Chapter 5 - Brand New
Workhorse Brewing Company.
If you’re reading this page, then you already know the name of our brewery.
If you’ve visited this website and read previous chapters of the blog, then you know a bit about the vision for our business.
So while it may seem like a perfect fit for our stated mentality, there was no 2am epiphany that dropped “Workhorse” into our collective lap. Far from it. Only after months of ideation did we finally arrive on the name and more broadly, the brand.
Today’s focus on From the Horse’s Mouth centers around the creation of the brand, as well as the partners helping to turn our idea into reality. This post will outline more of the story behind the overall development, and in addition, we’ll be sharing a series of photos on Instagram (click here) highlighting the chronological evolution of our visual aesthetic, a fundamental piece of the branding pie.
Before you can brand, however, you must name. And that is where we’ll start today.
Enjoying creative autonomy is one of the biggest perks of being a startup founder. If you take the plunge and launch your own company, you can take it in any direction you so desire.
However, freedom without structure is a dangerous combination for an inspired mind. The decisions made in the early days of your company will have the potential to make or break your business, even if it doesn’t feel that way in your initial excitement. Before sitting down to brainstorm the name of our future brewery, it was imperative that we took a step back to evaluate the bigger picture.
Is the URL available?
Does another brewery already exist with the same name?
Will my buddy Zach—who continually struggles with “Phoenix”—be able to spell our name without internet assistance? Will everyone else?
Most importantly: does the name embody the spirit of the business we’re looking to run? To put it differently, do our previously established goals of consistency, effort, and authenticity align with the words that will soon be plastered all over our products, our facility, and all forms of communication?
The importance of choosing a name is paramount for many reasons and doing it right allows you to identify a North Star, an idea onto which you can fall back continually as the business evolves. A good name evokes a sentiment and a purpose, but also shapes a framework from which future decisions can be made.
With that context in mind, in retrospect, Workhorse Brewing Company feels like a no-brainer. When compared to some of the original concepts I had considered? It sounds even better. Humble Hustle Brewing Company and Suds United were shot down quickly, as was Mighty Fine Brewing Company, an homage to my business partner and uncle, Peter Fineberg. Also falling short were One Way Brewing Company (despite the idea of always moving in the same direction, it never got out of neutral), and BLD Brewing Company, or “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner”, centering on beers specifically designed to pair with each meal. For the record: I am still an advocate for a good breakfast beer, even if the focus groups say most folks disagree.
So now we had a name, one that personified the type of quality-driven, dependable business we intended to launch. Turning that name into a brand would be the next step in our development and lucky for us, we wouldn’t have to look far beyond our backyard for the perfect partner.
My first thought was to save money.
No, not in order to live the financial dream of my fellow Northwest Philly Jewish kid, rapper Lil’ Dicky (hair cut several months in-between homie), but because hell, I just spent the last eight years running an apparel company and I knew a thing or two about logo design. Why pay a fancy agency to do what I can do with my in-house graphic designers?
If only it were that simple.
Go back to Chapter 4 of this blog on differentiation and you might remember the sheer panic I faced when looking into a wall of refrigerators, stocked to the gills with hundreds of craft beer brands. Knocking out a slick logo and slapping it on a few cans might look nice by itself, but the odds of the packaging being so compelling that the look alone is what sells our beer? I have a better chance of being on Lil’ Dicky’s next video as a guest lyricist.
The reality is that many startups don’t have sufficient capital to invest in all the critical elements necessary to opening a business. In a crowded market, a quality product is needed just to get a seat at the table and that’s usually where the dollars go. Branding and marketing are typically the first cuts, when ironically, they’re what can help a new company get early traction by giving people a reason to try the beer to begin with.
A branding partner would help us gain this traction by vetting the Workhorse name and concept, refining the core values driving that concept, creating the visual elements for that concept, and developing logical extensions of that concept into every facet of our company’s relations, including those with employees, investors, guests, partners, and vendors.
Over the course of many months, we spoke with a number of firms and whittled our options down to two: CODO Design, a craft-beer centric group in Indianapolis and Finch Brands, local to Philadelphia but with no previous craft branding. These two stood out in large part because of the people, who not only did we find to be intelligent, hard-working, and easy to get along with, but also because of their previous work across industries with companies of varying sizes.
In the end, we chose Finch due to their understanding of the local community and its ethos. If we wanted to grow into a larger, regional player in the craft beer industry, we had to start in our home market. Partnering with folks who possessed a deep knowledge of the core values driving consumer behavior made a ton of sense, despite their lack of a craft-specific portfolio. In fact, selecting a branding partner who hadn’t previously done craft beer work might prove to be an asset because they wouldn’t use older projects as a crutch, giving us the best chance at a fresh look.
While there have been a few members of their team with a more day-to-day role in our development, we get the opportunity to engage with people at all levels of their operation and the collective input is a welcome change from my previous life as a sole proprietor. Almost immediately upon the commencement of our working relationship, Finch began to refine the Workhorse concept, helping us to drill down on the key elements driving the idea and highlighting key words and emotions that would serve as our brand DNA.
This exercise—putting broader concepts into digestible phrases—allowed us to further develop Workhorse as a larger idea, beyond just the name. Digging even deeper, Finch helped identify a singular word or core idea that would be pervasive throughout the brand. A unifying concept behind which everyone would align. That word was pride; pride in our beer, our community, and our service. If done right, the pride that we feel for Workhorse would be shared by everyone connected to the company, both internally and externally, while also providing a springboard for the brand to eventually grow on the backs of those who believed in it.
The brewery is still a work in progress; both literally and figuratively (more on that in our next post!) but the core ideas developed in tandem with Finch will ensure that the consistency of our goals and messaging remain strong throughout our trajectory.
Want to get a look at the step-by-step visual development of our brand and how we came to choose our logo? Swing on over to our Instagram page, where we’ve prepared a deep dive into the project, highlighting the evolution of our look.
Next week, on From the Horse’s Mouth:
- Finding a home: where should this thing go?
- Laying the groundwork: selecting equipment and beginning design.
- Who’s going to pay for all this? How to raise money and fund a business.
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