BRAINS BREWERYBrains Brewery:a positively different approachto transforming a brand’sreputation and company’sperformanceHow a brewery and pub company transformed its reputation and performanceby conducting a comprehensive review of the way it was perceived, articulatinga new vision of what it stood for and engaging its staff, trade customers andconsumers with a motivating new visual identity and marketing campaign.
BRAINS BREWERYKEY INSIGHTS• Extensive research with both internal and external audiences was key to the success of thecompany’s change programme and to monitoring progress against its defined vision and brand values.• The response of the company’s leadership to the negative aspects of the research findings was not toevade or justify them, but to listen and respond proactively to them.• The research was coupled with creative insight to produce an engaging brand and marketingcampaign that motivates staff, trade customers and consumers.BACKGROUNDSA Brain & Company (Brains) is a family-ownedcompany founded in 1882. A brewer and puboperator, it has a brewery in Cardiff and over250 pubs in Wales and southwest England. In2011 its turnover was £113m and it has over2,000 employees.In 2001, Brains recognised that the companywas underperforming and needed to transformitself to meet the demands of a fast-changingand ever more competitive market place forbeer and pubs. A new Chief Executive andsenior management team was recruited todrive the company forward. The starting pointwas to take a comprehensive look at how thecompany was perceived by its key stakeholders.PERCEPTION RESEARCH – THEGOOD NEWS AND THE BADAn extensive programme of research wasundertaken to understand the currentperceptions of Brains. Employees, tradecustomers and consumers were canvassed togain a full picture of how Brains was regardedby each key stakeholder group.Several recurring themes came out of theconsumer research, showing that Brainsappealed to a proportion of its market, broadlyolder beer drinkers, but was alienating others,especially younger people.The themes were:POSITIVES• Tradition, heritage• Familiar, warm• Local affinity• Good beer• Appeal to older drinkersThe employee and trade research revealed asimilarly mixed picture. On the positive side,Brains was seen as a company that was wellestablishedand as an employer with integrity,but there were reservations too. It was seen tobe punching below its weight; staid and riskaverse;a follower rather than a leader; andunenterprising in its approach to branding andmarketing. However, this set of negative viewswas tempered by some optimism for the future,generated by the arrival of the newmanagement team and its new ambition todevelop the business.ACTING ON THE FINDINGSBrains’ leadership responded to theseuncomfortable research findings by committingto bring about a substantive change in thecompany’s reputation and performance. Thefirst step was to articulate a vision of wherethey wanted the company to go. The company’skey goals were identified as: to increasedistribution and popularity of its beers beyondthe Cardiff area, across Wales and beyond; toimprove the quality, increase the variety oftrading styles and expand the geographicalspread of its pub estate; and, crucially, toimprove the internal culture and increase themotivation of Brains’ staff.NEGATIVES• Old-fashioned, conservative• Uninspiring, predictable, ‘neutral’• Cardiff-centric• Basic boozers• Alien to younger audienceThe new vision was summarised in thefollowing statement:‘To be Wales’ leading independentbrewing and hospitality business,increasingly recognised by consumersthroughout the UK.’To turn the vision into reality, the managementteam embarked on the process of building anew brand that would sum up what Brainsstands for as an organisation, ie not just itsbeers, but its pubs, its ethos, its people and theway that they behave. The objective was todevelop a brand that would resonate amongstboth internal and external audiences. Externally,the brand had to engage with consumers andtrade customers to help make Brains beer andpubs more popular, whilst also raising the profileof the company and generating positivepublicity. Internally, the objective was to enhanceemployees’ sense of pride and belonging,improve morale and help drive change.
BRAINS BREWERYAs John Rhys, Chairman of Brains, explains:“Branding is not just about advertising and marketing. To deliver a successful andidentifiable brand, employee understanding and buy-in is vital. A successful brandingprocess will not just inspire effective marketing communications; it will also bringabout a change in employee behaviour, both in terms of the internal culture of theorganisation and the interaction with its trade customers and consumers.”DEVELOPING A DISTINCTIVENEW BRAINS BRANDThe first task was to develop a core brandproposition, for which a number of ideas weredeveloped and researched. The solutioneventually chosen was inspired by both thespirit of Brains as a company and its immediatetrading heartland in Wales. Whilst within thecompany, the appointment of the newmanagement team had created a mood ofoptimism amongst employees, outside thecompany a more confident Wales was emergingborn out of devolution; developments such asthe Millennium Stadium and the WalesMillennium Centre; and the success ofcontemporary Welsh bands, including theStereophonics and Manic Street Preachers.The new Brains brand would stand for‘positivity’, a highly relevant positioning in thedrinks and hospitality market that workedacross the business.A summary of the qualities is as follows:COMPANY:positive culture change; a can-do attitudePUB STAFF:positive welcome; strong customerservice ethicSALES FORCE:go the extra mile; never say ‘no’ADVERTISING AND MARKETING:an engaging platform, summed up in the slogan‘more positive thinking from Brains’.Crucially, by adopting a core brand propositionof ‘positivity’, Brains was ableto align its internal and externalcommunications.Looking back at the original research findings,the company then agreed a set of desiredbrand values, each of which represented asignificant transition from a negative perceptionthat came out of the research. Progress towardsthese brand values was then to be tracked ona regular basis, focusing on the followingconcepts:CURRENT• Neutrality• Old-fashioned• Conservative• Unadventurous• Cardiff-centric• UninspiringTHE INTERNAL LAUNCH OF‘POSITIVITY’Recognising the importance of employees tothe effective establishment of the new Brainsbrand, the new brand proposition and visualidentity was launched first within the company,with an extensive internal communicationsprogramme. This included face-to-facepresentations to all employees by the ChiefExecutive, and through ‘half full sessions’– employee workshops highlighting positives,identifying issues, and drawing out suggestionsfor positive change. These were followed up byfeedback from directors, who informedemployees how they were going to address theissues and champion the initiatives.DESIRED• Positivity• Contemporary• Forward-thinking• Imaginative• Genuinely Welsh• Engaging, optimistic,• sense of humourThe key areas of focus following the ‘half fullsessions’ included increased recognition ofpositive behaviour and a focus on training anddevelopment. Further, improved employeecommunication was prioritised, to explain andsecure buy-in to the company strategy, provideupdates on business performance and set keyobjectives by department and by individual.
BRAINS BREWERYESTABLISHING THE NEW BRANDEXTERNALLYThere were several key elements to themarketing campaign:• consumer research into the positive newbrand positioning• successful engagement of the media togenerate positive publicity• an advertising campaign to engage bothconsumers and trade• several significant new product developmentinitiatives• a range of new pub formats• sponsorship of the Welsh rugby team.Brains commissioned consumer research todiscover Welsh attitudes to positivity generally,which found that 78% of Welsh people saw ‘theglass as half full’. This then became a debatingpoint in the Welsh media asking whether Welshpeople really are more naturally optimistic andpositive than other nationalities. The launchposter capitalised on this, by including an imageof a ‘half full’ Brains pint glass with the beersurreally in the top half of the pint, its revitaliseddragon logo and the ‘more positive thinkingfrom Brains’ slogan, which underpinned the newbrand and all the communications around it.As well as poster advertising, the integratedcampaign included TV and press advertising,viral marketing and point of sale support.The ‘positive thinking’ campaign not only helpedraise the profile of Brains, but it captured theimagination of journalists and broadcasters,resulting in significant valuable additional mediacoverage at no additional cost.The brewery then became the first Welshbrand to sponsor the Welsh rugby team andthe resulting promotional and advertisingcampaign continued to amplify the core brandproposition of positive thinking as illustrated inthe playfully optimistic sponsorship launchposter that ran in 2004.The marketing team worked hard to generatepublicity for the brand around the Welsh rugbysponsorship. For example, when Wales playedFrance in Paris in the 2005 Six NationsInternational Rugby Tournament, ‘Brains’ had tobe removed from the famous red jersey due toa ban on alcohol advertising in France. The teamsaw this as an opportunity rather than aproblem, and replaced ‘Brains’ with ‘Brawn’.This stunt created huge publicity, including anarticle on the back page of the News of theWorld newspaper and an unprecedentedexplanation of the Brains-Brawn switch by theBBC TV commentator in the opening minutes ofthe match, reaching an audience of over fivemillion people.
BRAINS BREWERYTHE RESULTSAs well as monitoring sales and market share figures closely throughout the brand revitalisation process, Brains hasused a number of different evaluation techniques on an ongoing basis. These include quantitative consumerresearch in the form of a bi-annual brand tracking study, regular qualitative research through consumer focusgroups and annual employee surveys. This constant monitoring of progress has enabled them to understand howwell target audiences’ perceptions of the company are moving towards the brand values and attributes set out atthe beginning of the process. During the past five years, the organisation’s success in transforming itself and itsbrand has also been recognised with a series of prestigious awards.SALES AND MARKET SHAREBy the end of 2011, the brewery’s turnover hadincreased by 47% since the brand relaunch. It isnow Wales’ leading brewer and pub company,with market share having grown by around 1%per annum over the past ten years. Brains caskales have consistently outperformed the market,with latest figures showing sales up 3.7% in amarket which is down 0.7%. In the take-homemarket, sales have doubled in the last four yearsand total beer sales outside Wales are up 25%.QUANTITATIVE CONSUMERRESEARCHAwareness of Brains in Wales is now higherthan any other beer brand, with significantlyhigher numbers of consumers agreeing withthe following statements about Brains:• It’s a forward thinking company– increase of 24%• Brains beers are more popular nowadays– increase of 25%• It has a high quality pub estate– increase of 14%• Brains is not Cardiff-centric, it’s genuinelyWelsh – increase of 38%EMPLOYEE SURVEYSAnnual employee surveys have shown thefollowing significant movements:• Clear understanding of business strategy– increased from 53% to 90%• Told when I’m doing a good job– increase of 49%• Training and development needs met– increase of 40%• Morale– increase of 23%AWARDS OVER PAST FIVE YEARS• The Marketing Society Award for Excellence– Brand Revitalisation• The National Business Award– Marketing Strategy of the Year• The Hollis Sponsorship Award– Sponsorship Continuity• The Publican Award– Regional Brewer of the YearKEY LEARNING POINTS FROMTHE BRANDING PROCESSLooking back on the process to date,John Rhys highlights the following keyprinciples underpinning Brains’ success:• Listen to the views of staff, tradecustomers and consumers• Set out a clear vision for thecompany• Develop a single-minded propositionfor the brand• Make sure it resonates internallyand externally• Establish supporting values• Build from within, starting withemployees• Be consistent and take a longterm view• Constantly evaluate and measureprogress.QUALITATIVE CONSUMERRESEARCHAwareness of Brains in Wales is now higher thanany other beer brand, with significantly highernumbers of consumers agreeing with thefollowing statements about Brains:• It delivers on the desired brand values– “it gets Brains away from the spit andsawdust image”• It’s engaging – “it’s insightful and humorous– it grabs your attention”• It has stature – “slick and professional– it’s what you’d expect from a top flightdrinks brand”www.distinct.ac.uk