Stealing Share's Analysis and advice

Repositioning a beer brand. Fight to remain important

July 27, 2023

Repositioning a beer brand is not very risky today

Repositioning a beer brand makes sense today.

Let’s take a minute to think about the process and thinking that goes into repositioning a beer brand to change its trajectory and grow in a changing market.

We do not mean to suggest a new position for any beer brand.

But it represents the way you should go about the strategic process of repositioning a beer brand (and the possibility of craft beer rebranding)

Marketing Officers have the hardest job

repositioning a beer brandThe hardest job you will face as a marketing officer (this is true not only of beer brands but any marketing officer in any category) is to remain objective and dispassionate.

The pressures from internal sources get very defensive when you reevaluate the naming process. My experience rebranding microbrewery brands has taught me how personal beer brand names can become.

Beer brands exist in a Branded House Model

A brewer might decide on a particular brand name under a branded house.

It’s unlikely today that the beer parent brand does not have individual beer brands under the same lead brand. (Think New Belgium and Fat Tire, Fruit Smash, Voodoo Ranger, Voodoo Ranger Atomic Citrus, and Wild Vector).

The beer market is saturated and mature

Because the market is so saturated with individual brands and little, if any, brand loyalty, I would expect the average brewery to have at least a half dozen individual brands in their paddock.

So, when repositioning a beer brand, there is much to consider (including craft beer rebranding). And that includes looking at the parent brand too.

It will be hard to do. And the reason is that I would imagine there is love for the current brand names in your brewery.

Changing the brand name

But if you change the brand name, the risk of becoming irrelevant is slim to none. Why? Because the reason you have all of these flanker brands is that your market is constantly seeking something new. As you have taught them to think.repositioning a beer brand

In the case of New Belgium, their IPA has been branded Voodoo Ranger because they believed that just calling it New Belgium IPA or Fat Tire IPA was not creative enough. Years ago, our project encouraged them to rebrand the Brewery as Fat Tire and create flanker brands from that parent brand.

But they were enamored with their narrative. And they never considered such a change.

Since they sold the brewery, it appears to be now building a flanker off Voodoo Ranger.

So, they are repositioning a beer brand under another parent brand. Way too complicated for long-term growth.

 I guess they are confusing the rise in popularity of IPAs with a love of the brand name Voodoo. For my money, Fat Tire was always the most robust brand name in their arsenal.

The strategic model for repositioning a beer brand

Repositioning a beer brand part chartLooking for advantages when repositioning a beer brand

So back to our exercise in repositioning a beer brand.

We always start by creating a three-dimensional model of the market. The idea here is to visually see the whole space from the perspective of the potential customers.

We create many of these models when repositioning a beer brand or any brand. There are always multiple ways to look at the category.

Because we conduct research, we can decide which model best represents the actual market.

How to model the repositioning of a beer brand

Here we have divided the market along three axes. Dividing it the way the industry sees the category, not necessarily how the customers view it.

So, the model here says, is the brand a standard American Lager, or does it represent a host of beer styles (including light beers as not being separate.)


Adding to the repositioning a beer model

Repositioning a beer model chart #2

Here we have divided the market along three axes. Dividing it the way the industry sees the category, not necessarily how the customers view it.

So, the model here says, is the brand a standard American Lager, or does it represent a host of beer styles (including light beers as not being separate.)The next axis is a decision between a large brewery/price/availability axis and imports/microbrewery/origin.

As an example, we dropped in three beer brands. Modelo; (import and origin), Sierra Nevada; (microbrew and beer style), and Bud Light; (Large Brewery, price, and availability.

Adding to our three-dimensional model

We all know that Modelo fits into the large brewery segment, but the brand plays almost entirely on its origin.

Note that the center of our chart for repositioning a beer has a middle axis. And only Taste is defined. The opposite axis is not yet determined.

Most everyone in the category speaks about crisp, refreshing taste. In this example of repositioning a beer brand, everyone plays in the same space and competes for the same value.

Look for emotional intensity when repositioning a beer brand

Repositioning a beer brand chart #3

In this chart, we have pretended we have our research out of the field and have discovered that an Associated Experience (which is an emotional value— not a rational value like the taste) with a brand (this was true in Fat Tire many years back— where it was strongly associated with Colorado and the associations that went with it— even for those who had never been to the state.

But think how foolish this is. Everyone likes the taste of the beer they drink. So, it is a table stake. Not a decision choice.

Coors was also a Colorado brand, but research at the time said that Coors played on Rocky Mountain Spring Water. Still, New Belgium created Fat Tire with a freewheeling and youthful experience.

Note we also added Corona to our chart for repositioning a beer. That is because Corona is Associated with an experience— not a place. Kicking back in the summer on a beach, a deck, or a party.

I do not have the research to show this. Still, I guess Corona’s popularity has benefitted Modelo as Mexico is a value in both, but Corona is associated with a season.

The brand opportunity

Our final chart demonstrating the process of repositioning a beer brand defines the market opportunity.

Repositioning a beer brand chart #4

Suddenly, when you look at the geography in this chart, it is evident that the benefit of an associated experience has fewer competitors.

And, because it is an emotional value, it holds the promise of brand power to steal share.

Where do we go from here?

In conclusion, this is the process of repositioning a beer brand, not an example with market insight.

If you are responsible for marketing a beer and are willing to slay sacred cows in the interest of growth… call us.

In the meantime, you might find other interesting articles about rebranding on our website. Like the elements of a rebranding, the project timetable for a complete rebranding project and a great deal about the importance of research.