Brews and Brands – Part 2


7 Things to Keep in Mind When Branding Your Beer

Chances are, creating brands was NOT why you decided to create a craft brewery in the first place. You are a master at creating great beers, after all. But, good brand design is great at letting your product sell itself on the shelves, so you don’t have to. Branding should start when you decide to brew the beer, not after it is on tap, so don’t wait to engage with the brand process. Good branding done at the right stage will allow you to do more of what you do best — make great beers.
Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your next new product.

1: Pick a name your audience will relate to. The beer isle is filled with unusual, irreverent names. Finding one that ties to your brewery brand, let alone one that is not already in use, can be really hard. Your products are unique — so select a name that helps folks understand why they are special. Look for a name that connects with your brand: maybe it relates to the ingredients, an aspect of your brewery, the season, an emotion that the beer elicits– it helps most when it resonates with your product and your audience.




2: Your audiences are changing constantly. Once upon a time consumers had to be convinced to try beers that were ‘craft-brewed’. National mainstream beers were all they knew, and getting them to appreciate the character of craft beers was the challenge. Those days are gone (yes!). Curious customers are more willing to try new things. This raises the bar for chefs, brewmasters, winemakers, grocers, distillers and even bartenders. Your audience is more sophisticated than ever, and they are not afraid to experiment. They are not limited by income or other demographics, and they continue to refine their preferences as they get more knowledgeable about craft beer. A successful brewery brand has a strategy that allows itself to remain relevant and adapt in an evolving beer market.

3: Start early. While brewing and branding seem like different tasks, they should really start at the same time, and work in tandem. Branding should start when the beer or spirit begins life, so that the identity can grow and is ready for roll-out when your beer is. You don’t need to create the whole brand design immediately, but don’t do a throw-away label just as a place-holder — this will work against your branding later when consumers see a disconnect in the visuals. Get your designer in the mix when your taste-master dreams up a new product, or when you’re envisioning how to lay out your tasting room. That way they’ll be able to create a visual that compliments the beer’s attitude and the perspective of its creator. The design will also have a higher chance of fitting with the brewery brand story.

4: Make sure the packaging reflects the passion that went into the product. Boring labels are for boring national brands. Consumers taste with their eyes, so it’s important to make sure your brand shows off the passion that went into the creation of the beer. It is equally important to make sure each label looks like a professional, high-quality product, and is easy to discern from your competition. Many products fall short on the shelves because they are too eccentric. There’s a fine line between quirky-cool and quirky-weird. Your audience is willing to spend more for a product that looks well-made and is still filled with character. 


B&B_Gravity Wagon2


5: Think big-picture. Visual consistency is vitally important from day one. Application of the new design can start with just a tap handle or growler, but keep in mind that if it is well received in the tasting room it may soon live on the label, 6-pack, website, menu, signage, social media, t-shirts, cases, and line-extension products too. The more places the design appears, the more it is recognized, and the bigger the brand will grow.

6: Custom caps and neck labels will help sell more beer. The more square inches you can brand on a bottle, can, 6-pack or 12 pack, the more folks will experience the complete brand picture. Bottling and canning lines may limit your labeling options, but it may be a worthwhile investment when you compare with increased sales. Look for elements of your packaging that can be customized to highlight the specialness of each beer. Packaging can be expensive to produce, but neck labels, caps, even unique design elements on the 6-packs can help add a differentiator to your package. Finding those little details of customization can make the difference between looking like a boring brand and an irresistible microbrew.

7: Your new product will start on tap, but needs to thrive on the web. People have the ability to find out everything they can about your brewery and products before they visit. Creating a handsome and intuitive web experience will help sell your products and fill the seats in front of your taps. Make sure your website is simple, consistent with your brand story, and works on everyone’s device.

Iron Design specializes in branding, and we’re ready to help take your beer to the next level. For 15 years, we have helped successful craft brewers and distillers create product names, logos, messaging strategy, packaging, websites and merch. Give us a shout – we’d love to stop by, share a pint and find out more about what makes your products great.


Brews and Brands – Part 1

How To Get Your Beer Brand Started

Over the years, as we’ve helped clients in the craft brew industry build their brands and take their brews from tap to retail, we’ve identified a few decision points that seem to arise periodically in our process. As the craft brewing world continues to grow, we felt it might be a good time to share our experiences to help other brewers and designers tackle these issues before they get too far down the design road.



Developing a Brand Plan

Strategy is everything. Finding out what your brewery personality is will serve you well, and help you establish your place in the brewing landscape. It is important to ask a few questions early in the life of the brewery to uncover your distinctions:

What makes your beers and brewery different from your competitors?  Examples– you brew only dark beers, or your beers will be very ‘drinkable’, or maybe you’ll specialize in only a few curated, select brews, etc.

Who is the target audience for your beers?  Examples– Young craft enthusiasts who enjoy drinking really unique beers, or an older beer drinker who enjoys casual drinking experiences with friends, or people just like ‘you’ (brewer), etc.

How do you envision conveying your uniqueness in the marketplace?  Examples– through social media and website but not packaging, or vivid labels on bottles along with traditional 6-pack packaging, or with banners and print materials at tasting events, etc.

What will you charge for your beer?  Examples– you will be a delicious low-cost alternative, or your beers will be exotic and expensive, or maybe you will have a whole range of beers at different price-points, from exotic to budget, etc.

The answers to these questions will provide your marketing team/brand designer with some important information that will help them create an identity that separates you from your competitors, and may serve as the foundation for how the visual aesthetic of your brand begins to develop.

Often times, small brewers have logos and identities created in their formative stages that are more reflective of the personal style of the designer or brewery owner rather than the uniqueness of the brewery. These early days are where it is most important to begin your brand strategy.


Everything a Brand Can Touch

Your brewery and variety brands will have many touch points where they can impress your target audience. There are obvious ones like signage, stickers, and apparel in the brewery. There will be media touch points like messaging, website, tap handles, video, social media, promotional advertising, etc. Then there are items like packaging– bottles, growlers, cans, 6-packs and case art, other multipacks, and kegs. Consider that all of these items are places where consumers expect to see positive reinforcement of your brand. Beer drinkers want to be reminded that this brewery and brand are speaking to them in a consistent voice and style. When a touch point feels unaffected by the brand, it can create a subtle ambivalence in the consumer. Creating positive reinforcement at every opportunity will keep your target audience connected and feeling like your brand is their own.


Individuality vs. Brewery-Branded?

As the craft market continues to explode with not only new breweries, but exponentially more individual beers, the question arises how much importance can be put on creating a unique personality for each beer variety, versus creating a consistent and common look for an entire brewery line.

In the good old days of 1990, there were few craft brewers in the marketplace. Brewery branding took a backseat to the individual beer personalities. Each brew variety could develop its own visual expression, its own attention-getting look and feel. Beer variety labeling became unusual to help consumers recognize and remember their individuality.

But today is a different story. Today there are hundreds of different beers at every retailer, and hundreds more vying for shelf space. And each brewery has many different varieties. The successful brewers are seeing the value of a unified brand experience across all their beers. The breadth of competition demands that craft brewers maximize their shrinking shelf footprint to be successful at retail, and a strong and cohesive brand identity will make the most of this limited space.



Freelancer vs. Brand Agency

But let’s face it, many craft brewers got into this business because they love creating great beers, not because they are great branders. Engaging with brand designers is another task on your list of ‘must-dos’, and maybe you are not ready yet. When should you call a freelance designer, and when should you consider engaging with a brand agency? A freelance designer can move quickly, and can often be a practical solution to design a quick logo or website in the very early stages of a brewery. But when your brand reaches out into the wider world of retail, there is greater risk, and that may be a good time to call in the experts. If your brand doesn’t stand out, your beers may under-perform in sales, causing more stress on your fledgling brewery. However if you work with a good team you can maximize your opportunity for sales, all while building a consistent and beautiful brand that leaves your audience wanting another round.


At Iron, we’ve been working in the craft brewing market since 2002. We’ve helped clients like Middle Ages Brewing Co., Sackets Harbor Brewing Co., and Butternuts Beer & Ale solve issues like these, define their packaged and tap brew identities, and in conjunction, make their brands stand out.


Packaging Competition Designs are Released

In June, we announced our position as finalists in a nation-wide packaging competition for Package Design Magazine.  Since then, our designs have been tweaked, discussed tweaked again, and submitted!

The wait to see all of the submissions was quite the drumroll, as we’re sure it was for you too!  To view our final designs, as well as the submissions on behalf of other finalists Damon Jackson and Turner Lee Consulting and Design follow the links below.  Oh, and vote for Iron!

Iron Design Submission

Damon Jackson Submission

Turner Lee Submission