You’ve made the wild, wonderful decision to create your own line of beer or spirits. Congrats! Now what’s next? How do you make your brand stand out in a world of creative, colourful labels and brands with cool, unique names? Well, just be yourself - just the coolest, most outgoing, most attractive version of yourself, simple, right?
While this advice, often echoed ad infinitum in some form to 90’s tv protagonists seeking to endear themselves to their crush, may seem silly, in reality, like them, you too will realize how important it is to be yourself.
A brand, at its core, is simply a representation of you and should tell potential customers what you stand for. And you do need to stand for something. What makes you and your vision different? Don't be afraid to have opinions and share them, to speak to a specific audience and perhaps even alienate some other people (don’t go out of your way to do it, but don’t be afraid to stand for something).
The reality is, your brand doesn't need to be for everyone. It just needs to be right for a big enough group of ‘someones’. Do you use only locally sourced ingredients? Are you focusing on eco-sustainability? Are you offering a unique flavour profile? Are you trying to celebrate your location? Do you brew in a cool old shed? Consider highlighting these unique attributes and others. Before working on a fancy label, website, and social profiles (all of which have their importance), you need to identify who you are before telling the world who you are.
Once you’ve identified the foundation for your brand, it’s time to pick out a great name. This process can seem overwhelming, but it can be as simple as the result of a good brainstorming session. The right name will be evocative of your brand, not already in use, and on the more technical side of things, available as a purchasable domain name that’s easily searchable.
The Highlander Rule
Quick note, I may be a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer.
Go to the US Patent and Trademark Office's Trademark Electronic Search System and do a search for your proposed names. If your name comes up in the search and it's in use by another beverage company, you may well be out of luck if you're a brewer, distiller, winery, or other beverage maker. Generally speaking, there can be only one across all of the beverage category. This is a quick and dirty rule; consult your lawyer before you get too far down the road with a name, but I'd go back to the drawing board and avoid the potential of getting a "cease and desist letter" down the road.
Once you've identified your name and domain, it’s time to pick out your visual branding. This is a big deal. Having worked on both the consumer and supplier sides of the business, I can tell you that a good-looking bottle or can design goes a long way towards getting folks interested in your brand. Do not skimp on this process, both in terms of recruiting a competent designer or the amount of time you invest in conveying your brand story. The advice is the same as before; the designer must clearly understand you and your vision before they’re able to tell the story.
The central theme is getting involved and conveying your love for the product authentically and transparently. This is your brand, and you’ll be spending a lot of time with it, so enjoy the process.
Once you have your name and branding, you have a foundation upon which to build your budding empire. Now it's time to take that brand and turn it into a plan.
One big moment in the life of a brand is when you take it into the wild and start sharing it with friends, family and then...strangers! It can be both enthralling and terrifying, but it's a moment that must come. Now, brand building is inextricably tied to selling, and you absolutely must do both, but a lot of people confuse the two and knowing which one you're doing is critical to measuring success.
A quick checklist of some brand assets you'll want to have on hand as you make the transition from planning to selling includes:
We mentioned this above, but don't finalise your name until you have a web domain in mind and locked down. As for designing a website, it's easy to spend an eternity working on this, but we recommend, start simple. One beautiful page with very little information is better than 10 pages poorly done. You can always do more.
You'll want an email address that ends with @yourcompany.com. It's not expensive, and some domain hosts will even include email hosting for free (referral link to www.gandi.net for discount). Alternatively, I'd recommend Google Workspace (referral link with discount), which comes with their other goodies for a couple of bucks a month. As for email signatures, it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. Here's a link to a lifetime subscription to make email signatures for $9.
You may not need these on day one, but get the name reserved, so it's yours. Again, start simple. Do more over time, but don't get caught up spending all your time here unless it's core to your growth strategy.
One or more page document that highlights what your product(s) is all about. Again, it doesn't have to be super complex to get started. Just Google "Beer sales sheet example" for an example. Have it on your phone, and you can send it to people electronically. As you're out prospecting and selling, you'll get a lot of people say, "send me something". Don't be discouraged by what feels like a "no". It's actually an excuse to get a phone number or an email or both, and that's an opening.
I believe these are still valuable collateral, and you don't need to spend a bomb on them. I like to include a QR code on mine (thanks, pandemic for driving QR adoption) and hand them out with reckless disregard (sorry trees, I swear I'm an environmentalist at heart, and I pick the recycled paper).
Now that you have the essentials, you're ready to get out into the world and start building your brand. The last thing you need to nail is your "elevator pitch". We all get asked, "What do you do?" or you're probably not even waiting for them to ask if you're out selling. Think about the essential aspects of your brand and product, what sets you apart from the competition, and what you want someone to remember if they only remember one thing.
Lastly, if this is your company that you're building...remember that you are the brand. Full-stop. Your first customers are going to be buying you as much as anything else. You never get a second chance at a first impression, both for your brand and yourself, make it count!
With your brand well defined, the next step is to get your brand out the door and help it establish some traction. Follow along with us as we share more next issue on how to translate your brand from defined concept to refined product.