How To Brand Craft Beer In A Cluttered Market

How To Brand Craft Beer In A Cluttered Market
November 8, 2016 John McCallum

How To Brand Craft Beer In A Cluttered Market

The CEO of Molson Coors, Mark Hunter, commented this week that he felt there is an “oversupply of flavours and SKUs… both retailers and consumers are trying to make sense of the plethora of choice” in the beer market. Now, the words ‘he would say that, wouldn’t he’ spring to mind but he’s not alone in noticing that the beer market has become crowded. Earlier this year I read Mike Benner, the managing director of the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), urge the hotel market to embrace craft beers and brewers. He rightly pointed out this was a potential new market for his members, mainly because the existing bar and retail market is already well supplied. SIBA have over 825 members currently and the Guardian reported that there are over 1,700 breweries in the UK today.

With this rise in number the ability to stand out becomes more difficult, shelf space is harder to come by and sales even more competitive. So how can independent craft brewers brand themselves so they stand out from the crowd?

  1. Location – this is the most obvious and the easiest branding message, but it won’t work for everyone. Put simply if there is something unique or interesting about your location then use it in your branding. Remote island, top of a mountain, unusual building in city; use it. Be aware it doesn’t work for everyone, some places just aren’t that interesting to the rest of the country.
  2. Design – You know how they say never judge a book by its cover, well everyone does. At least at first they do. If you can make your product eye-catching through a label design or bottle shape or a combination of both it will be noticed. I visited the famous Eataly store in New York recently just to check out the incredible array of packaging they stock. Whether it was olive oil, pasta or beer their range is stunning. But when faced with such choice you need to do something to stand out. Baladin, an Italian beer, have tall dark bottles with small neck labels and almost medieval typefaces that were really eye-catching on the shelf. Transmitter Brewing had tall black bottles sealed with corks, the kind you’d expect to see on a champagne bottle. Their labels are copy heavy yet striking and managed to dominate the space they were in. Both styles also looked premium, which brings us on to…
  3. Price – Be the most expensive or be the cheapest. Using price as a branding mechanism is a tried and tested method. Most people want to be premium but don’t discount being super-value, many a fortune has been made through volume sales. The thing is it gives you a point of difference. If you’re 50% more than the other brands you’ll stand out. You’ll undoubtedly sell less but you’ll sell some and that might be enough on your bigger margin. Likewise, if you are cheaper than the competition you’ll catch the eye. For years we worked with Glen’s Vodka, who became the biggest vodka brand in the UK off-trade, through a combination of price and quality. Consumers preferred to purchase a ‘known brand’ over a similar priced supermarket own brand.
  4. Specialise – make one thing and make it better than anyone else. Being known for producing one thing very, very well is perfect for a brand. It worked out okay for Guinness. The trick is figuring out what that one thing is. Another client of ours, Tunnocks, used to make all sorts of bakery products. But eventually they chose to specialise in biscuits and the rest is history. We blogged a few months ago about breweries producing vegetarian and vegan approved beer and this is a perfect example of specialism. Find your niche and dominate it.

These are just some ideas, but be aware that none of them will work if the product isn’t any good! Whatever branding you choose, you need to make sure the product meets the consumer’s expectations too.

If you’d like to chat with us about branding, or anything else for that matter, please feel free to get in touch.

Transmitter Brewing bottles

Transmitter Brewing


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