Craft Beer Changes Lives: Thinking critically about your branding

tops of beer bottles during production

Craft Beer Changes Lives: Thinking critically about your branding

During a recent match in my Wednesday night golf league, I made a jokey remark to my playing partners that “craft beer changes lives.” We all had a chuckle, and then I corrected myself by saying, well, actually, over the last few years craft beer has been changing the drinking habits of many Americans and arguably, anything that changes our spending habits really does impact our lives in a substantial way.

If you’ve spent much time drinking recreationally with friends or family recently, you’ve probably noticed the overarching trend driving the ideas in this blog: it’s the rise of craft beer and spirits and the struggle of major legacy brands to keep up with the innovations that craft companies have been churning out.

Ultimately, regardless of what you are selling, you can learn a lot about branding yourself to stand out from some of the more successful tactics of craft beer and spirits companies. Below are a few key points that should get you thinking critically about your own branding.

First of all, this has nothing to do with “millennials.” It’s part of a wider cultural phenomenon that transcends age.

While some still can’t quite sever ties with their favorite legacy brands, much this same generation is finding pleasure in exploring what’s new and different in the world of adult beverages. One of the key things to keep in mind here is the fact that these “craft” companies actually do do things differently. They don’t simply brew beers that taste like the big domestics then dress them up in fancy labels. They brew European styles, beers with cocoa, coffee, cactus, wild yeast, and many other unusual ingredients that create unusual, unique, and tasty results. If you want to create real buzz, you need to make sure you aren’t simply repackaging the same old thing.

Like it or not, the things we spend our money on go a good way to defining the way we perceive ourselves.

We buy things that make us feel good. To me, that doesn’t mean that brands should strive to embody one quality over another, but that they should strive to be themselves wholeheartedly and to know which qualities define them as a company. While you can watch the big legacy brands embark on campaign after campaign, targeting whatever is relevant at the moment, you’ll see smaller brands maintain a simpler, but more consistent and authentic brand identity.

For example, the founders of local distillery Solider Valley are veterans and it has been part of the company’s mission to donate money to a charity that supports veterans for every bottle they sell. Similarly, a small craft brewery in Florida ran by “fishermen, surfers, and people that love the sea” recently made news for pioneering the use of six pack rings that, instead of being made of plastic that is often harmful to marine life, are made with 100% biodegradable and compostable waste from the beer making process. They did something that mattered to them, but they also found a way to stand out from the crowd.

You usually don’t get a second chance at a first impression so make sure you invest in your product’s first points of contact.

While the major brands held by massive multinationals can afford to do Super Bowl ads and hire models and athletes to represent their brand, the vast majority of us don’t have those luxuries of getting our brand in front of a massive audience whenever we feel like it. You need to do everything in your power to make sure your brand is making a good first impression where it matters most.

The first point of contact for a consumer with a beer they have never had is usually on the shelf at the store or on the tap handle at a bar. So we’re seeing lots of innovative packaging and impressive design work. Ever heard of the Belgian beer Delirium Tremens? If not, maybe you would recognize the distinctive pink elephants that adorn its packaging and promotional materials. A distinctive or bold tap handle (like Boulevard’s iconic red brick chimney) can also help make that purchasing decision easier for a customer.

If you’re a small craft brewer, this isn’t about “disrupting” the big boys. It’s about carving out a niche large enough for you to thrive.

It’s important to keep this in mind. With regard to the way we buy and sell products to each other, times are absolutely changing. But that doesn’t mean that the rivers are running backwards. The established legacy brands will continue to find ways to sell their product. What you can do is differentiate yourself from the start.

So, what defines your ethos? Where are the common first points of contact for your product? If it’s not on a liquor store or supermarket shelf like the products talked about here, it’s probably online. Whether that’s on social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, or on your brand’s website, you ought to be looking for ways to stand out at those first points of contact.

Here at KreativElement, we love to help you figure out the best ways to do that for your brand. Whether that’s through a new or redesigned website, an updated social media strategy, or a slew of original videos and written content, we’ll help you create a custom plan for telling your story at a price you will like. Have an idea you want to explore? Or just want to learn more about what we do? Get in touch with us, we’d love to chat.

Dylan likes a crisp, refreshing radler (grapefruit soda + lager) on a hot summer day. He is a writer at KreativElement.

photo credit: Bottling Saison via photopin (license)

Dylan Thaemert
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