Before diving headlong into Brand Architecture, let’s take a moment to define some key terms so we’re on the same page.
Your brand is your customers’ perception of your company, including your products and your culture. It’s their gut feeling about what you do, and ultimately shapes why they love you, hate you, or completely disregard you. Why do they think you’re different? How do they describe you to friends? Why do they, or don’t they, support you? Your brand captures what you stand for, what you value and believe, the value you offer, the promises you make and the role you play in your customers’ lives.
Your brand is your single most important asset in business. It’s a profit center that can make the difference between a fun, modest lifestyle business and a masterfully built company that will outlive you.
We believe your brand is more important than your beer itself, at least initially, because this is what gets people to give you a shot in the first place. Your story, your positioning, your identity and package design— these are the cues that let people know they’ve found the right beer.
Every branding decision you make should reinforce this messaging and positioning. And you should carefully protect your brand. You are just one flawed beer, or one boneheaded social media flub away from losing customer trust that has taken years to earn (no pressure…).
Positioning is the strategic act of determining where you fit into the market relative to your competition. It’s defining a “space” in the market you can own, ideally one that no one else can touch or lay claim to.
We help breweries define their positioning by asking them to answer three simple questions:
- What do you do?
What type of brewery are you (regional, national, nano, brewpub, farm brewery, etc.)? And, what type of beer do you brew (mostly IPAs, Belgian-styles, Lagers, or a little bit of everything)?
- Who is your audience?
Who do you want (and not want) drinking your beer? If you define your ideal customer correctly, you may exclude some people. But that’s okay—your beer isn’t for everyone. (e.g. Will a budget beer buyer spend $20+ on a 4-pack of your latest hazy IPA?)
The people who will ardently support you and fall in love with your story won’t just buy your beer, they’ll become passionate evangelists, bringing family and friends to your brewery, bringing your beer to parties, and singing your praises on social media and in small group settings every chance they get.
- How are you different from your competition?
Different doesn’t necessarily have to mean better, but what makes you unique? Is there a story behind your brewery that sets you apart?
Positioning is important because people have limited bandwidth to remember brand names (name 10 shampoo brands, go!). So we generally remember 1 or 2 options for any given category and forget everything else. This is how our brains have evolved from hardened hunter-gatherers to current-day, overstimulated media sponges, accosted by several thousand ads each day. There’s just too much input (read: junk) coming our way to remember everything we see and hear.
The goal of any brand should be to position itself as one of these coveted spots in the consumer’s mind. If I need to grab a great lager I’ll swing by X brewery on my way home. My sister told me to bring some hard seltzer to the party, so I’ll grab Y.
Once you achieve that status, anything you do to detract from it, like release a new product (with different value props) under the same brand name, can dilute the very core brand positioning that you’ve worked so hard to own. And the more you extend your parent brand—X brewery, X hard seltzer, X canned cocktails— the weaker your core positioning becomes.
Is Bud Light a beer brand? Or is it a seltzer, hard tea, lemonade, margarita, cocktail and/or hard soda brand?
When launching an extension and wading through Brand Architecture decisions, your first concern should be to protect your parent brand’s equity and positioning.
There are two types of equity you need to consider when launching an extension:
- Brand Equity
Brand Equity is the total amount of goodwill your brand has with its customers. This is high-level stuff focused on your messaging, positioning, value props, core values, personality and key communication pillars. How do people talk about your brewery? What role do you play in your community?
Like the abstract nature of your brand itself, these connotations, associations and stories live inside your customers’ minds. These things inform your visual identity and packaging, but exist behind the scenes in a more conceptual sense.
- Visual Equity
Visual Equity are all the cues that, if lost through the course of 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 for years, unique packaging compositions, brand names, trade dress, custom typography and other iconography.
Now that we’re speaking the same language, let’s get back to Brand Architecture so we can map out your future releases.