Often, start-ups are focused on the financials and forget that the branding process, which is just as necessary for successful launch, takes several months if you want to open with all of your ducks in a row.

September 1, 2017

Planning Your Branding

We often receive e-mails from breweries, wineries & distilleries in-planning asking for rough timelines to take into account as they start to plan their branding.

Often, start-ups are focused on the financials and forget that the branding process, which is just as necessary for successful launch, takes several months if you want to open with all of your ducks in a row. And, this really applies to any business, including body products or home goods.

Here are a few identity basics needed for a solid brand foundation.


Your name and the subsequent identity design will be the foundation of your brand. It will define you on-shelf and online and will likely be the first touch the public has with your brand.

Your name should have meaning. What does it say about you? Is there a story there that can be told through your branding? Is it about your location? Your personality? Your brewing/distilling/winemaking/product style? Give your future customers something to identify with.

Once you have a beginning list, start with Google. Doing a basic Google search will save you a lot of headaches and costs down the line, if there is a pre-existing business out there with the same name, and they do not need to be in the same state as you. Funny enough, they do not necessarily have to even produce the same product as you. Wine and cocktails live in a similar bucket at the TTB, so they can easily conflict on trademarks. The same goes for breweries/wineries and distilleries – best to select a name as unique as possible to avoid lawsuits.

Once you have done your due dillegence on Google, you should also leave time to confirm that your name is solid with a trademark attorney before diving into the logo design process. If you have to backtrack and rename after starting your logo, you will also have to begin the logo process fresh once renamed, losing time and doubling costs.

Timing : Allowing 1.5-2 months to solidify your name is a good estimate. This allows time for the back and forth with your branding studio as well as time to confer with your attorney. The last thing you want to rush is the thing that will define your future success.

Logo Design:

The next most important investment is the mark that will likely be the centerpiece to your social media profiles, packaging, website, signage, merch, advertising, marketing collateral and beyond. Think about everything your logo needs to do for you. And, now consider that this is likely the one thing about your brand that will not change as your business, the internet and the market shift and change.

It is necessary to complete this step prior to package design because decisions made here – from fonts, to aesthetic style and color palettes will all play out as your brand continues to be defined in future projects. Doing this first also allows you to get online early, before the rest of your needs are complete, as all you need for a social account is a name and a graphic identity before you can start culling your audience.

Timing : Budget a minimum of 2 months for the logo exploration, refinement and finalization. Again, this allows for the interactive back and forth of design process.

Package Design:

Since there is no precedent for your package, you should allow a larger amount of time and cost for the first design, as this will define your ‘look’.  One of the reasons the first package takes longer, is because you need to include time for concepting, where you are designing and reviewing several directions, all based on the creative brief developed during the brand identity. Subsequent designs often follow the first in some manner, at least in style, so future designs tend to come down in time and cost once the first is locked in.

If you plan to can, you really need to back out several months for the can printing process. Unlike labels, where most printers can turn the final product in 2-3 weeks, cans can take 3-4 months when you include the proofing process.

Timing : Allow 2-3 months for the first design, not including printing/production. Once the first package is complete, allow at least a month to produce each subsequent package, not including print time.

Note: This also does not include time for market testing. If you are trying to launch a national product, you may want to consider consumer research and testing prior to and after the initial concepts, to ensure success.

Online Presence:

Once the above is complete, it is fairly quick and easy to set up your social media profiles and begin updating your fans on your progress. This is a good step to execute while you are building your website.  With websites, there are a lot of directions you can consider:

Depending on the initial investment you want to make in your site, you could either go template or custom. Many start ups begin with a good-looking template, and as they start to see success, invest in a custom site, which takes a significant amount of time and money. A benefit of following the steps above is that the graphics that come out of the branding can help make a good template look custom.

A custom site starts with custom design and then is custom developed, often on top of a content management system (CMS) like WordPress. This process can be 4-7 months to launch.

Timing : Consider that content needs to be written and graphics need to be created, but a template can be executed in a few weeks, if you have your ducks in a row prior to beginning. A custom site can take 4-7 months.

After these foundational brand elements are in place, you can start expanding out into signage, marketing collateral, interiors, advertising and more, integrating your identity throughout.

There are so many other things to consider as you launch your business, but without an identity, you will have nothing to brand with, so its a good place to start.

Depending on how prepared you want to be when you go public, you likely want to back out 6-8 months on the safe side, and 4 on a rush.

Have more questions? Give us a call!