Tough Branding Questions and Budgeting for Brand Development

Josh Emrich, of branding agency Emrich Office, has helped a number of successful brands (including Uinta, Speakeasy, Grimm Brothers, Bottle Logic, and Copper Kettle) find their voice, and in his experience, the hard work is balancing the need for the brand to be easily understood as craft beer with the need for each brand to stand out and differentiate itself from its local, regional, and national competition.

At a previous firm, Emrich enjoyed watching how crisis-management public-relations firms dealt with preparing clients for difficult circumstances, working through the most challenging questions they would be asked. “Brands that aren’t willing to ask themselves the really hard questions are the ones that will fail,” says Emrich. Here are five questions that every craft-beer brand should ask before undertaking the process of branding and building a beer business—as well as some basic cost ranges for brand development based on numbers provided to us by experienced and successful design firms.

Five Questions That Every Brewery Brand Should Ask

Why would someone buy your beer instead of someone else’s beer, and would you buy it if you were a consumer?

If you can’t answer a consumer’s question honestly and in a compelling way, then how can you ask them to buy your beer?

On the shelf, does this look like someone else?

Am I emulating someone else? Am I inspired, or am I inspiring? Would this look good in my fridge, and is this something I’d be proud to serve to friends?

As a customer, would you want to be treated like this?

In tasting rooms, it can be as simple as “would you want to sit in this chair? At a table this dirty?” Brewers are always in a crunch to meet demand and raise money for their next capital investment. But they can’t let customer-service standards slip along the way. Brewers talk about ingredients and brewing, but a lot of customers can’t distinguish between a beer that’s a 7 and a beer that’s a perfect 10. However, if the tasting room is nice and presentable and the packaging is attractive, it goes a long way. These things don’t have to be slick and polished, just authentic and considered.

Have you done due diligence on trade names?

Competition is stiff. The cost of joining this industry now is so much more because of the crowded marketplace. You’re going to be dealing with cease-and-desist orders on product names because so many are produced, and this adds to the cost to create and protect a brand. Do the search. Do it again. And trademark it before you invest the creative energy into developing the brand. I can’t tell you how many times folks have had to go back to the drawing board after discovering that someone else is using a name that they thought was original.

Do you have enough money to do this the right way?

Lots of brewers jump in, bootstrapping it, but you get what you pay for. This has more to do with timing than budget—rushed product launches because speed-to-market is a big deal. The lead-time for great design is longer than your lead-time for brewing and fermentation, so balance this drive to get new product to market against the precedent you’re setting and put the work in before you make the beer. And that leads us to the cost of brand development.

What Does Brand Development Cost?

When launching a new brewery or rebranding an existing brewery, it’s important to budget not just the right amount of money for the project, but also the right amount of time. Here are some basic cost ranges for brand development based on numbers provided to us by experienced and successful design firms.

Overall Brand Development ($15,000–$20,000)

If you’re willing to spend a quarter of a million dollars on a new brewhouse and fermentors, you should be ready to spend 5–10 percent of that on how you present yourself to customers. For this, expect a logo; a full range of initial tasting room schwag such as coasters, glassware, and growlers; initial apparel designs, etc. Most importantly, you are investing in a design partner for the long run.

Packaging Development ($3,500–$20,000)

Creating a template for tap handles or product packaging is generally less expensive than developing individual brands for each style, so if budget is a concern, think “Anheuser-Busch Pilsner” versus “Budweiser.” Illustration is the primary X-factor in this brand development, and for the work and full rights buyout, that illustration alone can run $3,500–$10,000. In addition, the fee for designing a single 22-ounce bomber runs on the low end of the range, while the fee for designing a six-pack with cardboard exterior pack (requiring work on both the can design and the holder) is at the very top of the range.

How to Save Money

Design firms tend to be less busy in the summer months. If you’re embarking on a launch or redesign, plan the work for those slower months, and you’ll typically find you can either save a bit of money on the project or get more time from the designer or firm for the same price.

Haydn Strauss