Selling Beer: When (And When Not) to Rebrand

Times change, the market evolves, and your brewery's branding may not be the great fit it once was. In this excerpt from their book "Craft Beer, Rebranded," Isaac Arthur and Cody Fague of CODO Design address that big question of when to rebrand.

Isaac Arthur , Cody Fague Jul 6, 2020 - 6 min read

Selling Beer: When (And When Not) to Rebrand Primary Image

Sometimes, the need for a rebrand can be obvious and feel very pressing. Other times, it can be more subtle. While there’s no set-in-stone checklist for knowing when you need to rebrand, we do see a recurring set of criteria leading up to breweries pulling the trigger. Here are a few of those reasons.

YOUR OVERALL LOOK IS DATED AND DOESN’T REFLECT YOUR CORE VALUES. It’s not uncommon for design to age poorly. (I’m wearing boot cut jeans while writing this. I get it.) If your brand identity was not professionally developed or, perhaps worse, was done in a superficial, trendy manner, the design (and your overall look) can begin to show its age quickly. And if you’re a brewery that’s growing and making some exciting moves, this can inhibit your progress. Just think of any one of the cool or cutting-edge companies that you follow—do they have bad branding? I’d bet a case of beer that they don’t.

YOU’RE MAKING MAJOR CHANGES WITHIN YOUR COMPANY. You’re no longer the small outfit you once were. Perhaps you’ve brought in a new head brewer. Maybe you’re planning to start canning that taproom favorite NEIPA and want to make it stand out on shelves (but are worried it will clash with the rest of your packaging). Or, you could be ready to transition from bottles to cans. These and other major changes, including repositioning, or renaming your brewery (or beers), or shifting your portfolio, can fall flat without a solid and unified brand to support them.

NEW COMPETITION IS LEAVING YOU IN THE DUST. We see this with a lot of older breweries. High-energy startups open in the same region and often position themselves against the established “Old Guard.” (Those jerks!) These upstarts dilute your market. And their impact is exacerbated by the natural tendency among craft-beer drinkers to overlook their old standbys in favor of trying the latest and greatest beer. Simply put, people are thinking about you less and less.

ADVERTISEMENT

YOU’RE EXPANDING INTO NEW MARKETS AND FACING STAUNCHER COMPETITION. Breweries that are crushing it all over the country have solid branding and amazing beer. If you’re expanding into new markets, it’s only a matter of time before you clash with such a brewery. And this works both ways—big-time breweries can bring the fight to your backyard, too.

YOUR WEBSITE ISN’T RESPONSIVE AND HASN’T KEPT UP WITH THE NEEDS OF YOUR BUSINESS. Your website needs to be responsive (work seamlessly from a desktop down to a phone) and has to be easy for your team to update internally, without having to fuss with code. If people can’t navigate your site on their phones and instead have to go to Twitter to see what’s on tap, you’re losing business to another brewery who offers their customers a friction-free mobile experience. And, if you’re doing tons of busy work—fielding donation requests and private-event inquiries, mailing out gift cards—you’re spending time on the wrong things. A purpose- built, responsive website can solve all these problems, freeing you up to do what you do best—brewing great beer.

YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE ALWAYS REINVENTING THE WHEEL. We’ve heard several breweries say it feels like they’re starting from scratch every time they name a beer or release a new SKU. They don’t know what logo to use or what colors or illustration style to go for, and it’s exhausting. Preparing for the launch of what should be a fun and exciting new product quickly becomes overwhelming. A rebrand can cure this headache by clearly defining your visual rules so you can kick out new beers as needed without breaking your back.

YOU’RE SELF-CONSCIOUS OF YOUR BRANDING AND PACKAGING. This one is hard to measure, but we’ve heard it many times, either sheepishly mentioned in a meeting or implied, as we begin working to understand our clients’ needs. Sometimes, you can read between the lines when you hear things like, “I hate wearing our shirts to festivals and conferences,” or “Our festival setup looks like shit compared to everyone else.” There’s no need to be shy about this. You care about what you do and should want to put your best foot forward. If you don’t feel like your brand is doing that for you now, maybe it’s time to make a change.

WHEN NOT TO REBRAND

Whether subtle or overt, a rebrand signifies a change to your fans. If you’re updating your look in an attempt to move away from a negative reputation (PR disaster, quality-control issues, etc.) without making core internal changes, your rebrand will fail. People are too smart to fall for this. Newly designed packaging may grab someone’s attention in a grocery store, but if that beer isn’t great or if you’re still a shitty company, you’ll lose the chance for repeat business.

Unless you already have a solid foundation to build upon (great beer and strong leadership, live by your core values, deep community involvement, etc.), attempting to rebrand is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. Put another way, a great logo can’t make a bad beer taste better (or a poorly run business more viable).

This excerpt is reprinted with permission from Craft Beer, Rebranded, by CODO Design. For more information or to purchase a copy of the book, visit craftbeerrebranded.com.

Images: Courtesy CODO Design

ARTICLES FOR YOU