Brewbound Voices: CODO Design on Evolution vs Revolution (Conducting a Brand Audit to Weigh Your Brand Equity)

Editor’s Note: Isaac Arthur and Cody Fague of Indianapolis, Indiana-headquartered design firm CODO Design have returned to Brewbound Voices with a four-part series on rebranding considerations for craft breweries. Arthur and Fague will share excerpts from the firm’s new book, Craft Beer, Rebranded, and its companion workbook in the coming weeks. Read the intro to the series here and part one here, and look for the columns to appear on throughout the month.

This week, we want to explore a concern that we hear over and over again when rebranding breweries — how can we do this without confusing customers and losing business? “If we change our logo or packaging (let alone, our name), how will people know what to look for on shelf?” This is a valid concern, and one that we frame as “Evolution vs. Revolution.”

Are you completely reshaping your brewery’s culture and positioning? Are we throwing your logo out with the bathwater and creating wholesale visual change across the board? Or, are we building on decades of work and hard earned goodwill to make subtle updates in a natural progression? Would it be a misstep to jettison the visual signifiers and concepts behind the company as it stands? Or, does it make more sense to build upon, hone and enhance what already exists?


Brand Evolution: We worked with Left Field’s team to dive into the company’s history and build on what was already working. This work culminated in a subtle update to the company’s core logo (top of page 74) en route to building out a robust secondary icon system (geared for its merch program) and a new packaging template system (opposite page) that can be updated in-house.


Wholesale Rebrand (Revolution): Atlanta Brewing (formerly, Red Brick Brewing) was looking to breathe new life into its brand ahead of its 25th anniversary. Like many older breweries, Atlanta Brewing had spent the better part of the last decade getting squeezed from both ends of the market; new breweries were stealing away off-premise sales and general excitement while Big Beer was driving down prices through its vast distribution network.

This rebrand led to a 26.6% increase in core beer sales and a 113.9% jump in merch sales YOY and is continuing to trend up as more customers become aware of the change.

Brand equity: What stays, what goes?

To determine which approach is right for your brewery, you need to weigh your brand equity. Your brand equity is the total amount of goodwill your brand has with its customers. On the big corporate side of the house (think Big Beer and global consumer brands), you’re measuring things like:

  • total consumer mindshare (how many people, out of a group, are aware of your brand’s existence?)
  • how likely those same customers are to pick your brand over a similarly positioned offering
  • your financial standing (your total market share, ability to command higher prices, and the potential for lifetime growth)

When rebranding a craft brewery, we’re more concerned with defining your visual and reputational brand equity — the lore and visual cues that if lost through the new design work, would confuse customers and lead to lost sales.

We define your brand equity by going through a thorough brand audit.

Brand Audits: Measuring What Matters

A brand audit is a rigorous examination of all of your brewery’s internal and external communications going back to your earliest days. This includes any existing positioning and brand strategy work, like print (packaging, tap handles, merch), digital (website, social media, email), events (parties, beer releases, tap takeovers), relationships, news and earned media.

Are there any other major visual cues or key signifiers that are core to your brand? Common examples can include:

  • A logo build or composition (e.g. New Belgium’s cruiser bicycle or Sierra Nevada’s scroll and pasture scene)
  • A specific icon (e.g. KettleHouse’s yellow “K”)
  • SKU-specific colors
  • Illustrations and illustration styles (e.g. Flying Dog’s Ralph Steadman label artwork)
  • Typography (e.g. Dogfish Head’s iconic typeface)
  • Packaging composition (color on bottom, style on top, etc.)
  • Format (16 oz. cans, bottles, 4-packs, etc.)

Another important element to weigh is any existing intellectual property, such as:

  • Existing trademarks for your brewery name, fanciful beer names, event names, logos and typography
  • Protected trade dress (a form of intellectual property that refers to the visual characteristics of your identity or packaging)

Once gathered, we’ve found that interpreting this stuff is largely a common sense endeavor. Have you used the same logo (or some variation thereof) for several years? Does your logo adorn tin tackers and neon signs throughout your market? If so, you might consider retaining some element of it through the rebrand. Is your IPA the best-selling craft beer in your state? Then you might consider keeping the same packaging color or other key signifiers through the update.

To help our clients feel more confident in their brand equity decisions, we take them through a “Recall Exercise.” This works particularly well when we have access to customers. And best of all, it’s cheap and easy. You’ll tackle this in the workbook, but here’s a brief rundown.

Print out several blank cans or bottles and spread them around your taproom along with markers. Challenge your patrons to draw your logo and packaging from memory (honor system). We’ve found that the most basic elements people draw (colors, logo composition, typography placement on packaging, etc.) are often the key pieces you should consider retaining through a rebrand because they’re the things people know to look for when buying your beer.

Can You Rebrand and Keep the Same Logo?

This question comes up a lot and is usually tied to the aforementioned concern of confusing customers. “We’ve had the same logo for six years, there’s no way we can change it now!” Here are a few things to consider.

It’s unlikely that your original logo is going to make it through a rebranding process while remaining an accurate representation of your brewery. This is because you will be refining and deepening your core messaging, defining your brand essence, and revamping your overall visual system and packaging. At the end of this process, your original logo is far more likely to stick out like a sore thumb on otherwise slick new packaging.

If your mark was never designed by a professional designer in the first place (or, in some cases, even if it was), the logo itself might not be good. I don’t mean to sound like a design snob, but there can be very real issues with typography, illustration style, hierarchy and basic visual communication that can have a negative impact on your brand.

As with everything, brand strategy and equity should dictate this decision. If you determine that you should maintain a similar look (more of a refresh), at the very least the mark should be updated to fall in line with the rest of your new look.

Evolution: KettleHouse Brewing had been using essentially the same logo for 23 years. And the Missoula, Montana-based craft brewery was using the same packaging (with slight tweaks as the years went by) since the first can rolled off the line in 2006. Our brand audit found that many of these elements were sacrosanct — there was no way we could substantially change their logo and packaging without confusing (and angering) people and losing a significant amount of brand equity.

Given this, we carried out a subtle update across the board. The logo design entailed decluttering their mark, reining in the number of typefaces and improving legibility.

We extended this approach to their packaging as well with updated illustrations and a consistent layout so that the logo, description, government warning and illustrations were all on the same place on every single can and box.

Week 2: Workbook Overview

For this section of the Craft Beer, Rebranded WORKBOOK, you will conduct a brand audit, weigh your equity and consider the legal and intellectual property ramifications of the rebranding process.

Overall, you will:

  • Conduct a brand audit
  • Identify any meaningful brand equity
  • Outline any intellectual property parameters
  • Decide whether evolution or revolution is necessary to meet your goals

Download the WORKBOOK here.

Craft Beer, Rebranded (and its companion Workbook) are available to read and purchase at If you’d like to discuss this book in person, catch up with CODO at the 2020 Craft Brewers Conference in Texas where they’ll be presenting a seminar titled, “Using Science to See What Packaging Works and How Your Brewery Can Sell More Beer.”

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