Craft Beer Branding: 7 Ways to Share Your Story and Connect Customers to Your Brewery
The story of your brewery is a critical component of your identity. It’s the way you connect with your customers and explain what sets you apart.
One of the great aspects of craft beer branding is that you get to have fun with your narrative. After all, what’s the purpose of beer but to bring people together in celebration and enjoyment—quench thirst and foster a social, festive atmosphere. For marketers, craft beer branding is often an enjoyable, fun departure from the norm.
If you’re new to the whole concept of creating a brand for your brewery, there are many guides to help you. Once you have an overall idea of your brand (or at least the emotions you hope to evoke), where do you go? How do you use that brand to capture your story? And how do you brand your craft brews to match?
Your story is an inherent part of your identity, and you should weave it into your brand. From there, you should include aspects of your story in each brew you promote. The origin story of an individual beer will be different than your brewery’s background, but the two should complement each other. Customers should quickly know, “Oh, that’s a craft beer from X brewery!”
So how do you get from A to B? How do you take the concept of your brand and turn it into a compelling story? Here are 7 tips to help you craft your craft beer branding tale.
1. Identify Your Audience
If you don’t have a clear-cut picture of your target audience, then do not pass go, as they say. Hold up and take the time to identify and define your target audience. Now, for most craft breweries, it’s going to be “craft beer drinkers,” obviously, but you have to take it deeper.
If you’re in a college town, your target may include students. If you live in Northern Wisconsin, your audience may be tourists and vacationers from Chicago. If you live near a concert venue, your crowd might be heavy on the rock ‘n’ roll side. On the other hand, maybe you get a little bit of a country vibe from your crowd. Near the stadium? Sports fans might be your “brew crew.”
How do you determine and define your audience? Look at the demographics. Who attends your brewery tours? Who flocks to your trivia nights? Talk to patrons, find out a little more about them. Your location will play a factor, but so will many other aspects of your brewery. Once you’ve narrowed it down, give your target persona an identity. You may even want to create an avatar to get a full picture of who you’re serving.
2. Start at the Beginning
Now that you have your target persona defined, craft beer branding starts with a good story, and a good story starts at the beginning. Now, you don’t need to go back 8,000 years ago to the days of the first wild fermented ales (although that could be interesting). At the very least, start with the origin of your brewery and possibly your area’s history.
Create a timeline, looking at your building’s history, the people who work for your company, the local culture surrounding craft beer, and more. An exciting story can emerge from any of these facets of your unique history. Start by collecting as much information as possible and then winnow it down to the most critical factors.
As you try to do individual craft beer branding, follow a similar tack. Create a timeline for that beer and how it came to be. As you look at the story, exciting tidbits will start to develop.
3. Keep it Interesting
Every neighborhood has a story. Every business has a story. Every person has a story. Once you start to unlock those different narratives and weave them together, you will likely find many exciting things that fit into your craft brewery branding tale.
Maybe you’ll discover that bootleggers used your neighborhood to run booze during prohibition. Perhaps you’ll find that your area is home to people from Poland, or Sweden, or Puerto Rico. Incorporate those cultural facets into your tale as well. What is the cultural heritage of the area, and what is the cultural personality today?
Don’t be afraid to highlight unique stories of individuals within your business too. Are you woman-owned? Did a veteran co-found you? Was one of your brewers a roadie for Metallica in the 90s? All of these details can play a fascinating role in your origin saga.
4. But Keep it Simple
As you amass all these exciting details, avoid the temptation to keep it ALL. When you dive into your craft beer branding story, you may fall in love! There’s nothing wrong with that, but you can only say so much on a beer label (or your website’s “about” page).
Pare down the details several times as you start to give birth to your brand story. Many business owners find they have a lot to say (and it will be great fodder for your brewery tour)! But avoid the urge to pack in so many details that people get overwhelmed or bored.
Most patrons enjoy a juicy anecdotal tidbit or two as a chaser with their beer. Those details can be incorporated into your logo, your label, or your name. Remember, at the end of the day, people are there to drink and enjoy beer, so don’t stray too far from that foundation. Describe your beer—what makes it great, and why do people love it? Focus on your value proposition.
5. Show Your Values
Many studies have found that a sense of shared values is a significant driver for consumers. One study found that 71% of Millennials were likely to choose a brand because they supported a charity. Studies of younger generations show similar results. More and more, we’re becoming a value-driven society, meaning traditional marketing tactics may need to be adjusted.
The good news for craft breweries is that the hospitality industry is often very engaged in the surrounding community. Many brewery owners recognize the importance of giving back to the neighborhood, whether that means sponsoring local sports, supporting neighborhood events, or giving to nonprofits in the region.
If you’re charity-minded, be sure to highlight it as part of your brand story. You may want to avoid extremely polarizing viewpoints (unless that’s part of your brand), but don’t be afraid to explore what’s really meaningful to you and your people. Keep those shared-values front and center as part of your craft beer branding strategy.
6. Be REAL
Marketing used to be a lot of smoke and mirrors. Branding gurus helped businesses share messages that were anathema to their truth—almost comically the opposite of who they actually were. But these days, information is widely available for everyone with a simple search. It’s harder and harder to hide who you are.
Even if your brewery has faced challenges, you can learn to use those obstacles to your advantage. Maybe your founders put everything on the line to start your company. Could you become “Two Broke Dudes” brewing, or “Last Ditch Effort” beer?
It’s not about appearing to be an elite beer snob (unless that’s who you are), but instead holding to your identity. Keep it real, and people will connect with the message. After all, we’ve all faced challenges or happy accidents. Use these missteps to bring authenticity to your branding story.
7. Share Far and Wide
Once you’ve crafted a compelling craft beer branding story, share it everywhere! Most breweries know the critical importance of social media, a healthy website, and a robust online presence. Make sure your account is part of that online identity.
Most importantly, let customers participate in that story by offering shareable opportunities to keep them engaged. Create a selfie station on your brewery floor, make a hashtag that applies to your place, and encourages clientele to snap and share. Engage with local influencers and invite them to review and explore your beer.
Craft beer branding is all about conveying a message to make your beverage compelling, but the proof is in the pudding…or rather, in the beer. If you’re making a high-quality, delicious product and running a company that connects with the community, branding should be a great way to compliment that tasty brew.
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