Creating a brand image is an arduous task for a new niche product. Microdistilleries and microbreweries face a lot of competition against popular mass-marketed national and international brands. The owners are typically in the business for the love of the craft and have little professional experience with marketing and branding. However, there are some well-established branding techniques that can be effectively used to increase the consumer demand and market share of your craft product. Increasing your brand recognition is a key asset for your business. If you eventually sell or take in an investor, your brand will likely comprise a very significant portion of your balance sheet and sales price. Just as you think of sweat equity put into a house remodel project, your branding efforts are sweat equity in your business. Trademarks are valuable business property that can be sold, licensed and used as collateral to secure funding.
Here are 6 things you can do to make the most of your brand assets:
1. If you produce a private label house brand, co-brand it with “produced by” credit and your brand name on the label.
2. Use distinctive and identifiable bottle designs. Your customers should be able to pick out your brand from across the room.
3. Use a uniform color scheme on your products and promotional materials. Color is an easily memorable and powerful consumer association.
4. Position yourself as the sole member of a product category (e.g. type, quality, and price: the only New England premium rum or the only apple cinnamon tequila).
5. Create a strong consumer identity with a social media presence or food alcohol recipes using the branded alcohol product. Think about popular products like Godiva® chocolate mousse or Jack Daniels® barbeque sauce.
6. Consider a program of providing a distinctive service vessel for your brand at bars and restaurants (a special flask, glass or coaster, for example).
The more consumer recognition you have for your products, the stronger your brand, and the more valuable it becomes as an asset of the business. These six strategies may require that you go back to the drawing board and adjust your business and marketing plans, but any one of these steps will go a long way towards securing long-term returns on your brand. Silently building brand equity is like saving pennies in your piggy bank. One day, you are surprised by the sum of all the tiny investments you made.