overlooks 50+ year old folks in marketing and new product development. And this is a huge missed opportunity. The Boomer cohort is enormous, now accounting for 2 out of every 5 alcoholic drinks consumed in the States. This group has money to spend, they enjoy trying new beverages and they're going to be around for a long time. Ignore them at your own peril. 

2. Women now drink more than men, for the first time in history. There are a few interesting theories as to why this happening: more women are graduating from college today (education is a strong predictor of alcohol use, i.e. "let's grab a drink after work." social / networking occasions).

And the industry is now making a genuine effort to develop new products and campaigns that appeal to women (vs. cranking out a pink label on the same old product or some other trite attempt). This cuts across race as well—Asian, Black and Latina women who regularly drink alcohol has increased by 84% since 2004. This figure continues to trend up, so the beverage industry needs to quickly realize that it's not just targeting bearded, white Millennial men. There's a whole other world of drinkers out there.

3. Underage drinking rates have fallen off a cliff. This is obviously a good thing (though I'm bummed today's high schoolers will never know the thrill of almost dying in a corn field every other weekend during their misspent youth like yours truly). 

In all seriousness though, there is a strong correlation between a lack of in-person socializing and the rate of underage drinking. So while it’s great that underage folks aren’t drinking, there’s also a major public mental health crisis brewing as younger generations increasingly live online.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 018

2022 Beer Branding Trends Community Q&A Podcast

Well, hello there!

Cody and I recorded a special podcast episode answering YOUR questions on this year's Beer Branding Trends review.

Listen to the show here.

(or wherever fine podcasts are streamed)



We received 23.5 questions from you all spanning Brand Architecture, SKU rationalization, non alcoholic beer, variety packs and "Dayparting." And one guy wrote in with a single word — "Skulls!!!" (so that's either a question or a threat? I'm going to call it half a question)

After reviewing all the submissions, we picked 10 questions to discuss in this episode, including:

1. We’ll be releasing a hard seltzer later this summer as a brand extension under our brewery’s name. Is there any downside to branding it under our brewery’s brand and not as its own thing? We already have plans for future flavors, if that’s relevant.

2. I’m a long time newsletter subscriber and was surprised you didn’t include the hard seltzer shakeout idea in the annual review. Did something change between the time you wrote that email and the publishing of this article that makes you think that was an incorrect prediction? 

3. What was your favorite [visual] trend this year? 

4. We’re a small brewery in planning near Cleveland. We're wondering if we should think about our brand architecture as part of this [foundational branding] process? We plan to eventually move into other categories (specifically a distillery), and weren’t sure if we needed to sort that out at this early stage? 

5. Do you think non alcoholic beer is going to be a major category, something along the lines of 5% share at some point, or is this kind of new and shiny, along the lines of hard seltzer three years ago?

6. Do you have any thoughts on putting cans on the front of variety packs? 

7. What do you think about Voodoo Ranger's new light lager? Do you think that will actually work? Voodoo Ranger is a dominant IPA brand and I wonder if this release could hurt New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger strategy? 

8. The “Dayparting” trend is interesting. Do you think there would be any issue with a brewery releasing a coffee brand or some sort of energy brand targeted for mornings? 

9. Are there any trends that didn’t make the cut for this year's review?

10. How do you feel about the craft beer industry as a whole? The last few years have been marked by several major reckonings on race and gender (specifically sexual harassment and assault), and of course Covid. Are you optimistic or worried as we move forward?

 

I want to thank everyone who regularly reads and shares what we're doing here with Beer Branding Trends.

This newsletter (and podcast) have become a rewarding part of my job and I look forward to sitting down and tackling them each month.

I hope your brewery (or Bev Alc company) is all set for a solid summer. Let us know if CODO can help you with anything you've got on deck, and let's get out there and sell some beer.



Isaac
 

Around the Shop

(Re)Read CODO's 2022 Beer Branding Trends Review

Here's our annual Beer Branding Trends review, in case you missed it (or haven't had time to work through all 17,000 words yet).

Last chance to join us in St. Louis

Cody and I are hosting a workshop at the Craft Beer Professionals Connects conference in St. Louis on June 21.

Our talk is titled "A Roadmap for Extending Your Brewery’s Brand Beyond Beer.” But more importantly, this will be the first time we publicly share our new book and the brand architecture assessment tool we’ve spent 18+ months developing.

Space is limited. Sign up today. 

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 017

CODO's 2022 Beer Branding Trends Review (+ Podcast) is out now

Morning, party people!

CODO Design's 2022 Beer Branding Trends review is out now. 

Clocking in at just over 17,000 words, this piece covers a wide range of topics that are shaping beer and beverage alcohol today (and tomorrow).

Click here to read the article

We'd also like to invite you to listen to a special BBT Podcast episode where Cody and I discuss the piece itself. 

Click here to listen to the companion podcast episode.

Keep reading if you're interested in having us answer your questions on this piece on an upcoming AMA podcast.

BBT subscribers get exclusive access to ask us questions about anything we cover in this article. Nothing's off limits.

Email those over by May 19 and we will field them on our next podcast episode.

***bonus points if you send a voice recorded message

 

Reinvention explores an industry in flux, including:

  • Rebrands
  • Packaging refreshes
  • The “Ball-out”
  • Formats in flux
  • Lifestyle brands
  • eCommerce

Beyond Beer examines:

  • Defining "Beyond beer" 
  • Growth opportunities 
  • “Dayparting”
  • Esoteric ingredients (#lifehacks)
  • Debits & credits 
  • Non-alcoholic beer & beverages 
  • Premium-izing hard seltzer 
  • Categorical differentiation opportunities for hard seltzer 
  • How can we “seltzer-ize” other categories

Brand Architecture outlines:

  • Parent brand considerations when going Beyond Beer
  • The “Accidental” hospitality group 
  • Style-forward vs. fanciful beer names 
  • Brand extensions vs Sub-brands 
  • Era of the craft beer platform?

We've identified 8 visual trends over the last year of field work, including:

  • Investing in Illustration
  • “Minimal Plus”
  • 60’s Vintage Revival
  • Monoline
  • Skulls
  • Custom Dielines
  • Interactive Packaging 
  • Co-branded Stunt Beverages 

This year, we’re joined by fourteen industry experts spanning brewery founders, CEOs, distributors, marketing directors, industry consultants, writers, retailers, strategists and economists. We’ve given each person a few specific questions to add more context to everything we’ve discussed to this point. These experts include:

REINVENTION

  • Jeff Alworth (Beervana)
  • Tara Nurin (Eyes on the World)
  • Julie Rhodes (Not Your Hobby Marketing)
  • Paige Sopcic (CanSource)
  • Jim Watson (Rabobank)
  • Bump Williams (The BWC Company)

BEYOND BEER

  • Mark Gallo (Nor-Cal Beverage)
  • Jess Infante (Brewbound)
  • Eddie Sahm (Sahm Hospitality Group)
  • Bart Watson (Brewers Association)

BRAND ARCHITECTURE 

  • Andrew Emerton (New Belgium Brewing)
  • Joel Hueston (First Key Consulting)
  • Matthew McLaughlin (McLaughlin PC + Fertile Ground Beer Co.)
  • Mandie Murphy (Left Field Brewery)

 

Cody and I recorded a podcast that dives deeper into this year's trends roundup. This is a great conversation for those brewery or Bev Alc companies looking for incremental growth and future brand building opportunities. 

Give this a listen while gardening, roller blading to the farmers' market, lifting weights and crushing beers, pretending to work, mowing the lawn brewing and/or marketing beer.

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 016

What is a Lifestyle Brand?

Pinning down a proper definition for what constitutes a lifestyle brand is challenging. It has to be part aspirational (i.e. by supporting this brand, you are embodying the values of some desired lifestyle). It has to be hype-worthy (otherwise, people won’t line up to get it and brag when they finally do). But most importantly, it has to tap directly into a subculture.

All of this begs the question—what role does branding play in lifestyle positioning?

Even more than any other non-lifestyle brand, I think the most telling feature is that the brand goes out of its way to embody a particular set of values so that the consumer can, by purchasing and interacting with the brand, signal that they too share those values.

Lifestyle branding allows your customers to signal in-group identification. In other words, I’m one of you guys. I’m cool too. 

All brands inherently have values, but for a lifestyle brand, the values that the brand embodies are as important as the product for sale itself because it allows the consumer to find belonging.

The thing you actually purchase is secondary to this end.

We’ve been trying to delineate between regular old brands and lifestyle brands for a few years and have determined that you just kind of know one when you see it.

To wit, your average brewery probably isn’t a lifestyle brand (no matter how much cool merch they pump out). But if that local brewery targets a niche demographic that centers around a specific activity, interest, locale or ethos, then they may be headed in that direction.

We receive several inquiries from breweries in planning each year who want to make a lifestyle positioning play out of the gate. And with an ever increasingly competitive landscape, we think this can be a smart move.

Here are a few prominent examples of well executed lifestyle brands:

If you’re a hipster cool, urban young professional, you drink PBR. Or increasingly, Hamm’s. 

If you’re a skater / metal head who cares about the environment (and maybe sobriety?), you drink Liquid Death

If you’re all about that Montana lifestyle, you shotgun Montucky Cold Snacks.

If you enjoy shooting guns, owning every lib in sight and drinking coffee, then there's Black Rifle Coffee. 

If you want to signal that you're health conscious and conspicuously wealthy, you can plant your precious cheeks astride a Peloton

If you want to signal that you’re outdoorsy, and only buy high quality adventure equipment that's as durable as you are, then you grab a YETI Cooler.

Is your brand tattoo worthy? Related: I can't go to the pool anymore because all the Zoomers make fun of my Dasani back piece.  



A few observations about successful lifestyle brands

1. This isn’t always the case, but lifestyle brands tend to be digitally native to start (no brick and mortar location). For product brands (Pit Viper, Chubbie’s, Duke Cannon), this means you’re built primarily through digital ads and well-curated Instagram and TikTok channels. For breweries, this means you’re probably contract brewed. 

2. They target a niche subculture exclusively. You need to speak your audience’s language (usually through memes) and values (through actions and charity support). And twirl on the haters ignore all outsiders—your group is the only one that matters. After all, not everyone can be your audience.

But paradoxically, it seems like lifestyle brands end up gaining more press and following the more narrowly they focus on their audience and sub culture. (This is likely due to a loud, overly-ardent fan base as much as it is brilliant marketing. Or that they just stand out from a sea of undifferentiated competitors.)

3. They create branded content and make it so compelling that people will watch hours of it despite knowing that they’re being advertised to. (e.g. YETI Presents or Meat Church).

4. They often use influencer marketing (or “Brand Ambassadors”) as a corner stone for scaling. This can be through social media, podcasts, even television and movies—wherever your audience consumes content. (still waiting on my phone call, Dasani…)

5. They use merchandise to foster in-group identification. They give people the tools they need to signal that they’re on board (and drive major revenue along the way).

6. They meet their people where they are. Field activation is key to making this all work. You need to be wherever your fans are—music venues, bars, tattoo parlors, barbershops, skate shops, conventions, sport venues, festivals, libraries, marathons, ski slopes, etc.

I think lifestyle brands will become an increasingly common strategy for launching new Bev Alc brands over the next several years. The ability to start lean and create something that speaks directly to a well-defined, ardent audience may be a safer bet than opening yet another taproom in a city full of taprooms.

Latest Resources

Great conversation with Montucky Cold Snacks on how to build a Lifestyle Brand

Digitally native. Contract Brewed. Lean startup. Niche audience. Heavy on merch… Montucky Cold Snacks is a great example of how successful a lifestyle beer brand can be.

Read our conversation with Montucky co-founder, Jeremy Gregory, for specifics on how they achieved this positioning.

Portfolio strategy and beer pricing with Bump Williams 

We had a great conversation with the Bump Williams Consulting crew on all things beer pricing and portfolio strategy. Breweries of any size should give this a read and follow what their team is doing.

Come shotgun beers with us in St. Louis at the CBP Connects Conference

Cody and I are excited to announce that we’ll be hosting a workshop at the Craft Beer Professionals Connects conference in St. Louis on June 21.

Our talk is titled "A Roadmap for Extending Your Brewery’s Brand Beyond Beer.” But more importantly, this will be the first time we publicly share our new book and the brand architecture assessment tool we’ve spent 18+ months developing. (attendees may even get to see/fondle/read a printed book, if a series of stars align in time). 

Space is limited. Sign up today. 

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 015

How to Future Proof Your Brand (or, What Makes a Brand Timeless?)

I spoke with a kombucha startup last month about handling their foundational branding, packaging and website. During our conversation, one of the founders asked the question, "Can we brand ourselves really well now so we never have to rebrand? How can we create something timeless like Starbucks or Budweiser?" 

I mentioned that we could definitely create something timeless. All it would take is 30+ years of consistent purpose and identity, a clear point of view and hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising. Easy. Peasy.  

Seriously though, what makes a brand timeless?

Is this all subjective (you'll know one when you see it) or are there clear traits that you can use to concretely identify such a brand? And if there are such quantitative elements, how can we reverse engineer and encode them into a branding project today, so that a company can, in a way, get their branding done "really well" the first time and become timeless?

Truly iconic brands don't need words or colors to be understood. You don't have to speak English—or even be able to read to understand and recognize them. 



Let's look at a handful of brands generally considered timeless—Nike, Apple, Starbucks, Harley Davidson, Rolex. All have a few shared traits.  

The first is that they all have a compelling point of view and broad cultural relevance. These companies all provide a genuine human need that will be as relevant one hundred years from now as it is today. 

Second, these companies are all brand-led. The brand and messaging drives every aspect of the business. Because they're brand-led (and because of their household name and ability to shape culture), they tend to have uber simplified, iconic marks. They generally own a distinctive color and usually don't even need typography to be recognized—just a simple icon. 

Third, timeless brands are flexible. When you look at the technological advances we've made over the last thirty years—internet, smart phones, social media, life extending healthcare, near instantaneous everything—you realize that this is civilization-shaping stuff. We take for granted just how far we’ve come since, say the 1950's. 

And through all of these advances, and whatever comes next, timeless brands find a way to remain relevant no matter what broader cultural trends emerge. Doomed brands are myopic. Timeless brands are always future facing. 

Let's take a closer look at each of these points and then wrap up with how your brewery / distillery / cannabis company / seltzer / kombucha / CPG food and bev company can build a brand that ages gracefully.


1: Timeless brands have a compelling point of view and immutable cultural relevance

The single most important element to becoming a timeless brand is to have a compelling point of view and broad cultural relevance. You have to have a compelling story and reason for existing. 

To be timeless, your brand has to touch on an immutable human need. Something that won't ebb and flow with seasons and consumer trends.

What dragon are you slaying? The tide of corporate computers built for accountants (Apple)? Or maybe you're conjuring your inner athlete in an attempt to defeat your secret desire to sit on the couch and drink beer all day (Nike)? Or maybe you just need a talisman to signal how successful you are (Rolex)?

2: Timeless brands are design-led

To the doomed company, design and branding are an afterthought. They're something you bring in at the end of a project to gussy up whatever product your launching. For the timeless brand, the entire company is brand-led and embraces design at all levels.

There is no more clear design language in the world than Apple. Sleek, contemporary, minimalist—stunning. It's instantly recognizable and endlessly imitated. This philosophy is famously imbued at every level of the company. To wit: Steve Jobs famously discussed Apple’s philosophy through a carpentry metaphor. “When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back.”

On the external facing level—brand identity, packaging and messaging—this manifests as simple, clear, iconic branding. 

Though be forewarned that this process usually takes decades to attain (and is never really complete). Consumers need to understand who you are, what you stand for, and what role you play in their life before you can start shortening brand names, iconography and other visual language. 

There's no shortcut here, though there are some important visual traits we can borrow during a foundational branding or rebranding process. (we'll outline these at the bottom of this piece).

Simple, bold, iconic marks will age gracefully. 



 

3: Timeless brands bend, but don't break.

Timeless brands understand that visual styling and aesthetics can shift overtime to stay relevant, but that their core reason for existing will always remain steadfast. Aesthetics matter, but your storytelling and core promises matter more. 

Timeless brands understand that marketing and advertising are ephemeral, and thus, can be trendier, if not outright disposable. This allows you to speak to current day customers without abandoning your core positioning. 

This insight be the most actionable thing we've discussed today in regards to our kombucha startup friends who want to create a timeless brand. 

Your core identity should be as simple as possible. You can dress up packaging and other marketing touch points, but those things will naturally change over time to keep up with industry and consumer-led shifts. Your identity, as long as it represents an important human need and value prop and promise—all the important brand DNA stuff—should remain somewhat intact through future updates.
 

Let's recap with some actionable takeaway.

 

1. What immutable human need do you offer? 

Can a canned cocktail brand become timeless? Well, that depends on what immutable human need you provide. 

Are you an interchangeable budget option or are you something more? A splurge? Or maybe just the ability for someone to host an intimate party with their friends without stressing over how to make the perfect Manhattan.

What occasion do you want to own and how can you ensure that this will be as relevant 20 years from now as it is today?
 

2. Get your aesthetic house in order 

How can we build a timeless brand from the ground up? How can we design a brand identity so that it will stand the test of time? Today's timeless brands all have the following traits: 

– A simple, iconic mark (that can eventually speak without words or text)

– An ownable (in your vertical), limited color palette

– A clear visual language (messaging and voice, visual vocabulary and iconography) 

 

3. Understand that you will have to update your peripheral branding elements along the way. 

Staying up to date on broader cultural trends are crucial to staying relevant. But this influence should live in your peripherals—packaging, website, merch, social media marketing. 

Your core identity, your logo itself, should be as simple and iconic as possible out of the gate so that it remains a constant throughout all your future evolutions.

Latest Resources

Thoughts on Modular Identity Systems

Let's throw it way back and read chapter 12 from our first book, the Craft Beer Branding Guide.

This outlines the nuts and bolts of putting a brand identity system together as well as other reasons why you should build your identity out this way (easy merchandising, opportunities for way showing, maintaining consistency without being boring, etc.)

#CODOreads

That Shit Will Never Sell by David Gluckman is a collection of stories about developing some of the most iconic beverage brands of the last 50 years.

The Baileys Irish cream origin story is fun, but David's work with Guinness, including a few failed line extensions, is just as relevant for today's brewer as it was in the early 1970’s. 

There are a lot of valuable nuggets in here for brand builders, but I’d say this is a must read for anyone working in product development or innovation. 

Time Traveling with the Beer Can Archaeologist

Minimalism, maximalism, typography-driven, bifurcation, patterning, scrolls, seals, ribbons, different size formats, label violators, spurious claims, funny lines—it’s ALL been done before. 

Almost everything in contemporary beer packaging echoes the past in some way, even if the designer has no idea they are doing it. There’s a canon to beer packaging that finds its foundations in the earliest days of can manufacturing.

Read this piece to see what makes these elements so irresistible to designers timeless.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 014

What do you mean when you say "Brand Equity?"

We're currently working through a brand audit as part of a brewery rebranding project. This will be a sweeping rebrand, including developing a new name, positioning and full identity and packaging reset.

The brewery team is adamant that their packaging has loads of "Brand Equity" and that the color blocking and illustration style are both necessary to retain through this process.

This brings up two interesting thoughts I'd like to explore today. 

The first is Evolution vs. Revolution as it relates to defining Brand Equity. The second is Brand Equity vs. Visual Equity. 

 

Evolution vs. Revolution (vs. Brand Equity)

Let's start with the idea of having loads of equity when you're completely wiping the slate clean during a rebrand.

The obvious question, and one that spurred a great conversation with our brewery partner, is why are we hanging on to equity, any equity, when we're purposely moving away from all the things—the story, positioning and perception—that this equity evokes in the first place?

This is like losing 100 pounds and still wearing the same size 52 jeans. 

Whenever we rebrand a brewery, we bring everything back to strategy. What issues are we trying to resolve? What story are we trying to tell? How are we aiming to (re)position your brewery? 

And "Evolution vs. Revolution" is a helpful heuristic here. If you've determined that a refresh is in order, then any positive equity may be more important to retain since any forthcoming changes could end being more subtle and in line with your current aesthetics. 

If you're rebranding (updating your positioning, messaging, brand essence, identity, packaging and certainly when developing a new name) then your equity might not be as important because you're changing the narrative in a more profound way.

Brand Equity vs. Visual Equity 

This may seem overly semantic, but there are actually two types of equity to measure and evaluate during a rebrand (*aggressively pushes glasses up nose). Brand Equity and Visual Equity. 

We've found that most people use “Brand Equity” as a catchall phrase to mean any type of positive "thing" to keep during a rebrand. (I'm guilty of this from time to time as well. It's okay.)

This can include deep messaging, positioning and business model considerations (e.g. Does it make sense to launch X market this Spring?) as well as more surface level Trade Dress stuff (e.g. we need to keep this green Pantone because we've always used it). 

At first blush, it may not seem like this matters, but conflating these ideas can have important downstream messaging effects if not clearly defined.

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.



What is Brand Equity?

Brand Equity is the total amount of goodwill your brand has with its customers. This is more Brand-level stuff focused on your messaging, positioning, values, value props, personality and key communication pillars. How do people talk about your brewery? What role do you play in your community? 

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


What is Visual Equity?

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 would include things like SKU-specific colors that you've used forever, unique packaging compositions, custom typography and other iconography.

1. Dogfish Head has revamped its packaging several times over the years. One constant through all of these refreshes has been its iconic shark shield and custom typography. These are great examples of sacrosanct Visual Equity.

2. Packaging format can also be a form of Visual Equity. I'm surprised it took Topo Chico this long to launch its hard seltzer in their iconic bottle. 




To bring this back to our new brewery client and the Evolution vs. Revolution idea, when you are going the Revolution route—completely shifting positioning and messaging and brand essence and tone of voice and aesthetics—then you should focus more on identifying whether there is any Brand Equity worth salvaging.

In these cases, and in our client’s case in particular, if you're shifting what your brewery stands for at a foundational level, then there may not be much utility in retaining some of the visual trappings you're historically known for because they will only serve to evoke that old story. 

If your current positioning and messaging are good to go and you are after a fresh look (Evolution) to help you better billboard on shelf or bring consistency to your entire portfolio, then the more surface level aesthetics, your Visual Equity, are exactly what you should be focusing on.

Actionable Takeaway

A brand audit is the first step in weighing your brand equity. Read about this in Craft Beer, Rebranded and download the CBR Workbook if you'd like a specific checklist to guide the process.

Latest Resources

Henderson Brewing Brand Refresh

We're proud to finally share our brand refresh work with Toronto's Henderson Brewing. Here’s a behind the scenes look at the process, including the final identity and packaging (& rejected concepts!).

Talking Shop with Against the Grain

We had a great conversation with Against the Grain co-founder Sam Cruz on the importance of knowing your audience, giving your community what it wants and sticking to your guns.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 013

"What do most beverage startups get wrong?"

Cody and I spoke at the American Craft Spirits Association’s national conference last month. It was fun getting in front of a real crowd again—this was our first time in front of a non-webinar audience in almost 2 years (a hardy welcome to the ~20 new subscribers from that talk, by the way). 

During one of our Q&A breaks, an audience member asked us what common mistakes we see beverage startups make

There are plenty of things we could’ve cited here—something as upstream as working through market research and defining your audience. Or, maybe even dialing in your finances (turns out, COGs matter. Who knew?). 

But I decided to stay in my (branding and strategy) lane and mention that we rarely see a beverage startup that properly frames its brand values. 

And that's a shame, because of all the things a brewery or Bev-Alc company can do as it comes to market, or repositions through a rebrand, truthfully defining your brand values is one of the most important exercises you can do for the long term health of your company.  

Cody and I recorded a podcast episode on this topic late last year, and I’d like to revisit it now in case you might be planning a new venture (or a rebrand) this year. 



CODO has worked with more than 65 breweries across the States and around the world. And we've spoken with several hundred more through the course of building our practice. And in these conversations, we hear the same tropes come up over and over and over again when discussing values.  

“Our core value is definitely quality. We're going to make the highest quality beer possible with the highest quality ingredients…"

You hear similar refrains about integrity and community and service and “being" local.

We used to ask a brewery about its values, hear these sorts of things, and move on without giving it much more thought.

But in learning more about our own small business, and working with several breweries and hospitality groups that actually use their values as a touchstone for the day-to-day runnings of their business, we now spend more time challenging our client partners on this front.

Let's take a closer look at values so you can frame them correctly, whether you're reinventing a legacy brand or coming to market for the first time. 


What are brand values? 

Your brand values are the immutable code that governs how you run your business. They are manifested through your actions and behaviors, particularly when no one’s looking. What do you stand for? Why do you brew beer the way you do? What are the non-negotiables for your business? Why do you exist?


Why frame your values? 

It’s important to define your brand values because they directly influence your positioning, storytelling, strategic messaging and brand essence. They inspire your internal team, attract the best industry talent and get customers excited to support your brewery (we all want to support companies whose values align with our own).

While we're here, I want to turn you all on to a phenomenal book that shaped how CODO thinks about brand values. 

The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni, outlines three different types of values—Aspirational Values, Core Values and Permission-to-play values. 


Let's explore each of these:


1. Core Values

These are the driving principles behind your business. They guide all decisions and shape your culture at all levels.

The most important pressure test here is that you should be able to truthfully claim to live by this value more than 99% of your competition.

If you can't make that claim, then this is likely a Permission-to-play value. 
 

2. Permission-to-play (PtP) Values 

PtP Values cover the table stakes stuff we outlined above—quality, integrity, craft, community, etc. This is a helpful tier to use as you frame your values because these things are important (yes, you should strive to make the best beer possible. The problem is that this doesn't help to differentiate your brewery). 

PtP gives you a bucket in which to throw these values so that they’re not deleted entirely. Again, these are important—maybe not Core Value important—but this tier gives these ideas a place to live within your business strategy. 

If I can be real with you here, Cody and I are guilty of falling into this trap ourselves. For the first decade of our business, we've proudly claimed that "Craft" is one of CODO’s core values—that we'll go just as hard on a 2k project as we will a 200k project (we always have and always will, by the way).  

The problem is that there are innumerable design firms out there that don't live up to this standard (they’re more worried about hourly billing, or hitting a certain margin, or winning some meaningless award, for example). Yet they still claim that Craft is one of their Core Values every bit as much as we do.

As frustrating as this is, this bumps Craft from Core Value status to Permission-to-Play for us. (and that's okay)
 

3. Aspirational Values 

These are the values that you don't quite live by yet, but that you aspire to reach on a daily basis. This is powerful because it can just as easily shape your day-to-day business decisions as your Core Values themselves.

And if you do it right, these Aspirational Values can become core values over time.

Aspirational Values are my favorite takeaway from The Advantage
because in practice, they operate exactly like a core value. If you aspire to invest more money in your local community, then you will put in place systems and rules to do so when you're able. If you aspire to be more organized as a company, then you will actively think about building SOPs and other systems to achieve that goal.

And if you do this long enough, that Aspirational Value might just become a Core Value. 





If you've never framed your brewery's values, now is the time. Kick off 2022 by investing in your business. 

And if you have framed your values, try pressure testing them against this rubric to see if they hold up. 

Happy New Year! We'll see you next month.

Actionable Takeaways

1. Don’t breeze through your brand values definition process. It took Cody and I about a month of off and on focus to get ours to a place we felt was accurate. Get this right and it will pay dividends down the line. 

2. Can you claim to live by a value more than 99% of your competition? If not, think about whether this might actually be a Permission-to-play value.

3. Here's a chapter from Craft Beer, Rebranded for more on this topic.

Around the shop

How to sell more beer on Drizly 

We sat down with Jay Sobel at Drizly to discuss eCommerce best practices, portfolio management and easy (actionable) ways your brewery can increase beer sales on the "Fourth Tier" today.

There are a lot of simple, actionable and high leverage ideas in here. 

Submit Questions for Podcast Q&A Episodes

We've received more than a dozen questions from you all since starting our podcast and have been saving them for a future Q&A episode. The questions have been great, so I figured we should give you a more formal call to action here.

If you have any questions or topics you'd like us to discuss on the Beer Branding Trends Podcast, shoot us an email and we'll add it to the list. And thanks for listening!

How to Organize Your Internal Team Ahead of a Rebrand (Podcast)

Thinking about a rebrand this year? Identity, packaging, positioning, voice and values—there are a lot of moving parts here. 

Organizing your internal team (and all stakeholders) is a critical step you might be overlooking if you're early in the planning process.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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?

*|MC:SUBJECT|*
VOL. 012

The Warm Blanket of Nostalgic Branding

I lost my grandfather to cancer a few years ago. 

And one of the last conversations he and I had has stuck with me, popping into my head at random every few weeks. I asked him if he felt like the world had gotten better or worse in his lifetime (all 87 years of it). And he unequivocally answered that it had gotten worse. 

I asked him to explain, expecting—maybe projecting?—him to talk about how our country seems more divided than ever. Or how social media and corporate news have come to dominate our lives. Or how we’ve all come to live in a throw away culture. 

But he didn’t talk about any of that, or anything negative. Instead, he talked about how great things used to be.

He talked about his Navy years and when he met my grandma. He talked about when he was a young father like me (completely overwhelmed but loving every minute of it). He talked about how lucky he was to have his family.  

You could chalk his answers up as someone who knows they’re nearing the end of the line. Someone with more time and experiences behind them than ahead.

But I actually feel nostalgic for the past myself (and I'm hoping to have quite a few years ahead). 

When you have a child, you blink, and suddenly find yourself celebrating a third or a fourth birthday. You were changing their diapers just yesterday and now they're reading chapter books (nearly) on their own. 

And the damndest thing is you can't even remember what life was like before you met them. 

As a father of two young daughters, I’m watching them grow and learn and experience new things every day. And I’ve had a lot of fun introducing them to the things that I enjoyed when I was a kid—camping, fishing, Goosebumps, Ghostbusters, Legos. (I’ll wait until they’re at least ten before introducing them to candy cigarettes and Schwarzenegger movies.)

If we can switch gears for a moment—away from this meandering story about my grandpa—let’s talk about why nostalgic branding is so compelling. Why is referencing the past such a surefire way to grab someone’s attention (and for our purposes here, get them to buy your beer)?

At a surface level, nostalgic branding—or, “debranding” as some in the design press are calling it—works because you’re evoking an emotional response. You're getting someone to think about something positive from the past in the hopes that they come to associate your brand with that fuzzy, warm feeling. 

Nostalgic branding promises happy memories, connections and emotions.

In this context, I’m not buying Hamm’s this weekend because I like the beer. I’m buying Hamm’s because it’s what my grandpa drank (and it’s what I snuck from his garage fridge every summer as a kid). I'm not buying beer, I’m buying an opportunity to hold a tangible artifact that reminds me of someone I love. 



Nostalgia grounds a brand in a sense of history, authenticity and provenance. It harkens back to a time when things seemed to be a little bit better, where deals were done on a handshake and good breaks came easier. 

If you want to go back in time a bit, we wrote about this trend in detail back in our 2020 beer branding trends piece, calling it Nostalgic Regional.

Now whether or not the past was actually better doesn’t really matter here. We know that the past wasn’t perfect (in fact is was pretty terrible for an enormous swath of people). But in that moment where you're interacting with something that looks nostalgic, you're not thinking about the bad stuff. 

You're not thinking about your children growing up too fast.

And you're not thinking about your grandpa shrinking away in a hospital bed. 

In that moment, drinking that beer, you're thinking about the good times—the happy memories that have shaped your life and how you carry yourself in the world today. 



I don't have anything actionable to end on here. I just wanted to tell you a story about my grandpa because I've been thinking about him a lot over the last few weeks.

I hope you have a great Christmas (and drink loads of great beer).

Let’s come back well rested in 2022 and burn the ships, shall we?

Latest Resources

Latest Podcast Episodes on Positioning & Core Values

Beer Branding Trends Podcast episodes 3 & 4 are out and have seen a great response.

These are foundational brand strategy episodes—give them a listen if you're a brewery in planning. And if you're already out in the market, consider them a refresher.

Here are direct links to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. (be sure to subscribe if you like what we're doing on this front)

Business of Beverages Podcast

This is the first time I've been invited on to a podcast that I was already listening to. And it didn't disappoint. 

Will and Foxy were a lot of fun and we got to go deeper than the typical "your brand isn't your logo" trope that gets trotted out in these sorts of settings. Instead, we explored why brand values and brand architecture are so important for today's brewers.

CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective

In-House with CANarchy

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

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.

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

Please send them here to sign up.

Want to work together?

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logo.png VOL. 011

How many brand extensions are too many?

 

Brand strategists, Jack Trout and Al Ries, are staunchly anti-extension. And they particularly harp on line extensions (that is, adding another variant to the same brand—e.g. Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA > Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze)—a much lighter touch exercise than an actual brand extension (using your brewery’s brand in an entirely different category—e.g. Dogfish Head Distilling, Corona Hard Seltzer, Big Lug Cocktails).

Let’s examine their rationale before diving into CODO’s thinking. 

People tend to categorize and remember only a few brand names for any given category. There’s just too much noise, and advertising and chaff constantly coming our way to remember any more than that (name 10 shampoo brands, go!).

The goal of positioning is to occupy one of those coveted slots in people’s minds—to become the de facto brand someone thinks about when they need to buy something. 

I want a luxury watch” = Rolex. 

I want a bombproof cooler” = Yeti. 

I want to read a horror novel” = Stephen King. 

The problem with extensions, as Ries and Trout outlined, is that anything you release that doesn’t align with that core positioning (e.g. a $500 Rolex that anyone could afford) dramatically dilutes the parent brand’s positioning and reputation. 

Bud Light Seltzer’s recent campaign is a fun, if not perfect illustration of this entire thesis.

Bud Light Seltzer Commercial

Brand strategists and marketers know about these issues, yet high profile brand extensions still roll out every single day. 

Why is this?

We’ve helped dozens of breweries position, brand and launch extensions. So we can say with first hand experience that when you have a great selling brand, the pressure to extend it can be immense. Retailers, distributors, consultants, trade media, internal team members and even your fans can clamor for it.  

Add in a dash of FOMO from watching your competition grabbing headlines with their extensions and this pressure can be so intense that it may seem imprudent to not throw your concerns and intuition out the window on this matter.

Budweiser Brand Extensions
Look how they massacred my boy.

For those keeping score, Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda would be a Brand Extension of a Brand Extension of a Line Extension. It's extensions all the way down.


Where does CODO fall on this issue?

For as much as we harp on the importance of positioning, we're not as stalwartly anti-line (or brand) extension as you might think. Yes, we're always cautious about the impact a new product can have on an overarching brand (and have, more than once, been a dissenting voice in strategy meetings).

But we also think that Trout and Ries’ line of thinking is more applicable to the zero sum world of international conglomerate brands who can genuinely vie for that first or second “slot” in consumers’ minds more so than a localized industry like craft beer (where a major driving force behind craft's growth has always been diversity and brand promiscuity itself).

This idea coupled with fragmenting consumer tastes (beer > seltzer > kombucha > RTDs > Lo&No…), generational shifts (Gen Z becoming a buying force) and the still-not-yet-entirely-realized impact that the DTC trend will have on the industry, leads us to believe that a few well conceived extensions can actually enhance a brewery’s overall brand and portfolio by offering options that their fans are already buying from someone else. 

The hang up is that the extension has to make sense. You can’t leverage your parent brand into another category just because it’s well known. And you shouldn't line extend just to make a quick buck either.

There has to be an intuitive link between your parent brand and the extension. The extension should not only build its own brand, but reinforce the parent brand's story and values and good will as well. 

Can a popular brewery make a great RTD cocktail? Sure, maybe. Can that same brewery make a great frozen lasagna meal?

Colgate Frozen Lasagna

If you’re dead set on launching a brand extension, here are a few quick guidelines to keep you from having to later cut a commercial to directly address how confusing it is that your brewery’s name is also on a hard seltzer can for some reason. 


Less is more

One or two extensions can work well if the subsequent releases reinforce the parent brand's positioning and value props (Blue Moon > Blue Moon Light Sky is a great example here because it brings a seasonal flair to the mix). More than one or two and you stand the risk of making the entire lineup too convoluted for your fans to follow, particularly if you start layering in line extensions on top of those brand extensions. (peep that Budweiser extension-mania image above for reference. "yeah, gimme a Bud Light… Lemonade Seltzer Soda, please?")


How to avoid this issue altogether 

If you’ve determined that a brand extension does not make sense, this doesn’t mean you can’t launch the product. It just means you have to explore another brand architecture strategy for bringing it to market—e.g. a subtly-endorsed brand, some sort of shadow endorsement or even a standalone brand if you have the capacity to properly manage it.  


The most important question

Does this new product naturally align with your parent brand’s values and value props? Is this something your brewery would launch? Does it make sense at a gut level? 

If there’s any doubt, then you need to be extremely careful with putting your brewery’s name on that product. Yes, you could possibly see a short term bump in sales by leveraging your parent brand’s equity of the gate, but it likely won’t last beyond the honey moon phase. And it could end up doing far more damage to your positioning in the long run.

Key Takeaways


1. Your brand and positioning need to be protected at all costs. Anything that confuses or dilutes them is detrimental to the cause. 

2. You have to think in terms of decades when building a brand. Don’t make a shortsighted decision in pursuit of a profitable quarter. Think about how an extension could help, or harm, your overall brand down the line.

 

Rewatch our Brand Architecture Presentation


Four Strategies for Extending Your Brewery's Brand Beyond Beer


 
Cody and I had a fun time talking about Brand Architecture at the Craft Beer Professionals Fall Virtual Conference. This is a sneak peek at the new book we've been working on for the last year and a half (and directly related to the issues topic). 

If you're thinking about lunching some sort of extension (seltzer, RTD, etc.), you should give this a watch to make sure you're making sound brand strategy decisions along the way. 

Latest Resources

The Beer Branding Trends Podcast is live!


 
We're 2 episodes in and have been humbled by the reception—over 1k downloads already (crazy!). If you haven't already, catch up on episodes 1 and 2 and let us know what you think.

In-House with Sierra Nevada


 
We had the privilege of sitting down with Sierra Nevada's Advertising and Creative Manager, Conor McMahon, to discuss Pale Ale, brand extensions and how a legacy brewery can stay relevant in 2021.

Australia Craft Beer Podcast 


 

We enjoyed a wide-sweeping conversation about beer branding and Australian craft beer with Matt Kirkegaard of Radio Brew News a few weeks back.