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.
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