What is a "staggered" rebrand launch? And why is this the new normal for any brewery who rebrands moving forward?
Morning. (A quick note here before today's topic.)
Cody and I are in Sacramento for the next few days presenting at the California Craft Beer Summit.
Shoot me an email if you're at the conference and would like to grab a beer after our talk.
Folks who have read Craft Beer, Rebranded know that we’ve always preached the importance of carefully managing how you announce your brewery’s rebrand. This includes how you roll out the update internally amongst your employees and key partners (distributors, retailers, community relationships) and of course, externally to your fans.
A well-executed rebrand launch features, more or less, a complete changeover from old to new all at once. So your new website launches, all major touch points (merch, sales materials, tap handles, environmental design) are updated and new packaging floods the market. Again, all at the same time.
Our method for achieving this has historically centered around a teaser campaign leading up to an official launch day, week or month.
We’re believers in this approach because we’ve orchestrated it for several of our brewery rebranding projects. And we've had many other clients pull off similar campaigns in-house as well. So this works.
Or at least it used to.
Here’s what we're discussing in today's issue: Carefully orchestrating your rebrand launch so that everything goes live at the same time was challenging before the pandemic.
Now, thanks to a recession and inflation and lingering supply chain issues, it's seemingly impossible.
You can’t get all of your packaging printed and on hand (not to mention old stock used up and sold through and beer brewed and ready to put in those new cans), and get signage installed, and new merch ordered and new trucks wrapped and new tap handles fabricated and on and on all at the same time.
Let me share a frustrating example that we’re dealing with right now. CODO spent the last half of 2021 rebranding a top 50 brewery. We wrapped up that work in Q1 2022 and they’re just now in a place where they can launch everything sometime this summer. (This was due to ordering multiple truckloads of printed cans a few months before deciding to rebrand. Oops.)
But even if you’re not sitting on millions of printed cans that have to be used, there are still myriad issues facing breweries who want that "perfect" rebrand launch today. So much so, that we’ve almost entirely given up on pushing for this during the course of our work.
Cody and I discussed this on a recent podcast if you want some more context for why this is so challenging.
Today, it’s much more feasible, and non-anxiety-inducing, to plan for a staggered rebrand launch.
This approach accepts that a 100% overnight change over isn’t going to happen, and allows the rebrand to roll out in planned stages over time.
We’ve been doing this in earnest for about 18 months now. And given the likelihood of continued global supply chain disruptions and long lead times from manufacturers, staggered launches will likely be the new normal for any brewery who is planning to rebrand moving forward.
I want to spend today’s issue outlining what we’ve seen work and a few specific tactics that your brewery might employ should you decide to rebrand sometime in the next few years.
Specific tactics for executing a staggered rebrand launch
Triage & roll out key brands earlier
Packaging has always been the biggest lynchpin for deciding when to launch a rebrand. And this makes sense because it is the most logistically challenging thing to completely change over and because it's usually a brewery’s most public-facing touchpoint.
In a perfect world, all of your packaging would be ready to hit the shelves at the same time. But as we’ve already explained, this is almost impossible to do today. So rather than wait six months to a year to get everything just right and ready to roll out at the same time, why not launch your updated key brand(s) now?
Yes, this means you’ll have different packaging out in the wild at the same time, but this would actually happen to some degree even if everything did go perfectly smooth. At any given time, you will have packaging out in cold boxes throughout your distribution footprint. So unless you, or your distributor are going to go buy back all of that beer, you’ll have a brief period of overlap anyway.
So embrace it. With a few other tactics we’ll outline below, this could actually draw attention to the change specifically and get people to look more closely at your brand moving forward.
Be flexible on how you bring new packaging to market
This is a sub point of the triaging idea. Let’s say you will eventually have three core brands in painted cans, but you’re seven months out from that delivery.
Assuming the COGS pencil out, is there any merit to getting that new packaging out in the market faster in the interim via another production method? This could include pressure sensitive labels, shrink sleeves, digitally-printed cans, possibly even wrapping over existing dead stock cans, or some combination of all of this.
This path gets your rebrand out in the market and working for you that much faster.
Careful messaging and storytelling on social media
Explaining that a new look is coming is important no matter how you’re able to launch your rebrand. Cody and I discussed this in Episode 8 of the Beer Branding Trends Podcast (How to launch your brewery’s rebrand).
But if you’re rolling out a staggered rebrand launch, you’ll need to do an ever better job of storytelling and holding your fans’ hands through the change. Explain that the change is coming and especially why it’s slow to roll out.
Everyone values transparency, so why not let people see behind the scenes here. If you’re 6 months behind on a big can order, tell people that. Share when they can expect to see the new look and use this as an opportunity to celebrate the change and bring your fans along for the ride.
This can happen on social media, your newsletter, website, podcasts—any important touchpoint.
No matter where you do it, view this as one more opportunity to let people peek behind the curtains and bond with your brand.
Launch the new website and update social now (yes, even before debuting your packaging)
In the past—right after getting new packaging ready to roll—launching a brewery’s updated website was the other most important choke point that had to be ready to go before launch
But now, I think more breweries should launch the website much earlier. Assuming you’re already announcing that a change is coming and the new site isn’t going to scoop you, launch your new site now (and get the new identity updated across all of your social channels).
This will start to familiarize people with a new look sooner.
Plus, everyone lives online today anyway. So if you think about it, this is as much an important touch point as your packaging because someone is more likely to encounter your updated look on their phone than they are for the first time out in the wild at a bar or in a cold box.
Bring on the new merch
I think you can make the case for launching new merch in this scenario earlier as well. You have more leeway on what your merch can look and feel like (if you're doing it correctly), and this can be a fun, subtle way to start teasing out your updated look (while bringing in valuable revenue along the way).
Shelf talkers announcing new look
This sounds cheesy, but if you keep an eye out next time you’re at the grocery store, I bet you’ll see a few of these sorts of announcements hanging around. We see them a lot in the CPG snack aisle—chips, cereal, etc. will have violators that tell the shopper to keep an eye out for shiny new packaging.
These can be simple shelf talkers, decals on coolers, or even violators on existing packaging (stickers, neck hangers, etc.).
We don’t see this sort of thing very often in beer packaging and I’ve never understood why. Use your rebrand launch as a way to aggressively grab people’s attention and see if that won’t help boost sales along the way.
A few concluding thoughts:
On prolonging the magic
This may just be me searching for a silver lining here, but another benefit of a staggered rebrand launch is that you extend your announcement longer than a specific day, week or month. This keeps eyes on you longer, grabs attention incrementally over time (more challenging than ever today) and keeps you top of mind in waves.
When measured against this idea alone, a staggered rebrand launch actually has a lot going for it, even if you were still able to completely change everything over all at once like in the before times.
Will anyone remember?
The following thought runs the risk of undermining the importance of orchestrating a well thought out rebrand launch in the first place, but I think it’s worth mentioning for consideration.
Cody and I discussed this on Episode 28 of the Beer branding Trends Podcast (Were we wrong about Brand Launches?) as well, but a mindset we’ve adopted for our internal projects (books, podcast episodes, special projects)—so much so that it’s actually become one of our values—is the idea that “we’ll do it live.”
That means rather than spending several months refining something from 90% to 99%, why don’t we just launch it now? (We can always refine later. Plus nothing is ever set in stone anyway. So even a perfect brand launch doesn’t mean something is done. There will always be evolution to follow.)
At some point during those revisions, or during that brand launch planning, you’ll hit diminishing returns. And I think that aiming for a "perfect" rebrand change over falls into this category.
And one final thought here (and again, at the risk of undermining everything we’ve just discussed)—in the long run, say, 3 years from now, will anyone even remember that your rebrand launch wasn’t 100% orchestrated to change over at the same time? Will anyone remember, or care, that you had old packaging and new packaging sitting next to each other on shelf at the same time?
I bet they won’t.
People are too busy living their lives. Even your most diehard and ardent fans have more important things on their plate. So if your rebrand doesn’t roll out all at once, will it really matter?
Assuming the work is beautiful and compelling and appropriate, and you’ve done a great job of telling people why the change is happening, I don’t think it will.
Hence, the staggered launch.
On the opportunity cost of waiting to launch your rebrand
A rebrand is an investment in your brewery’s future. You underwent this process to address key pain points, shore up your positioning and/or move on some exciting opportunities in order to set your brewery up for long term success.
As with any investment, you do this with the intention of reaping a larger (hopefully compounding) return than you put in.
So let’s say you see an increase in sales of 30% YoY in year 1 after rebranding. For argument’s sake, let’s say that a 30% bump comes out to 600k in additional top line revenue earned in year 1. If you wait 4 months to launch your rebrand, that pencils out to 200k you won’t see in new revenue over those 4 months.
Now this is a heavy-handed, and obviously flawed way to calculate your ROI (I hear you—beer sales aren’t consistent year round, you likely won't see dramatic increases on day 1, etc.).
But I wanted to include this to highlight the fact that your rebrand is an investment. And you want to see a return on that investment as soon as possible.
So if that means you can launch it today and start building awareness and good will and increased velocity through a staggered rebrand launch, you should consider the opportunity cost of waiting until you’ve got everything closer to aligned for a “perfect” change over.
Shoot me an email if you'd like to discuss your brewery's rebrand.
We're always up for a conversation and would love to learn more about what your team wants to achieve through your update.
A few interesting rebrand announcement examples from around the industry
Check out this YOLO rebrand launch from Jack's Abby
Jack's Abby recently handled a brand and packaging refresh in-house. And they announced the entire change in a few short posts across their social channels. No big campaign or fanfare—just casual and matter of fact.
Moving forward, I'm going to call this approach the YOLO launch. There are too many things going on to worry about this, let's just get it out the door and move on.
I still think there is some merit to a more in depth campaign, but I do like this approach, especially considering the limited attention and bandwidth most people have today.
Great example of messaging and letting your fans peek behind the curtains from Fernson Brewing
Fernson Brewing had to move away from painted cans due to rising input costs. And this simple Instagram post was a great way of sharing this news with their fans.
This isn't necessarily rebranding-related, but it falls under the idea of not only giving your fans a heads up about an impending change, but explaining why it's happening.
I think that oversharing in these cases can be a good way of being open and honest and letting people feel more connected to your company along the way.
Two Roads walking folks through their package refresh
Two Roads recently refreshed their entire packaging line and recorded this great, short video explaining why they updated everything.
I bet this took Collin and team an hour or two to produce and imagine how useful this will be to send out to distributors and retailers.
I've said it a few times in today's issue, but I don't think you can overshare when coming out of a brand refresh.
Use this as an opportunity to bring folks from all 3 tiers closer to your brand and get them excited about what's to come.
Were we wrong about (re)brand launches?
Here's a recent podcast episode about what we've gotten wrong, or changed our minds about, over the last 13 years in beer branding.
This is a good listen if your brewery is considering a rebrand, particularly when you think about how you will announce and roll out the new look.
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.
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