I was sitting at Barrel Republic with my friends, Allyson, her husband, Brandon, and her sister, Jessica, and her husband, Joey (that's Allyson and Brandon, Jessica and Joey for you comma haters).
I don't drink, but beer branding has always fascinated me. Mostly because it's incredibly well done and shows the magnitude branding has on a product with thousands of companies to choose from. I was curious, though, if this group had any favorites.
Allyson is a fan of Coronado Brewing Company. Brandon chooses Ballast Point. For Jessica, Modern Times. And lastly, Joey went with Stone.
There are a couple things to keep in mind here. Some overarching themes in the brands they chose are as follows: local, independently rooted, craft beer from their hometown of San Diego. Seems to be the baseline.
A deeper dive: each person's personality is reflected in the brand of beer they chose.
Allyson loves to be at the beach and spending time with good people. When she's having a beer, her goal is to simply relax and enjoy herself.
Brandon also loves the beach, but he's also a craftsman and skilled woodworker. He loves to build things and has immense attention to detail. It's no wonder he opted to go with a beer brand "dedicated to the craft." When he has a beer, he wants to relax, but he's still looking for that craftsmanship.
Jessica is a neo-hippy with a passion for eccentricity and flair (funky, one-a-kind clothes and such). What better brewery for Jessica than one with a post-it mural of Michael Jackson in it's tasting room?
Joey is rugged and straightforward. Need I say more? He aligns with the gritty independent nature of Stone's ethos and can respect their rebellious attitude.
Here's the thing:
The beer itself is relatively similar. The flavors these companies provide could be swapped and no one would really know the difference. However, the personalities and attitudes of these breweries resonate with specific people.
Each of my friends made their choice for a reason: that beer brand was intentionally made for someone like them.
When J.K. Rowling submitted the first Harry Potter book, it didn't have the same title as we've known. It was first called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and later adapted to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Why? These two things are synonymous.
Attitude. When you hear the term "philosopher," it sounds geeky and pompous. A sorcerer on the other hand, bolsters the idea of mystery, power, and elusiveness.
What's the point? Branding is full of nuance, while these two terms on paper mean the same thing, their emotional qualities are different. In branding, it's not just what you say, how you look, and what you do, but the attitude you bring to the table.
Since branding is an emotional subject, it gets hard to manage. Specifically, it gets hard to measure. Cue Marty Neumeier (again). In his book The Brand Flip he lays out a structure for measuring the effectiveness of building a brand in what has been called the Brand Ladder. The goal of the Brand Ladder is to see how well you are elevating a customer's experience with your company. If you score low, it means you're a commodity, easily capable of being replaced. If you score high, customers are likely to become repeat buyers, evangelists, and feel like they can't live without you.
Here is an outline of the scorecard (from your customer's point of view):
Satisfied Grade 1-5
__ The company/product has met my expectations.
__ The company charges a fair price for the product.
__ TOTAL (highest score of 10)
Delighted Grade 1-5 and multiply by 2
__ I've been pleasantly surprised by the company/product.
__ I would happily recommend it to others.
__ TOTAL x 2 (highest score of 20)
Engaged Grade 1-5 and multiply by 3
__ I identify well with the other customers of this company/product.
__ I would go out of my way for the company and its customers.
__ TOTAL x 3 (highest score of 30)
Empowered Grade 1-5 and multiply by 4
__ The company/product is essential to my life.
__ I would be very sorry if it went out of business.
__ TOTAL x 4 (highest score of 40)
__ Grand Total (Highest Score of 100)
But it doesn't end there. Like any other assessment, you have to dive deeper and unearth the reasons behind them. What is it about your company that affects these scores? Is it design? Is it your messaging? Is it the product? You can measure the effects of branding all day, but if you are not willing to check on the factors contributing to its success, you might as well not even bother. Sounds like something I should write about tomorrow...