Maybe you’ve noticed… North Carolina is experiencing tremendous growth in the beverage industry, including wine and craft beer.
Some quick facts:
Did you know that, due to its diverse topography—along with the five distinct federal Viticultural Areas across the state—North Carolina is the only place in the world where every type of wine grape is cultivated?
Today, North Carolina wine is a $2 billion industry, with over 500 vineyards and almost 200 wineries.
The craft beer industry is also rapidly expanding. Currently, it is a $3.4 billion industry ($1.3 billion without distributors). A craft beer brewery is generally defined as small (less than six million barrels produced annually), independent and using traditional ingredients and fermentation processes. There are over 300 breweries in North Carolina, and the Triangle alone has over 50 craft breweries (with five additional breweries in planning) and over 50 bottle shops.
The recent passage of House Bill 363 (the Craft Beer Distribution and Modernization Act) increased a 25,000 barrel cap to 50,000 barrels for craft breweries to self-distribute their specialty beers. This legislation, and current market trends, suggests craft beer production will continue to rise in North Carolina.
The above data leads to another conclusion: Competition is fierce and furious… And one thing remains constant: Companies that adopt a smart branding strategy will survive—and thrive—in this competitive marketplace.
Smart Branding… Use It Or Lose It
Every company is either building brand awareness or losing it. This remains true for both established and new market entrants. Established wineries and craft beer breweries are facing increased competition. Some are losing brand awareness, while others are building theirs.
Smart branding ensures that you are on the right side of the curve. So whether you are established in the beverage industry or a winery or brewery start-up, there are several ways to help build your brand—or rebrand your company—before it’s too late.
Marketing Wines And Craft Beers
Remember… Branding and marketing usually go hand in hand, but they are not the same. Branding is your company’s (or product’s) story. Marketing’s purpose is to tell your story to your ideal consumer and begin to build a relationship with them. All beverage companies have at least one thing in common… They want to give their customers an experience whenever they drink their product. This usually starts with how the beverage tastes—but there’s more. In many instances, taste is accompanied by other senses. Like the feel of a bottle’s shape… or the look of a label’s colors and design… or even the sound of opening a tabbed aluminum can. The “perfect” combination captures all of these and links them with a personal experience everyone can relate to (i.e. popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate).
A great example is Gatorade, which was developed because of an athlete’s needs to replace vital electrolytes lost while training or competing. By drinking Gatorade, athletes replenish these vital micronutrients. The experience is amplified because drinking Gatorade is what good athletes do for their bodies. That sounds familiar… like the “Milk does a body good” campaign.
So how do you create an experience for your customers via smart branding?
First Things First: Tell Your Story
Established beverage companies tell a story. We all know that Coors is brewed in the “Rocky Mountain tradition”… “with 100% Rocky Mountain water.” (Just make sure your story holds up. While it’s true Coors started out brewing in the Rockies, apparently they are now being sued in Florida for false advertising, since some of its beer is brewed elsewhere… But we digress). Telling a story is a smart branding strategy that holds true for the beverage industry.
What’s your story? Where do your grapes come from? What makes them so special? Do you add hops imported from Japan to make your beer extra special? Are you a brewmaster? Do you work with any charitable causes? Why was your product created?
Alternatively, some companies start off by asking, “What does the consumer desire (or need)? Then they create a product for the consumer.
Defining—or redefining—your unique story is the first step in smart branding… And it will help identify the type of customer that may desire your special product.
One of the more difficult areas in smart branding or rebranding is coming up with that perfect name for your beverage. What you name your wine or craft beer is almost as important as telling your story. Chosen properly, a name can connect with a consumer on many different levels. A name can be simple and refined. Exquisite and provocative. But a name should always complement the story. Think for a second about a quick selection of common beverage names: Fireball, Barefoot, Skinny Girl, Red Bull, Samuel Adams—even Colt 45. These names alone create an instant image by association and may also recall a memory… This provides a universal experience for potential customers based solely on the name.
Wineries and craft breweries take liberties in developing their labels and packaging. But, again, consistency is key. Focus on your story, then use design to further develop your narrative.
For instance, certain colors might tell a specific story. Gold might communicate a “gold standard,” “authenticity” or “wealth and prosperity.” Green may convey money or health. Red denotes defiance, divergence, fire.
Deciding what messages to display on your labeling continues the smart branding theme. For example, if you have minimal ingredients, keeping a simple label could work. Of course, there are specific legal requirements for labeling… But beyond that the field is wide open.
Smart Branding Your People
All the storytelling, naming and packaging in the world won’t make a difference if the people within the company are not brand associates. This is especially true for start-up and emerging companies in the beverage industry. There must be a connection between the product and the people marketing and selling the product. Your brand ambassadors must continue to tell your story.
Smart Social Media
Your website is often the first introduction to your company and product. It’s where smart branding begins. How unique is your brand? Are you trustworthy? Authentic? Your story begins with your landing page.
The key is consistency. Make sure your landing page gives the right impression and introduction to your company. It could make a lasting difference.
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