Category Opinions

Getting Heard at the Bar – Brand Clarity & Consumer Connection


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Heard at the Bar

It’s All About the Brand

Real Ale is undoubtedly going through a renaissance. Even with the beer industry in decline CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has reported recruiting its 150,000th member and adults trying Real Ale has risen from 34% to 53% in the last 3 years. However, in a growing market with over 1,000 British breweries brewing over 8,000 real ales how will ambitious smaller breweries stand out from the crowd?

Having recently undertaken the rebranding of Hanlons Brewery we faced the challenge of creating a beer brand which does just this. Like anything, only through understanding what motivates your audience and creating a connection will you get them to buy into the product but you have to start by understanding the marketplace.

Weak branding has undoubtedly played its part in the beer markets decline. For a product that’s fun and central to our social lives beer brands simply don’t connect with the consumer and offer differentiation. It is this differentiation which adds value and gives the consumer a reason to purchase.

Brand Case and Point

Scottish Real Ale brewery ‘Brew Dog‘ has achieved this differentiation with some success. The six year old company which has turned over 20 million pounds, has made its name through astute PR stunts and a series of controversial limited-edition lines, such as its ‘End of History’ ale – a 55% ABV beer sold in a bottle encased in a stuffed dead squirrel, stoat or hare. Ten years ago this would have seemed very out of place for a Real Ale brewery but consumers have bought into its brand for it’s off the wall approach.

The Brew Dog Brand Culture

Extreme cases like the ‘Brew Dog’ are few and far between and the ‘Brew Dog’ marketing model doesn’t fit every brewery. The majority of small real ale breweries have wittingly or not benefitted by using their size to their advantage. Micro-brewed beer is seen to be inherently better than that made in a bigger brewery and offers added value. Whether badly designed or not there is generally a familiar and reassuring tone about the branding. They play on their roots and where it is brewed is of the utmost importance. These attributes mean smaller real ale breweries build a collective connection.

Little Brands vs ‘The Big Brand Wolves’

Big breweries may have slicker branding, they spend more on design, they have bigger and shinier pump clips and advertising budgets which could buy half of the micro-breweries outright but, they don’t have the innocence of smaller real ale breweries.

By harnessing these reassuring and positive small brewery perceptions and building a connection through clear personality. Hanlons can be seen as unique and different.

In this growing market it is going to become increasingly difficult to get heard at the bar. By helping Hanlons harness this consumer connection and build on it much as ‘Innocent Smoothies‘ or ‘Brew Dog’ did they will stand out and get served first.

Alister Tickle – Design Manager