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VOL. 028

Can your brewery help someone live a more meaningful life?


I wanted to thank you for reading BBT this year. It's fun and rewarding hearing from you all and we're excited to share some even bigger initiatives we've got planned for 2023 soon.

1. Shoot me an email if you've got anything exciting you'd like to discuss. 

2. As a reminder, please take our year end survey (less than 3 minutes). We'd love to hear your perspective on how we can keep improving this newsletter for you in 2023. (And thanks to the ~45 of you who have already taken it.)

As we wrap up 2022, let’s reflect and discuss how the social dimension of branding can help us build stronger beverage brands in the new year. 

Close your eyes (er, well read on and then close your eyes) and imagine the following people:

1. A 17 year old female. She’s wearing lululemon leggings and a thrifted top. She’s got an enormous Hydro Flask clipped to a small, pastel backpack. She’s wearing a scrunchy on her right wrist and her hair is up in a messy bun. She’s glued to her phone (and hasn’t come up for air in fifteen minutes). 

2. A 36 year old guy. He’s wearing an expensive Filson vest, selvedge denim jeans and worn-in Red Wing Boots. He has a (magnificent) beard and is wearing a Benchmade knife clipped in his pocket. He’s enjoying a coffee and taking notes in a Moleskine sketchbook with a brass pen. 

3. A 52 year old man. He’s sitting in an airport bar with his back to the wall. He’s checking the time (on a Rolex Daytona) and not liking what he sees. He’s dressed in a bespoke suit and doesn’t have a single piece of luggage with him. His shoes are recently shined and his graying hair is high and tight. He just ordered his second Macallan. Double. Neat. Please and thank you.

What do you think each of these people does for a living? 

I bet you have some pretty good ideas. 

What does it say that we can so easily relegate people to a specific box based entirely on what they wear, how they’re dressed and the tools they use? Is this good, bad, or just how the world works?

No matter where you land on this question, the point still stands. People are constantly signaling their status and position in society. And we're all hard wired to read this and asses that very status and position.

I explained why I think signaling is such powerful force in brand building on a recent podcast. (Segment starts at the 11:15 minute mark.) 

Let's explore how we can use this insight to create more compelling beer and beverage brands that people can use to find meaning in their lives. 

Definitely a rugged, self-reliant mountain man and NOT a Creative Director from Brooklyn.

Role Theory

There’s a concept in sociology called Role Theory. Its premise is that every one of us is living our lives according to a specific role we either occupy (or want to occupy) in society. 

To do this, we use brands like an actor might use a prop to clarify our personality and status. And this phenomenon drives almost all of our purchasing and consumption decisions. 

Now let’s pause here and look inward. Did those last few sentences make you feel icky?

Maybe just a little bit? 

This is something I’ve struggled with myself throughout my career as a designer. 

Whenever I read about how branding (or a Brand) can help someone feel better about themselves, or help them shape their identity, this all starts to feel kind of icky. And I feel that old urge to sell everything I own and build that cabin in the woods. (But hell, even a cabin in the woods is a status symbol in 2022, so there’s no escaping any of this.)

But, if we can set aside this initial gut response, I think we’ll find that there is immense value in thinking about how a brand—your brewery's brand—can become an integral part of your customers’ lives. 

And when we break branding down to its most essential elements—beyond helping people identify your packaging on shelf, beyond differentiating one product from another, beyond Intellectual Property—I believe that helping people to gain a better sense of themselves and how they navigate the world is actually one of its most important functions.

People have to fit in 

People have an innate drive to fit in. I think we all recognize this on some level—we all want to be a part of something. This belonging can be found in a family or friend group, or your workplace, or a political party or sports team, or a gym or a gang or social movement.

And as we discussed with Role Theory, people are increasingly finding this belonging through the brands they buy and follow.

This insight is such an important part of contemporary brand building that marketeers will often throw out cringe lines about joining “tribes” and so forth. But this belies just how important, and how deeply engrained the drive to be part of a group actually is. 

This isn’t just about wanting to fit in. We have to fit in—this is a genetic drive.

And we can use this to build stronger brands.

What does sitting in your taproom say about someone?

So what can we do with this idea? 

If we know that people need to find belonging, how can we shape your brewery's brand to be something with which people will want to align? 

How can we make your brewery so compelling that someone can improve their own standing in their social circles simply by posting an image of your packaging on Instagram or by bringing your beer to a gathering? 

This comes down to defining what story your brand allows your customers to tell the world about themselves. 

Take some time over the coming weeks to think through the following questions / prompts:

1. What does sitting in your taproom say about someone? (What sort of person regularly visits your place?) How does sitting in your taproom make someone feel? Would they be proud to be seen there?

2. What does bringing your beer to a party say about the person bringing it? (Is this a flex? Or a reasonable, dependable pick?)

3. What does wearing your brewery’s shirt allow someone to signal? (What is it about your brewery that they’re proud to rep? And what does that tell everyone around them?)

4. In as few words as possible, what does your brewery stand for?

5. What type of person would benefit from engaging with your brand? 

Once you've answered all of these, think about your brand experience as it stands today. Do your answers align with reality or is there a disconnect? If you're not sure, or aren't happy with the answer, take some time and think about your positioning and brand personality. 

What changes could you make that would close that gap between your ideal vision for your brewery and where you are today?

If brands really are props for people to use to signal their identity and personality, what story does your brewery's brand allow them tell?


I (and the entire CODO team) hope you have a wonderful, restful holiday break. Drink loads of beer, eat too many cookies and get in an embarrassing shouting match with your uncle.

But above all else, make sure you recharge so we can make 2023 the best year your brewery (or Bev Alc company) has ever had. 

Actionable Takeaways

1. Revisit our thinking on Lifestyle Brands. This positioning, when done well, perfectly illustrates how powerful signaling and in-group identification can be in branding.

2. Grab a copy of 4-D Branding. This is an older book, but the Brand Code framework, particularly the social dimension chapter, is as relevant as ever.

Around the Shop

CODO on the Beer Mighty Things Podcast

Had a great conversation with Kyle on the Beer Mighty Things podcast last month. We touched on a wide variety of topics including: 

Brand dilution (via extensions)
What does “CODO” stand for?
Branding the Boot Strapped Brewery 
Sub Brands 
Hop Water vs. NA beer 
Gen Z’s drinking habits 
Branding cannabis beverages
Naming Breweries 
Brand Architecture

A return to a 1 truckload minimum order for painted cans

Great news for our clients (and readers) who were impacted by Ball's new minimum order requirements for printed cans announced at the end of last year. 

This deal between American Canning and Ball brings the new minimum order down from 1,020,000 cans (5 truckloads) to 204,000 cans.

Now word yet on whether this can be split amongst a few different SKUs or has to be a single design. 

But this is great news for smaller operations, regardless.

Those are rookie numbers…

Thanks to everyone who has listened to a BBT Podcast episode this year.

We've got some fun things on this front planned for 23, including more client interviews. 

And you have my word that we'll never stop making fun of ESBs. 

Listen & subscribe on Apple or Spotify

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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