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Brewery Branding: Navigating Challenges and Seizing Opportunities


While there’s no magic solution, effective brand, design, and marketing strategies strengthen a brewery’s connection with its audience and contribute to sustained success and sales, explains Owen Turner, the founder, MD and creative director at United by Design.

The United Kingdom boasts around 1800 active brewers, yet the industry faces a tumultuous landscape, marked by closures surpassing openings. 

Influencing factors include the enduring impact of Brexit, the lingering effects of COVID-19, and the relentless cost-of-living crisis. 

A poignant example of these challenges is the closure of Hull-based Bone Machine Brew Co., a notable client of United by Design for over six years. 

Despite their effective operations in the UK and a robust export supply chain to Europe, post-Brexit complications, notably increased paperwork and transaction complexities, led to their unfortunate closure. 

This underscores the industry’s vulnerability and the critical role effective branding and marketing can play in overcoming adversities.

On a brighter note, strategic responses to challenges open doors for new opportunities. Treboom Brewery, for instance, seized a favourable moment in 2022 to pass on ownership. 

The brewery, including its name, brand, and packaging designs, relocated from Yorkshire to North Wales. 

United by Design facilitated the transition, supporting the move to 440ml cans from traditional 500ml bottles, allowing the new owners to pivot and present a fresh offer to customers while capitalising on the established equity built by the original founders.

Breweries of all scales grapple with an intensely competitive environment, vying for market share in macro, regional, micro, and nano sectors. 

The significance of geographic location in influencing trade and consumer sales is now more apparent than ever. 

A keen awareness of strengths and weaknesses is crucial to maintaining and expanding market share, even beyond UK boundaries. 

Regardless of location, the development of a compelling brand story that resonates with consumers, highlighting a brewery’s history, values, and the people behind the brand, is invaluable.

In Yorkshire, examples abound of breweries leveraging community support. Ainsty Ales Brewery, led by Andy Herrington and his team, exemplifies community engagement, fostering trust through events like ‘Coptoberfest.’ This commitment to branding and community-building has cultivated a loyal following.

Consideration for all types of drinkers is essential when making decisions about core ranges, specials, and seasonal offerings, including unique and unconventional brews. 

Striking a balance between being known for a specific strength, such as crafting exceptional stouts, while remaining flexible enough to produce sessionable pale ales and even non-alcoholic options is crucial. 

This approach not only contributes to revenue generation but also helps smooth out sales fluctuations.


Brew York brewery has consistently embraced this strategy since its inception in the craft brewing scene. With over 450 beers introduced to the market, each brew represents a meticulous process of testing, measuring, and monitoring both successes and failures. 

Our involvement in the design and marketing of nearly every one of these beers, starting from the original six bottled 330ml offerings, has been a testament to our commitment to innovation.

The brewery’s adeptness in adapting to market dynamics is evident in their swift transition from 330ml bottles to cans within six months of launch, followed by a rapid shift to 440ml cans. 

This agility complements their diverse product offerings, which include keg and cask options.

Building from a strong and credible core range establishes a brewery as a trustworthy entity and allows certain ales to shine, emphasising the brewery’s specialisation or unique focus—yet another strategy ensuring consistent and reliable sales. 

Seasonal considerations are paramount, aligning brand and marketing activities with the ebb and flow of the year.

While many breweries aspire to be distinctive, it’s crucial to recognize that consumer habits are deeply rooted in centuries-old behaviours. Sometimes, meeting a consumer’s needs can be as straightforward as offering a cask beer below 5%. 

This not only avoids alienating potential customers but also provides an entry point for them to explore other, stronger beers within the range, such as an 8% NEIPA. 

Brew York’s ability to navigate this delicate balance is evident in the longevity and continued presence of some core range offerings on bars even after eight years. 

Their agility and commitment to meeting diverse consumer preferences make them a standout player in the ever-evolving craft brewing landscape.

Consumer behaviour evolution, with an emphasis on online shopping and home consumption, requires breweries to adapt marketing strategies. 

Leveraging online platforms, social media, and digital channels becomes imperative. Breweries like Brew York, a longstanding client of United by Design, showcase the success of adapting to these shifts. 

Their pursuit of brewing excellence, collaborations, and a strong brand narrative underpins their resilience in a fiercely competitive market.

Building a tribe around a brewery’s distinct personality is key, extending beyond local and regional levels to global recognition. 

Treating consumers as fans fosters long-term success. Strengthening ties with local communities, supporting initiatives, and emphasising a brewery’s role resonates well with consumers. 

Brew York’s proactive approach, from brewery taprooms to beer halls and strategic investments, demonstrates the power of community-focused marketing.

Considering diverse drinker demographics is paramount in developing core ranges and specialty offerings. 

Brew York’s agile approach, exemplified by their diverse beer portfolio and packaging transitions, demonstrates adaptability and consumer-centric decision-making.

As of 2023, United by Design initiated a strategic brand review for Brew York, focusing on developing distinctive ranges for consumer ease and trade understanding. 

The brand refresh, including a new core range and distinctive signature offerings, reaffirms Brew York’s commitment to evolving with consumer preferences.

Maintaining product quality and consistency across formats is a cornerstone of brewery success. Collaborations, both within the industry and beyond, contribute to the ever-evolving landscape of brewing. 

Brew York’s collaborations with Moersleutel, Blech Brut, Funky Fluid, Hidden Spring, and Lervig showcase the dynamic potential of partnerships. 

Beyond brewery collaborations, Brew York extends its creative alliances to encompass companies and organisational partnerships, including doorstep sponsorships. 

Notably, a recent and meaningful venture involves a flourishing relationship with two local sports teams, York City Football Club and York City Knights and Valkyries rugby league teams. 

In this endeavour, Brew York has produced bespoke cans that intricately showcase the enduring heritage and association these teams hold in York. 

For instance, the two can designs for York City Knights feature Viking illustrations, elegantly incorporating the team’s branding.

Furthermore, aligning with the brewery’s commitment to storytelling and character narratives, Brew York has teamed up with the renowned UK-based Anderson Entertainment, recognized for iconic productions like Thunderbirds, Stingray, and Captain Scarlett. 

This collaboration was particularly significant, commemorating the 40-year anniversary of the Terrahawks animation. 

The resulting collaborative brew is a testament to the fusion of bespoke illustrations that seamlessly intertwine Brew York and Anderson Entertainment’s brands, creating a unique and memorable celebration of shared history and creativity.

Marketing and promotion should be a collaborative process involving founders, directors, leadership, and production teams. 

Graphic designers and design agencies play a crucial role in aligning visual elements with business objectives. 

Nurturing a brewery brand through various stages is essential for long-term success. Emerging from the pandemic emphasises the need for strong customer relationships through both traditional and online channels. Social media, events, and strategic marketing efforts enhance brand visibility and loyalty.

Creating physical focal points to market and sell beer provides breweries with control over the supply chain and the customer experience. Finally, active participation in industry conversations, alongside advocacy for inclusivity and sustainability, contributes to a brewery’s reputation and marketing success. 

Brew York’s initiatives, from empowering women and LGBTQ+ communities to environmental efforts, exemplify a commitment to societal and industry responsibilities. Listening to customer feedback and addressing concerns reinforces a brewery’s position. 

While there’s no magic solution, effective brand, design, and marketing strategies strengthen a brewery’s connection with its audience and contribute to sustained success and sales.

This article was originally written for the Brewers Journal print and digital publication. Thanks to Tim Sheahan and Josh Henderson from Brewers Journal.

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