Why Branding is Important for your Brewery (and Your Label Design)

by Barton Strawn, Managing Partner

By the end of 2019, it’s expected more than 8,000 breweries will be pouring beer in the United States. That means more than 1,000 breweries will open their doors this year¹. That’s on top of 1,049 new breweries that opened in 2018 and 997 new breweries in 2017.

With an ever increasing number of breweries, there is also an increase in closures. 2018 saw 219 breweries close their doors², 30% more than 2017 with 165 closures³ (and a 13% increase in closures year over year). 

So what do all of these numbers mean? More breweries means more competition, which (sadly) means more closures. As some brands rise to the top, and others struggle to gain traction, the question becomes: how do you make sure your brewery is in the group that succeed? Yes, making good beer is a necessary start, but it is also more important than ever to make sure your brand is as great as the beer you’ve worked so hard to perfect.

Brands (and branding) don’t have to feel corporate.

Many of the people we talk to, especially those starting a brewery, believe that a well thought out brand makes them seem too corporate, inauthentic, or uncool. Just let the beer speak for itself right? While the term “brand” can have negative connotations, we’ve learned that when done correctly, a good brand is always authentic and gives your business a recognizable and relatable personality.

A Neilson study completed in 2017 said that 71% of craft beer buyers say they like to try brands with bold and interesting packaging.⁴ Almost 3 out of 4 of your potential customers are making decisions based on branding and packaging. Bold and interesting packaging take take a lot of forms, but it all stems from a strong brewery brand. Think about it this way… your beer can’t “speak for itself” if no one wants to take it off the shelf or walk through your doors.

Where to start with your brand

Have you ever heard of the “5 W’s?” Who, What, When, Where, and Why – and if you can answer all 5, then you’re on your way to a great brand. In our experience, it’s best to start with the why. Why are you opening a brewery? If you have a clear reason, then you have a good foundation to build the rest of your brand on. 

Who, when, and where should be pretty straight forward if you have a strong why. The only question left is what. And beer is not your what. Your what might be Belgian beer, or sour beers, or gluten free beer. It is all about getting specific about your specialties and using that to help your brewery stand apart.

Once you have those questions answered, you can start developing your logo, colors, etc. A simple and versatile visual identity is always a smart place to begin. This will give you the flexibility you need as you start brewing, pouring/canning/bottling, and then selling. That’s when you will start to get real feedback on who you are and what you are known for. 

You’ll also learn the hardest truth for a lot of brewery owners: At the end of the day, your brand is not who you think are, but the perception your customers have of you. 

Make your packaging count.

Packaging will be the primary expression of your brand for most consumers. In fact, the same Neilson study found that 66% of American craft beer buyers say that a beer’s package/label is “very” or “extremely” important for getting them to notice it. And 60% [of people] say that the package/label is “very” or “extremely” important in convincing them to give it a try and buy it. 

With a strong brewery brand, your cans and labels can stay consistent, making it easier for consumers to find and drink your beers. Or you may use a strong brewery brand to lay a foundation for varied and diverse “brands” of your individual beers. Regardless of how you tackle your packaging, it should always fit within the brand you’ve developed for your brewery as a whole. That will show through to consumers and help you gain the following needed to keep growing. 

Brewery Branding Takeaways

You need a strong brand. Your potential customers are making decisions based on packaging. It’s essential to take the time to flush out your brewery’s vision and communicate it through a well developed brand that resonates with your customer base. Doing so will not only attract new drinkers, but keep them coming back for round two (or three).



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