highland brewing

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I wrote yesterday about how beer taps should be used as brand instruments to build fealty, affinity and loyalty.  There was a time when the beer brand was more important than the brewer. As evidenced by my post yesterday, it seems the brewer portfolio has become more important than the individual beer brand – especially in this craft brewing led market.

Anheuser-Busch/InBev, MillerCoors and the other beer holding companies are sharpening their investments by buying craft brewers.  It seems variety is the spice of the balance sheet these days. When I look at a craft brewer, as both a drinker and brander, I ask about the flagship beer.  The one that sets the tone for the brewer.  Typically that’s the label with the highest gross sales. For BluePoint Brewing is it’s Toasted Lager. For Highland Brewing, Gaelic Ale. For Goose Island, it’s namesake Goose IPA. There has to be an alpha brand. And I start from there.

Smart brewery marketers want consumers to order a “Toasted Lager,” “Gaelic Ale” or “Goose IPA.”  They don’t want them to order the mother ship.  As craft brewers get more sophisticated, they will hire brand managers for each label. And then it’s on.



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Highland Brewing is “an original” craft brewery located in Asheville, NC – founded in 1995 by Oscar Wong.  When I moved to Asheville and having becomes a big fan of the Highland Gaelic Ale, I decided to contact president Leah Wong Ashburn for a quaff and chat about branding. Ms. Wong, I learned, was way ahead of me with a re-brand underway, using a shop in TX she had met at a beer tradeshow.  

I’ve seen a little bit of the work – the grand reveal is at the brewery this Friday – and the brand shop and Highland team seem to have hit on all cylinders.

Disclosure: I am a brand strategist who make paper, not pictures. I deliver an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging. As such, I’m always eager to hear the paper strategy. In the case of Highland the claim seems to be “Pioneers in Craft.” Nice. The phrase doesn’t say “craft beer,” it says “craft.” Love the nuance.  Craft extends way beyond beer making. So it opens more doors for the brand planks – the proof areas that deliver on the promise.

Not being privy to the Highland brand strategy, I’ll have to do some digging to uncover the brand planks. Can you say fatty liver JKJK.

One minor for me was the mark or logo. Using a compass and letter “H” lacked a little local mountain flourish. Logos are hard. This one is strong and professional… I’ll get used to it.

Bravo Highland. Good stuff. Can’t wait to see more.



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