Brand Strategy for Craft Brewers

Portrait of confident worker and owner standing amidst machinery at brewery

Brewing Up a Great Brand

A killer IPA and a strong stout are no longer the only prerequisites for a successful brewery. On average, 1.5 new breweries are opening per day, and the majority of Americans only live 10 miles from a local brewery.

Why will locals choose your brewery? One word: branding. A brand is more than a quirky beer name and a really radical logo. How do you think Budweiser pulled off renaming itself America for the summer of 2016? Budweiser has the brand equity to weather any confusion a name change engenders. Using the same font, colors, and brand marks, people still knew that America was the King of Beers.


What is a Brand?

A brand is one of those nebulous words lots of people say but not many can define. Your brand encompasses the cumulative thoughts and feelings people have about your beer, your culture, and the good (and bad) experiences associated with your brewery. Your brand helps people feel good about your brewery and make the decision to spend their money on your beer.

When it comes to your brand, it is important to understand that people often make decisions with emotions not logic.  Robert Brunner, the former director of industrial design at Apple and the Chief Design Officer of Beats Audio, shared his thoughts on brand, and stated “brand is a feeling.”

To elicit that strong feeling or emotion about your brand, don’t limit your thoughts on your brand only to visual design of your identity, packaging, responsive website, merchandise or brewery space.  Think about how your brand will connect with your customer in both the physical product you offer to the emotional kinship you want them to experience.

Brand Design for the Brewery Experience by the brand artists and Kudzu Brands

Brand Strategy

A brand strategy is a long term plan that details how your brand will be created and developed over time.  Additionally it helps define the audience you reach, their reaction to your products, and the expectations of how those feelings are manifested.  

A clearly defined brand is the foundation for your brand strategy because it dictates every major business decision. Your brand influences:

  • What story to tell
  • Where you will tell it
  • Why people will care
  • Who you will target
  • What products to develop
  • What prices to set
  • What font to use and so much more

Red Bull’s brand provides a great example of a successful brand strategy.  Red Bull created the energy drink market. Their slogan “Red Bull gives you wings” led them to align themselves with extreme sports, daredevils and an F1 racing team. They’re culture of adventure and target market (18-34 year old males) influenced Red Bull to partner with extreme sports athletes and create some fantastical YouTube videos.


Brewery Brand Strategies

So what does that mean for your brewery in Asheville? Craft beer drinkers are discerning consumers. Because they’re looking for an authentic experience, traditional push marketing tactics will not work. However, developing a clearly defined brand and creating a strategic brand strategy will help any small brewery find opportunities to connect with their audience. Here are some examples of Asheville breweries distinguishing themselves.

New Belgium

The story of New Belgium Brewery started when  “(A)n aspiring young homebrewer rides his mountain bike with ‘fat tires’ through European villages famous for beer, New Belgium Company was but a glimmer in his eye. Or basement. For Jeff Lebesch would return to Fort Collins with an imagination full of recipes and a handful of ingredients ready to embark on a whole new journey.”

This story and how it grew into today’s New Belgium Brewery is an exceptional example of brand strategy defining the brand culture to attract customers.  From the business name, logo, packaging, language, beer names, and events, consumers immediately connect with New Belgium’s values, delicious beers, beer culture, sustainable practices and the great outdoors.

In Asheville, New Belgium kept with the consumer culture they had established and built their east coast facility on a dilapidated brown site and invested in greenway development around the brewery.  Their commitment to creating a “high involvement culture” has solidified their market position not only in Asheville but throughout the country.


Burial Beer

For any successful endeavor, you need to have a great product. Burial Beer Company is no different (have you seen a donut stout before?) At Burial Beer, you can see how co-founder and CEO, Jess Reiser’s values have influenced the brand. Because Jess’s two professed passions are “art and beer,” they’ve devoted space in their taproom as an artist gallery. They focus on local and regional artists and appeal to beer lovers that also appreciate fine local art.


Habitat Brewery

Design and print by the artists at Kudzu Brands

Habitat Brewing Company is a relative new entry into a crowded beer market here in Asheville. After opening in the fall of 2016, they quickly positioned themselves as a communal “habitat” bar scene and reinforced this strategy by offering half of their space to the community to be used for workshops, acoustical music sets, and pop-up art displays.  They have even forged a relationship with UNC Asheville to offer a monthly “Pints with Professors.”  


How to Leverage Your Brand Strategy

The Asheville beer scene is crowded and you need more than a killer IPA to get attention. Where does your brand overlap with your audiences’ interests? By leveraging the combination of brand

strategy and your audience’s interests, your brewery can start to build brand allegiance and ultimately create following, new recruits and additional mindshare in a saturated market.


Sanctuary Brewery co-owners care about beer and animals. They have partnered with Blue Ridge Humane Society to offer pet events and adoptions throughout the week.   From yoga with cats on Saturday, a weekly adoption event, a monthly “pup” crawl, and hosting their own Puppy Bowl on Super Bowl Sunday, Sanctuary Brewery has developed a brand strategy that not only speaks to their passions but appeals to an audience that also cares about those things.

Brand design by the team at Kudzu Brands

How to Find Your Brand

New Belgium Company provides a great example of finding a brand. They defined what was important to them as a company and aligned it with an audience with the same interests. A small brewery should not incorporate bicycles, hiking, or pet adoptions if it isn’t important to the business. People will see through false causes. A brand tells your unique story. If you need help, start by asking these questions:

  1. Why do you do what you do?
  2. What are your values and what’s important to you?
  3. How did you get where you are today and where do you want to go?
  4. What do you do that other’s don’t?
  5. Who’s your ideal customer?

After you answer these questions, align your brand and brand strategy to attracting this type of customer to you.   

Kudzu Brands works with companies, large and small, to help define their voice, their brand, and their strategy. Give us a call or schedule a meeting with our brand managers.  We want to see your brand grow! Just for scheduling a consult, we will give you $250 towards any brand design, web design or management package! Schedule here.