The dream brief – a brand refresh for a brewery

Skinner’s Brewery was founded in 1992 by Steve Skinner and his family, and was part of the vanguard of the brewing revolution. Based in Truro, Cornwall, it introduced new beer styles to a staid south-west market, beginning with Cornish Knocker, a ground-breaking golden ale, and continuing with Betty Stogs, which CAMRA named Britain’s best bitter.

While its beers are well respected, especially in the West Country, Skinner’s branding hadn’t evolved with the industry, and the company recognised that to take the business to the next stage, a new strategy was required.

The Happy Seven, were brought in to find the right route for Skinner’s. After a competitor review, coupled with internal staff workshops and management interviews, we proposed new brand values and a differentiated positioning, distinct from other south west breweries, but which remained true to the company’s roots, location, culture and ethos. Skinner’s sense of humour, bonhomie and community is the clearly defined heart of the organisation.

Drawing on industry data and market research reports, we identified two key markets the company needed to target. Tasting research among those important segments helped identify the roles for each beer in the portfolio. One brand was closed, while others were identified as candidates for marketing support and national distribution, after national taste testing in conjunction with industry experts Brewlab.

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We worked with Skinner’s to identify a design agency to bring the brand to life, and appointed Cornwall-based company A-Side, who have a strong track record in packaging development and illustration-led design, a key component of the brief. Our market research revealed the demographic differences among fans of each ale brand, and the need to allow each one to convey its own personality.

Skinner’s original illustrator Nick Beringer produced a fresh take on Betty Stogs, while other artists brought their own distinctive look to other brands. Joe McLaren, for example, best known for his Discworld book cover designs, reimagined the Cornish Knocker, while underground artist Stevie Gee brought his unique style to Porthleven, a refreshing, hoppy ale named for a famous Cornish surfing break. The designs were complemented by new brand stories and tasting notes from copywriter Glenn Law, who also developed Skinner’s new tone of voice and editorial style guidelines.

A-Side modernised the Skinner’s mother-brand, and with founder Steve Skinner, we developed a distinctive look for brewery communications, full of wit and personality. We also developed a brand architecture and brand library for Skinner’s, covering both their permanent and seasonal ranges.

Next, we worked with digital agency  fffunction on a brand new website that showcases the ales and more importantly enable the visitor to find their nearest pub or stockist. Trade visitors are catered with a section dedicated to them becoming a stockist, running events and getting beer school training.

The website also gives an insight into life at the brewery, beautifully captured by photographer Jonathan Birch.

Stuart Hughes, Head of Sales at the brewery, said “The response to the brand refresh has been overwhelming – universally positive, in fact, from buyers at national multiples, to key distributors, to West Country landlords. It’s led to new and expanded listings both in bottle and cask, locally and nationally, and this is just the beginning.”

We’re now working with London-based food and drink media experts Smith and Baxter to give Skinner’s ales the national exposure and recognition they deserve.

“The Happy Seven’s marketing advice and guidance has had a transformative effect on the company,” said Mike Pritchard, Commercial Director of Skinner’s. “They have been a pleasure to work with, and have truly felt part of the team.”

Steve Skinner added “The Happy Seven have created a strategy that is rooted in our history and values, yet is very different from other breweries and feels truly new and fresh. We’re excited about the next phase of the brewery’s story.”

Explore the Skinner’s Brewery, enjoy their new look and arrange to have ale delivered to your door.

Hoppily for us all, the beer remains the same : )