Vanity or Sanity – where does your brand sit?
It seems that everyone in the brewing industry is chasing both volume and added value – is this an oxymoron in business terms? Many brewers are expanding their capacity and at the same time premium is still the Holy Grail. Whereas, the reality appears to be that the retailers are calling the shots and discounting is rife. Positioning your brand to be fit for your target market has become even more important.
In the past ten years there has probably been more change across the brewing industry than the previous 100 years. This has included a significant cultural change with beer becoming even more inclusive. So, in an ever more crowded category with a widening demographic, it’s the brands that know their place in the market and market to the right places that will win through.
It’s all about understanding your value proposition and giving the customer a reason to believe – building a fan base that buys into your beer philosophy. This needs to be supported by a beer portfolio that suits both your brand and your target market. For example, just because flavoured beer ‘is of the month’, doesn’t necessarily mean you should follow suit, you need to be credible and not just a ‘me too’. Remember, as consumers we like choice and think we are independent, whilst in reality we are tribal and favour the familiar. Whilst drinkers are happy to experiment, they tend to return to what they know and like.
Where is the future growth? It appears that 80 percent of brewers are focusing on craft and premium (less than 20% of the market). For those who are looking for volume the standard/ session beer category is still to play for. Whilst at the other end of the scale, there is still growth in the super premium, special edition beers category and larger format packaged beers. Both need careful strategic consideration, in terms of the beers you brew and the branding that supports them.
Whether it’s fame or fortune, or both, whatever your proposition and positioning, your brand needs to be fit for market – strategy and planning is key.
Is today’s flavour of the month, tomorrow’s favourite beer?
Last year seemed to be the year of flavoured beers and all the leading beer festivals were majoring on them. Cloudwater’s Mango Fruit Sour being the most outstanding I found on the market. It looked like real mango juice and tasted like mango juice – it beats your average breakfast fruit juice drink, at 6.5% ABV…
The inventiveness of brewers in their pursuit of the next big thing seems to be limitless, from mango beer to lemon meringue ice cream pie (Buxton Brewery’s 6.0%), it’s surprising Heston Blumenthal hasn’t got in on the act. Like cooking, the quality of the ingredients is important, but not as important as the quality of the chef – so too with beer, it’s the skill of the brewer that will ensure the success of the brewery.
It’s great that all this experimentation and invention is happening in the world of brewing – it helps ensure that beer remains current and topical in our ‘Fast-Moving Consumer Generations.’ However, this has resulted in the retail and bar landscape becoming increasingly complicated and confusing. Whilst it is ea sy to focus on and emulate the ‘rock star’ brewers, innovation is important to create noise around your brand – the likes of Brewdog (those ‘bad boys’ of brewing) have proven it is the balanced, quality beers that deliver volume sales.
The challenge is to ensure your brand is relevant – relevant to the beers that you brew and relevant to the market that drinks it.
Is your brand equipped for the future?
The brewing equipment suppliers must be thinking every day is Christmas – Brewers everywhere appear to be expanding, whilst more-and-more start-ups are entering the market.
Over the years I’ve noticed that the brewing sector seems to act at one and the same time, and in the last decade it’s become an even more reactive industry – one brewer starts a trend and before you know it everyone else appears to be doing the same. Reactive might be good in certain circumstances, however proactive is better. For brand planning you need to be thinking up to three years ahead and mapping your journey accordingly. The aim is to be predictive and one step ahead of the game. Sometimes it is better to ‘zag’ when everyone else is ‘zigging’.
Your brand strategy can help to future proof your business by building around the key strategic deliverables:
Product – Ensure your beers are fit for market – flavoured beers are currently trending,
how relevant is this to your operation and what of future trends?
Price – it’s never been a better time to be in brewing, pricing has become premium and beer has a much wider reach (young and old, male and female, rich and poor) – you need to be clear about where your brand is positioned.
Place – where are the easy wins and what are your stand-out qualities.
Promotion – understanding your routes to market and planning around the most effective media channels and platforms are key to achieving best return on investment.
To succeed in tomorrow’s market you should start planning today and you need a brand and value proposition that engages your target market. Might sound simple in theory, but believe you me, it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears – get it right and it will keep you well equipped for the future.
Turbulence in the market
The British beer market is going through a state of flux. We are probably heading for an oversupply and there are also signs of ‘craft’ fatigue amongst consumers. The ‘craft’ revolution has changed many people’s approach to beer, for the better, and there are still growth opportunities in key markets, however, it’s getting very crowded out there and brewers are having to think smarter.
The large brewers are realigning their strategies, volume is no longer king, for them, thinking macro acting micro seems to be the order of the day, as variety and provenance have become key drivers for the consumer. Whilst the established micro-brewers are having to push for growth, it has become very busy in the middle ground and expansion seems to be the prevailing option. Even nano-brewers are sharing some of the pain, there will always be a steady demand for local, as long as it is quality, but the ease of setting up a brewery is attracting more and more new start-ups.
In market conditions like these, brewers need to sharpen their focus and act smarter – whilst quality is key, price (one of the big four Ps of marketing) is becoming increasingly critical. To survive and flourish, brewers need to be clear about their brand positioning and value proposition – and invest in innovation to support growth. Innovation is not simply about following the trend, although there will always be a place for the ‘rock star’ brewers (such as Beavertown, Cloudwater and Magic Rock, to name but a few…) – you need to think about your unique place in the market and the spaces where there are still growth opportunities.
The sector has premiumised and fragmented at the same time, we are probably due a market correction and consolidation. Both value ‘craft’ and super-premium are two areas that will possibly see a lot more focus over the next twelve months. Brand building has never been more important to those who want to survive and thrive.
How to be relevant to create bar presence
The USA craft brewers have grown from 100 to over 5,500 breweries in 36 years and more significantly, there are another 2,700 in the pipeline. This growth has not exactly matched that of Silicon Valley, however, it has had a pretty good go at it (Moore’s Law comes to mind) – no wonder the computer group that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak first pitched to was called the Homebrew Computer Club…
Why is this relevant? As we know, the ‘beer revolution’ originated in the States and like our weather systems, what happens over there has a tendency to come this way. There are over 2,000 brewers in the UK and there is probably a significant number of new brewers in the cylinder here too. For brewers both sides of the Atlantic, the big issue going forward will be maintaining equity. For Silicon Valley, semiconductors have probably reduced in price at a similar rate as the volumes have increased. Whilst, in the craft beer sector, retail prices have held, or even increased.
As the market matures, competition for a place on the bar is increasing. We have been doing a lot of trade insight research recently and the general consensus is that there is too much confusion and too much choice – all but the mega brands are struggling to get traction. Building brand equity is key – both in terms of adding value and creating a strong consumer fan base.
For the smaller microbrewer, the opportunity is to focus on provenance, to capitalise on the consumer trend to buy local – even one of my American brewer friends was lamenting the fact that drinkers prefer to buy local brewed beers, when his beers are better quality. However, the mid-sized brewers will increasingly feel the squeeze (the larger brewers have economies of scale to play with) and to survive and grow over the forthcoming years, they need to ensure that they are relevant – to both their market and their brand.
In today’s crowded bar landscape, you need to understand your value proposition and invest in brand differentiation. Your brand needs to be all about being recognised and standing out from the crowd – not being a ‘me too’.
Cask or Keg? – the choice is yours
The brewing industry is notoriously fickle and everyone seems to jump onto the ‘next big thing’ at the same time. Ten years ago, ‘craft’ was an anomaly, now everyone is adopting the mantle; earlier this decade brewers wanted to be in bottle, this year everyone is chasing cans…
So where does cask sit in relation to the craft-keg phenomena? It has a shorter ‘shelf life’ than keg, requires more cellarmanship and yet is generally less expensive per pint… According to Cloudwater keg is the new king. However, if you listen to the Americans, who first brought us ‘Craft’ beer, cask is becoming a bit of a big thing, albeit from a very small base – in the past the USA market has been almost totally keg. Whilst they have more of a challenge over storage, dispense and temperature, cask is steadily growing in popularity with the American craft brewers.
So, for the UK market, will cask fight back against the recent keg phenomena? You can bet your dollar it will, and with the right presentation and marketing it can build on its true ‘craft’ credentials. So don’t give up on cask, there is still life in it yet – just manage your product quality throughout the supply chain and invest in branding that will ensure it is fit for the new and exciting beer market.
After the brewing boom of the last decade, the key challenge, going forward, will be to build equity and maintain a premium positioning – for both your cask and keg brands alike.
Can cans make difference?
Unless you have just returned from a trip to Mars, you have probably noticed that there has been a proliferation of cans across the brewing industry. Cans have long been a stalwart of the USA craft beer fraternity, fitting perfectly with the outdoorsy and easy going lifestyle. According to Oscar Blues, who were one of the originators of the craft-beer-in-a-can craze: ‘Cans keep beer fresher, longer by eliminating the damaging effects of light and ingressed oxygen while being infinitely recyclable and portable…taking them where your next soul saving adventure takes you’. All good, except for the current concerns of the State of California about BPAs (Bisphenol A)…
In the UK, the 330ml can is fast becoming craft beers packaging of choice and has moved into the premium category – much to the stunned shock and amazement of some of my ale drinking buddies who fondly recall buying a four pack of John Smiths for less than the price of a can of craft beer… Cans have become uber acceptable across the on-trade including all the fashionable restaurants and bars and it now appears that the multiple grocers have finally woken up and smelt the hops too… Supermarkets are creating separate craft beer categories (in contrast to all those 500ml brown ale bottles) and are buying into cans big time.
For the brewers, cans are a great new opportunity to extend their reach and offer an excellent canvas for your brand. However, everyone seems to be leaping onto the bandwagon without properly considering the medium or the message. The paper labels used by mobile canners are a fantastic opportunity to create premium cues around your brand – whilst, for those fortunate enough to command larger volumes, the technical requirements of printing directly onto the can are quite challenging.
The flag bearers for the can tend to be Beavertown, Brew Dog and Brooklyn (all the B’s) however we are now starting to see an array of choice on the shelves, from brewers large and small. Premiumisation is key and brand integrity too – be a brand with meaning, not a me-too.
Can cans make the difference? Yes they can, as long as you treat them with respect.
Brand thinking in a mixed up marketing world
We live in a mixed up marketing world with an array of channels and platforms at our disposal to help you sell your beer – online and offline, on-trade and off-trade…
Brewing great beer is a critical success factor, however, with approximately 2,000 brewers in the UK alone, and a lot of imports too, quality of beer is a standard expectation and is not a key differentiator. Or to put it another way, in blind tastings your average drinker will probably at best, distinguish between styles of beer, but not the brewers that crafted them; however, those drinkers should always recognise your brand.
Marketing is all about engaging and motivating your customers to buy your product (beer), or is it…? Beer is a category (and to some marketeers, it’s simply a ‘liquid’…) a product is a commodity and customer is a generic term. Today’s beer market is all about passion, provenance, individuality and belief – it’s about creating fans who believe in you and trust you to deliver on your promises. That’s where your brand comes in – it should embody everything about the brewery – its people and its beers represent to the market.
What is a brand anyway, to the many it is simply a logo that gets stuck onto anything and everything the company owns without due consideration for the qualities it stands for, or the place it occupies. To the few, it is their most valuable asset, to be nurtured and cherished, and be worn with pride.
Get your essential brand assets right and everything else that follows will make sense, it is the beacon that will align your marketing channels, build long term relationships and engage your customers. Your brand should be recognisable even when your logo is not visible. Getting your brand right requires both art and craftsmanship, combined with a clear idea of what your brand stands for, its position in the market and the reason to believe in it.
Your brand should engage, inform, and communicate its value proposition. It acts as the point of reference:
– Creates a sense of place wherever it is seen.
– Helps justify and sustain its price positioning.
– What makes your product unique and the qualities it stands for.
– Integrates the different promotion channels to maximise return on investment.
The indicators are that the market could get tougher this year, time for the tough to get marketing…
Interesting brewing fact: it was a beer that became the first registered trademark in the UK. The famous red triangle and Bass logo script was filed on January 1, 1876. A perfect example of how a brand can stand the test of time – as with most iconic brands, less is more…
Have British Supermarkets finally woken up and smelt the hops…
From Walmart, to Trader Joe’s, to Wholefoods, American supermarkets have been featuring craft beer as a key feature in their customer experience for the past few years. If you are lucky, you can even find a bar in your local Wholefoods supermarket, serving craft beer on draught…
Why has it taken UK retailers so long to discover craft beer? The revolution has come and gone, yet we are only just starting to see more definitive category planning. Will 2017 see the ‘supermarket sweep’ for craft? Almost certainly, yes.
M&S, Waitrose, Booths and Morrisons are already filling their shelves with craft and speciality beers, whilst according to The Grocer, ‘Tesco has expanded its craft beer portfolio available in its express stores from two to more than 30 different brews.’ Tesco says it had seen its craft beer portfolio rocket 130% in the past year. However, there is still work to be done to help the consumer understand and navigate the category.
So what are the learnings for brewers? The traditional ale category, with its 500ml brown bottles, is already well defined. Craft is defining itself through smaller bottle formats and cans, maybe it will also follow the American lead of 750ml sharing bottles. Differentiation is key, both by category and brand – understanding your value proposition and having a great story to tell are key factors, so too is looking outstanding on shelf.
When it comes to the FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) sector your brand design can give better ROI than even an above-the-line ad campaign. So invest wisely, the serious brand owners take a lot of care over their packaging design. Semiotics, communications’ hierarchy and consumer appeal are all key. In the blink of an eye, the shopper has to like what they see, understand what you are, believe in you and want to pick you up – before they move on to the adjacent competition. The returns are high in terms of volume and streamlined distribution, however, so are the stakes. And the odds of real success are long, there are approximately 2,000 brewers in the UK and many of these are expanding. Your brand and packaging design can significantly shorten these odds.
It is also worth remembering the wise business phrase: volume is vanity, profit is sanity.
Proliferation and consolidation in the brewing industry
With more than 1,800 brewers operating in the UK and over 11,000 beer brands on the market, things are starting to overheat. This inevitably has an impact on price, as competition increases, and also puts mergers and acquisitions on the agenda, as economies of scale and distribution efficiencies come in to play.
In addition, the big breweries are coming around to the corporate wisdom of ‘if you can’t beat them, buy them’. This approach has already gained momentum in the States (the bellwether for all things craft beer) with over 24 transactions in 2015 and that figure due to be surpassed in 2016 (check out the likes of Firestone Walker, Lagunitas and Hop Valley). Both AB InBev and MillerCoors have their own specialist divisions to manage their craft brewery acquisitions – The High End and Tenth and Blake, respectively. This is in response to a global trend – big lagers such as Bud dropped 31% in sales in six years, whilst Fat Tyre (New Belgium) gained 95%, albeit from a much lower base.
In the UK, the acquisition trail had a faltering start with the the sale of the Rock based Sharp’s Brewery to Coors in 2011. More recently the high profile takeovers of Meantime and Camden are perhaps signs of the times – what took them so long? Whilst at the other end of the scale, Innis & Gunn acquired Inveralmond Brewery this spring. How long before we see a trend for consolidation amongst the mid size brewers, as they chase market share – in perhaps a repeat of the last century when the number of breweries more than halved between 1960 and 1980.
Lessons for those who want to build equity.
What do these acquired breweries have in common? In the case of Camden and Meantime (and their American counterparts) the owners have understood that, as well as brewing great beer, they need to also have an engaging and differentiating brand. This is something that brewers omit from their business plan, at their peril. Whether you are looking to cash in and realise your dreams, or simply keep your bank manager happy, defining and differentiating your brand over the forthcoming years will become even more essential. As the market gets tougher, the tough get marketing.
Harvey’s rebrand launched
WPA Pinfold has redesigned Harvey’s brand, which officially launched on 9th August at the Great British Beer Festival, Olympia.
Harvey’s of Lewes is renowned for its wonderful range of cask ales, created in its traditional brewery that dates back to Victorian times. As the oldest independent Brewery in Sussex, Harvey’s needed to reaffirm its credentials and reposition the brewery for a fresh generation. The redesign includes; classic typography, whilst the brewery icon is rendered in copper which is complemented by a fresh turquoise, inspired by the Sussex coast – the tap handles and use of white is inspired by the local limestone cliffs.
All these elements combine to create a unique, classical brand that gives Harvey’s the added value positioning it deserves.
Harvey’s Sales and Marketing Manager said: “We felt that WPA Pinfold’s solid expertise and in-depth knowledge of the brewing industry was key in ensuring our brand was in safe hands. The designers respected our heritage whilst enabling us to move forward and reach a fresh generation of drinkers”.
The refreshing rebrand is particularly exciting as Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter will be sold at the British Airways i360 in Brighton – the world’s tallest moving observation tower.
Click here to read ‘Design Week’s’ article on our work with Harvey’s.
Five star effectiveness
We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded another three Design Effectiveness Awards, including a GOLD, a silver and a bronze, continuing our winning streak with five gold awards in five consecutive years!
We were awarded gold for working on the brand identity for The Beer Studio, a specialist brewing arm of Hydes Brewery. The innovative and edgy portfolio of beers is in marked contrast to Hydes’ more traditional ales; positioning the beers for a younger, more urban market, and resulting in a 24% year on year increase in sales.
Old Peculier redesign
We are proud to announce our latest work for T&R Theakston; the rebranding of the legendary Theakston Old Peculier. We have worked with the North Yorkshire brewery since 2004 and have helped reposition its brand and ensure it is fit for market. The redesign has built on the equity and values of Old Peculier with the aim of premiumising the brand and increasing it’s on shelf visibility. This is an iconic beer that deserves a unique positioning.
The design draws inspiration from the official seal of the Peculiar of Masham, who oversaw the diocese on behalf of the church, back in the middle ages. The label uses conventional label printing processes to achieve the dimensional gold effect and required exceptional artwork and repro input.
“The re-designed label underpins the status of our most important asset, Old Peculier, as one of the country’s most popular and instantly recognised premium bottled ales.”
Executive Director, T&R Theakston
Green’s gluten free beer
Green’s award winning gluten free beer has recently been relaunched with a total brand overhaul. Our repositioning takes the brand from a clinical and worthy look and feel to one that communicates quality, contemporary – and gluten free too. Green’s is one of the world’s leading producers of gluten free beers, and the coeliac market is currently one of the fastest growing sectors. In order to capitalise on this market growth and also to future proof the Green’s brand, we have completely redesigned and premiumised the packaged range to help it compete in the highly competitive speciality beer market, and ensure it is fit for market.
There are eight different varieties in the range, and the beers are sold across Europe and the USA. The rebrand has created a unique positioning for Green’s, giving it fantastic standout, whilst also positioning it as a credible beer brand — making Green’s a beer of choice, not a beer of necessity, for both coeliacs and mainstream beer drinkers alike.
Left: Green’s Golden Ale before and after
Heading across the pond
WPA Pinfold are extremely excited to announce that we have metaphorically packed up our beer expertise to take it over the 2015 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC), in Portland, USA.
We have an exhibition stand at the huge craft beer event, showcasing our recent and successful projects, and offering our expertise and knowledge of the UK beer market to US brewers and beer aficionados from across the globe.
Visiting the Craft Brewers Conference gives us the fantastic opportunity to meet interesting brand owners and other industry experts from the craft beer and brewing market. Our beer expertise will be also be on-hand for any American brewers interested in export opportunities in the UK and Europe – we’re also running our Beer Brand Clinic, where brand owners are given a free brand analysis and diagnosis.
We are on stand 858 from April 14th-17th – if you’re attending the 2015 CBC come and see us to talk all things beer and strategic branding.
The WPA beer brand clinic
Last week, between 18th-20th of March, WPA Pinfold set up shop at the 2015 SIBA BeerX exhibition – only this year, our stand was somewhat out of the ordinary.
We were running a Beer Brand Clinic on stand 128 offering brewers the chance to book in for an appointment for a free brand assessment and diagnosis with our very own Myles Pinfold (brand doctor, if you will…).
The event gave us a real opportunity to showcase our recent work and offer our brand expertise to those in the industry who are interested in how we can help them build their brand’s equity and create further success in the dynamic craft beer market.
Bumping into familiar faces whilst becoming acquainted with newcomers in the BeerX scene was all part of the fun – we’re looking forward to working on some exciting new projects in the brewing world.
If you missed us at BeerX you can still go online for a brand assessment and diagnosis here: www.wpa-pinfold.co.uk/brandclinic
Fastest risers in the league
From 25th to 2nd in three years.
We are delighted to announce that at the DBA award ceremony on February 12th – held at London’s Tobacco Dock – we picked up another three Design Effectiveness Awards.
We achieved a complete podium finish, which included a Gold for our brand packaging for Daniel Thwaites’ Micro-brewery, Crafty Dan. This brings our grand total to eleven awards in recent years, four of which have been in the brewing sector, and moves us up to second in the UK Design Effectiveness League table.
GOLD: Our brand packaging design work for Daniel Thwaites’ Microbrewery Crafty Dan has received outstanding feedback since launch and has given Crafty Dan a powerful on-shelf and on-bar presence in the highly competitive beer market. Crafty Dan reported a 590% increase in average sales, and opened up nine new export markets.
We were also awarded a Silver for a rebrand of a fair trading co-operative, plus a bronze for an internal communications employee recognition scheme.
WPA Pinfold director Myles Pinfold, says, “This year’s awards continue our winning streak and pays tribute to the trust of our loyal clients and gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how our unique approach to brand planning and creative design can deliver real return on investment. This success proves yet again that a commitment to intelligent brand thinking is vital for success in today’s (and tomorrow’s) brand savvy markets.”