Designing a brand - it’s what’s on the inside that counts
The word ‘brand’ comes from the Dutch meaning ‘to burn’, as they would burn the company initials into their products before trading. Branding sure has evolved a lot since then, and although it is technically an ‘intangible asset’ many companies these days hold their branding as their most valuable asset.
Thankfully, more craft breweries are beginning to understand this as the marketplace grows increasingly crowded. As a designer that specialises in craft beer branding, to me this is a relief. But still I do find myself in conversations with brewers where they cry ‘It should be enough to just make terrific beer!’, and yes it should be, but it’s 2017 and the market is booming. It’s definitely not enough. Nor is it enough to point at a trendy design and say in a Little Britian accent ‘I want that one’. A brand should be your own unique story, one that you can continue to tell once that trendy design is outdated and un-cool.
The goal in my business is to create brands for craft beer, that do indeed become one of the most valuable assets for that company. Going about doing that, however, involves a lot more than colours and fonts. We have to get deep, man.
Being raised by my Dad, who ran a business for 30 years in corporate team and leadership training, I have been raised knowing the value of, well, values. And vision, and teams, and communication. Before even putting pen to paper, we must get to know the business we are branding. This means knowing who they are, what the stand for, why they do what they do and where they are going. More often than not, clients aren’t prepared for these questions, so we make it our business finding out. These conversations are perhaps the most integral part of ensuring a successful brand.
Target market seems an obvious next step, but for many people in the beer industry, it is not. Beer is such an integrated part of our society, we want everyone to buy it, so marketing to everyone seems to make sense? Nope. If you try to target everyone, you target no one (that’s missing the point of a target, literally). We can also identify gaps in the general market that businesses are not currently targeting, opening up new opportunities. So defining a target market is crucial, right down to their occupation, age and interests. That way the brand will be designed for a specific customer, not just the owner’s personal taste (although clients are a lot happier when you can achieve both!).
Next we need to explore the client’s story. Everyone has lived a different life, unique in its own way. A story is something than the customer can identify as different about your product, and they should be able to relate to it as well. Everyone has their own story to tell, and that’s what we set about to find. What makes the brewery unique to it’s competition? Who are the characters? What are their interests? What genre of story is it? The challenge here is to extract a compelling story that aligns with the company values and the culture, while also enticing the target audience.
But when do we get to make things look pretty?! Soon I promise. But before we do, we need to consider the unique requirements that craft breweries have. The logo design is up first and foremost, with everything else a trickle down from this. Good logos represent a business’s values, culture, approach and vision. Yes, all that within that little mark. It is favorable in the beer world if the breweries name is nice and short too, easier to fit on a label!
Label design comes with its own set of challenges, which I actually love taking on. There is only so much room on a label, and only so much time a potential customer will look at it for before averting their eyes. The customer needs to know who brews it, what style of beer it is, and if it resonates with them. Then there is differentiating the ‘core range’ to the ‘seasonals’ to the ‘collaborations’ to the ‘special releases’, while also looking like they are from the same family, under the one brand. Phew. Designing a flexible template is key here, one where certain elements stay put, maintaining a consistent look and feel.
And now, finally after all that, we can get down to creating some good design. Good design, comes from good ideas. Any mofo with Photoshop can do a tutorial and copy a trendy design and claim it as their own. But if there is no original idea behind it, it just blends in with all the other noise. At the end of the day, successful branding design for your business is about being true to yourself. Looking inward and communicating that truth on the outside. Sometimes that can be confronting, but it’s worth it in the end. A brand that is genuine stands out, it makes people want to get behind it, because it means something. It’s powerful stuff, that you can’t necessarily measure in numbers, just like love.