Rebranding a Brewery

Rebranding a brewery is no small thing. Rebranding projects typically have significant scopes, timelines, and associated costs. They can be driven by reasons that range from a change in ownership or management, the decision to expand into new markets or packaging formats, or a change in the brewery’s focus. Perhaps the current brand just isn’t performing very well. Maybe it’s become fragmented, stale, or invisible in the current madness of the retail environment. 

As a design firm that’s focused on the beer industry we’ve seen - and participated in - a number of brewery rebrands over the years… some more successful than others. Whatever the impetus for your rebrand, here are some helpful tips when considering rebranding your brewery.


Do's:

  • Re-evaluate your positioning and core values before embarking on a rebrand. Life as a brewery becomes easier when you have strong positioning.

  • Work with your designer to assess your existing brand assets and what they're worth before diving into any new design work.

  • Strongly consider evolving your brand rather than drastically rebranding; continuity can be very beneficial.

  • Think through your product naming and product tiering. Think beyond the scope of the rebrand. What happens after the rebrand is complete? How will the new brand flex to accommodate what comes next?

  • Use rebranding as an opportunity to unify a fragmented brand.

  • Use rebranding to try to stand out from your competition. Whether it’s creating a new brewery brand or rebranding an existing one, some breweries don’t seem to care about standing out.

  • Be authentic, don’t try to be something you’re not. Craft beer drinkers can smell it a mile away.

  • Ensure all elements of your rebrand work well together. (Logo, typography, illustration, packaging, etc.)

  • Coordinate the launch: as many newly branded elements as possible should launch at the same time; don’t keep the old stuff around any longer than absolutely necessary.

Don't’s:

  • Alienate your base customers by making too drastic of a change. Do you really need a brand overhaul or would an elevation be a better tactic?

  • Re-name well-known beers without a profound reason.

  • Rebrand in a management vacuum - you run the risk of the rebrand alienating your team. Don’t involve your team in every single aspect of the design process, but make sure they can get behind the change. If they can’t, brand consistency will degrade over time.

  • Hire a designer or design firm who’s never rebranded a brewery. You don’t want someone who values making a name for themselves in the exciting world of beer branding more than they value working collaboratively to achieve a final outcome that is best for your brewery.

  • Half-ass it by only redesigning some of your SKUs and letting other SKUs (or other branded elements) stick around too long.

Bowen Island Brewing  saw a 25% bump in sales due to their new branding and packaging.  Photo by  Sean Fenzl .

Bowen Island Brewing saw a 25% bump in sales due to their new branding and packaging.

Photo by Sean Fenzl.

We’ve had brewery clients experience a 25% increase in sales after launching a rebrand. 20-30% increases seem to be typical for well-executed rebrands. But the stakes can be higher than just increases in sales. One prominent brewery in BC recently experienced a 30% drop in sales due to a botched rebranding effort. With that much on the line you should be aware of some common pitfalls that breweries should watch out for.

Common Pitfalls of Rebranding:

  • Not being willing to let go of legacy brand elements:

    • You have to "Marie Kondo" your brand elements… does your logo spark joy?

  • Evaluate your brand elements rationally and eliminate the ones that no longer work

  • Getting caught up in design trends unnecessarily:

    • Design trends have short lifespans these days. Maybe that fits with your goals for a certain SKU, but does it fit with your overall goals for the brewery?

    • Be wary of branding or packaging design that gives a short-term bump in sales because they’re very trendy and then tapers off. Don’t expect a really trendy design to perform well over a long period of time.

  • Trying to incorporate too many ideas into a rebrand:

    • You can’t be everything to every one

    • The best brands are built on relatively streamlined concepts

  • Making pennywise decisions when it comes to implementation:

    • Don’t spend tens (or hundreds) of thousands on a new brand and then not spend a few hundred dollars to update your delivery van’s graphics with the new brand

The rebranding we did for Driftwood Brewing kept their existing logo and some of their beer names while changing their label designs quite drastically.  Photo by  Sean Fenzl .

The rebranding we did for Driftwood Brewing kept their existing logo and some of their beer names while changing their label designs quite drastically.

Photo by Sean Fenzl.


So where should you start?


If you’re considering rebranding but are unsure where to start, we always recommend starting with the “why.” Don’t just dive into a rebrand because it feels like you should, or because it’s "probably time." Once you’re clear on the “why” you can start working on the component of your brand. (And the order is important here - don’t swap things around!)

  1. Positioning: What does your brewery stand for, and why?

  2. Personality: If your brewery was a person, what would be some of its personality traits? Which ones could you use to effectively differentiate yourself from your competitors?

  3. The brewery name, (if it’s changing): Brewery name changes are fairly uncommon, at least here in BC. Of the 170+ breweries currently operating in the province we could only find a dozen that have changed their names.

  4. The brewery logo: Should you refresh it, or completely redesign it? Think long and hard about this; you might not need a complete redesign.

  5. Your overall visual identity, including your packaging

Mill Street Brewing ’s Rebranded Core Beers.  Photo by  Sean Fenzl .

Mill Street Brewing’s Rebranded Core Beers.

Photo by Sean Fenzl.

We like to think of your brewery’s brand as your promise to your customers. It tells them what to expect from your products and (ideally) it differentiates your offerings from those of your competition. A carefully considered and well-executed rebrand can have a huge positive effect on the success of your brewery. It can also be an enjoyable process of finally fixing those aspects of your brand that have been bugging you for years and realizing the aspirations you hold for your brand. Just be sure to go into it knowing that it’ll be a considerable amount of work and will require clear thinking, objectivity, and a solid creative partner to execute your vision.

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This article first appeared in the April 2019 edition of Brewers Journal Canada.