The Essential Ingredients of a Strong Craft Drinks Brand

I recently attended a drinks promotion event in London and I was struck by a particular conversation I had with an English Sparkling Wine producer.  When I asked if his brand had any bearing on his sales to high-end restaurants, he answered with an unequivocal ‘no’.   “At the end of the day, it’s all about taste”, he said.  “The restaurant sommelier will taste our wine and if they like it, they’ll stock it.  The customer doesn’t know about our brand particularly, they’re simply looking for a recommendation.”  On the face of it, you may say he has a good argument.  However, in this blog I’d like to put my ‘Brand Advisor’ hat on and argue the case for a more serious brand investment.

Why should I bother developing a brand when my customers buy on taste?

When a customer is led to buy purely on taste and recommendation, the drink may well be enjoyed in the moment.  But what happens when a new, sexier drinks brand comes along and takes your place as the ‘recommendation du jour’? If you are to secure a more enduring brand connection with your customer and your on-trade client, they need to buy into more than just liquid appeal.   You need to get to a point where both your reseller and your end-customer recognise your brand name and have a more developed mental picture of what your brand stands for to secure ongoing recommendations.

Our bottle design looks great on the shelf plus we’ve got a cool looking beer tap handle.  Surely that will make selling easier?

There is is no doubt that great design will help drive impulse buys.  However, with so many cool looking bottles or tap handles to choose from, it’s highly likely that your customer will soon move on to another attractive-looking number.  If you’re looking for longer-term brand fidelity you need to connect not just at surface level.

Our local credentials will drive our sales

In the not so distance past, when English Wine production was a minority sport and Craft Beers were all to often imports, then it was certainly easier to stand out as the local drink of choice.   However, new local breweries are now opening at rapid speed and English Sparkling Wine production is set to rocket in the next few years.  In this climate, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to stand out just through the power of your local credentials.  And what happens if you want to grow sales nationally or even export?  Your brand strength will make all the difference if you do decide to scale up.

Anatomy of a strong brand

So what are the core ingredients you will additionally need to build your brand?  In a nutshell, I recommend that you also focus on the following key points:

Your Story is Your Brand

All strong brands have a unique story to share with the world.  Make sure you know what yours is and embed it into your business culture and marketing.

Think Experience

A great brand doesn’t just offer a product or service; it offers a range of memorable experiences that capture the hearts and imaginations of your customers.

Consistent, Coherent and Clear

All of your business activities from the copy you write to the partnerships you forge should all reflect your core brand values in a consistent, coherent and clear way.  If you don’t apply your brand in this way, you’ll simply end up looking dazed and confused. 

Evolve or Die

To remain relevant to your customers, you also need to consistently evolve and develop your brand.   For example. a brand refresh or redesign keeps you looking up-to-date.  Your brand values can change over time and may also need to be reviewed.  Look at global brands such as Burberry and Barbour.  If they had simply rested on their English heritage laurels they would have been consigned to the failed business pile a long time ago.  So never underestimate the importance of keeping up with changes in the marketplace.

 Finally, it’s worth mentioning that a stronger brand will be a major asset if you ever decide to sell to a bigger player.  The big drinks cos are all highly brand-led and will only consider you as a suitable stable mate, if you have the ‘brand cajones ‘ that make you stand out.   And if you’re in the drinks business for the long haul and want to stay proudly independent, then a constantly evolving local brand strategy will also help you stay relevant in your marketplace for years to come.

To find out more about making your drinks brand stand out from the crowd, why not get in touch with Susanne.currid@businessofdrinks.co.uk for an independent, no-obligation chat about your drinks brand strategy.