My Mother Never Told Me About Brands

February 13, 2018


Mom, you did so many things right raising us. You fed us, you clothed us, and you took care of all the cuts, scratches, bruises, and illnesses of our childhood. You helped us learn to talk, walk, and read and write.

But Mom, you didn’t think much — or know much — about brands. In the early pioneer years of consumerism, Mom just tried to get the best quality products she could, given her budget.  It’s the value of the goods or service. And moms are good at understanding value. And I am willing to bet that your mom knew the valuable brands and the not-so-valuable brands.

Today, we understand that everything your customers see, smell, touch, hear, or taste influences the perception of your brand. The perception of the brand is the reality of the brand. This starts before a customer sets foot in your place. From your website, to your glassware, to your graphic images, to the names of your beers, to your gear, to your wait staff, to the cleanliness of the restrooms, and of course the taste of the craft brew — all of these factors drive your brand. For those that brew to distribute to wholesalers or retailers, brand doesn’t end until the product is consumed — often much later.


Brands naturally start with the name of the microbrewery or brewpub. Many craft brewers have terrific names that are memorable and full of imagery that can be harvested for effective brand messaging. Many of the names reflect the philosophy or culture the brewer is espousing (see: Dead Hippie Brewing, Bootstrap Brewing, Many Rivers Brewing, LoCo Brewing, etc.

Your goal: Getting your customers to value your overall brand — and all your associated or subsidiary brands.  

Consider the great brands of today. What do you think of when you see their logos or hear of them? Starbucks, Nike, Harley-Davidson, Ritz-Carlton. Great brands beget great companies that beget many other great things. You also can think about the “challenged” brands of today: Sears, Blackberry, Takata airbags, and Oldsmobile. If you have a “challenged” brand, well … don’t worry; you won’t be around very long.

The “big boy” brewers have hundreds of really smart people working solely on product and company branding. They know brand effectiveness means big dollars. But that doesn’t mean you can’t compete. In fact, you’re a great competitor from the outset, because you have something they don’t: the ability to use your small batch, locally inspired craft beer as leverage in the branding game.

Here’s an example of how: Because genetic testing shows you are 1/128 Native American, you select the name “Last of the Mohicans” brewery. You could conjure up all sorts of graphic images and clever names for the individual brews that would be consistent with name brand.  You could have an iconic image of a lone indian brave as your overall brand. You could have Peace Pipe Pilsner, Arrow Amber Ale, Medicine Man Milk Stout, and Firewater IPA, just to name a few. Create a great graphic for each beer to generate future branding and gear opportunities.

Of course, a lot of indian and southwestern-style decor in the taproom would help with the brand consistency. The wait staff could wear moccasins, feather headdresses, buffalo heads and, of course, logo gear — you get the idea. People should be able to glance at an individual beer’s brand image and name, then quickly associate them with that microbrewery brand.

In a nutshell: Your brand should reflect your voice, the community, and the culture of the microbrewery.

  • Brand integrity: Holistically preserving the quality of the brand in every instance (including the brew).
  • Brand consistency: Naming and graphic styles that are consistent with the overall brand and subsidiaries.
  • Brand voice: What you are saying to customers and how you say it.
  • Brand copy and graphics: Verbiage and images working in synergy.

So, Mom, despite the brand paucity, thanks for everything. I’m raising my full glass of great beer (magna dolor) to you!

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