January 7, 2019

Beer Marketers – The Interviews. Isaac Arthur, CODO Design

beer branding

Beer marketing is about beer and marketing. The main thing both of those have in common is people. If you want great beer or great marketing you need great people.

At #BeerMarketing our goal is help beer people get better at marketing and to help marketing people get better at marketing beer. So enjoy the first of an ongoing series of interviews of beer people, marketing people and our favorite: beer marketing people.

Beer Marketing: Isaac Arthur, CODO Design

Isaac is a Partner / Co-Founder at CODO Design in Indianapolis, IN. CODO Design focuses on doing #branding, #design, #messaging and go to market for beer brands. (They are excellent at what they do BTW). So get to know Arthur and CODO Design.

How would you describe what you do to your grandma?

Grandma, we make craft beer packaging and websites. I love you. 

How would you describe what you do to beer industry peers?

We work shoulder to shoulder with some of the most exciting breweries in the world to understand how they’re different and tell this story through branding, concrete positioning, easy to use websites, and packaging that jumps off of shelves and sells more beer.

What’s your super power?

Taking a chance on a 6-pack (off premise) that I’ve never tried, not liking it, but pretending like I do so that I don’t feel foolish for not buying something I know and love. 

How long have you been involved in the beer industry? 

~8.5 years.

What was your ‘gateway/intro/omg’ beer that got you into enjoying beer rather than just consuming it?

Guinness. The first Guinness I had was out of a can in the back of a pickup truck in my friend’s driveway (hood rat stuff). I thought the beer was skunked. And why is there a piece of plastic in there left over from the factory? But three or four more and I started to like it. That stupid experience indirectly led me to where I am today. 

What are the last three beers you drank? (Brewery, beer name)

Hoppopotamus IPA, Metazoa Brewing
My Ghetto IPA, Devil’s Trumpet Brewing
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale 

You get only two beers while stuck riding the mars rover. Which two do you pick? (Brewery, beer name) and why?

New Belgium’s retired Ranger IPA (bring it back you bastards!) 

Osiris Pale Ale, Sun King Brewing, Osiris Pale Ale (I’ve enjoyed easily 2,500 of these over the last nine years and am confident I would enjoy it while tooling around Mars.

What is your “OMG, right now, can’t get enough of it, must drink more” beer?

Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils. 

Some of CODO Designs branding and design work for Prodigy Brewing

What does “Beer Marketing” mean to you? (be as verbose as you want)

Telling your story in an authentic and engaging way. No hype, no frills—just a peek behind the curtains at what makes your business so special. Who are the people behind your business, what challenges do you face on a regular basis and what are you doing to better your community and make the best beer possible?

What beer company do you think does an exceptional job at overall marketing? (product, promotion, people, retail, packaging, social etc)

Dogfish Head continues to inspire, and it’s almost entirely because of Sam Calgione’s influence. In a lot of ways, he set the stage for the work CODO does (I read his first book in college and a have gifted it to multiple colleagues and clients since). Storytelling, quality, differentiation, constant marketing and innovation—the entire outfit is executed about as well as can be done.

What’s your favorite beer marketing this year? (brewery and whatever marketing they did)

Red Brick Brewing completely changing their name to Atlanta Brewing (disclosure, we handled this project) is one of the bravest things we’ve seen all year. Read more about this here:

beer branding
CODO Design did the whole branding package for Big Lug

What is your #1 pet peeve about what too many beer companies do wrong in their marketing?

I see a lot of breweries hang their hat on being local or “craft” (and nothing else). Craft is constantly being redefined, and is no longer novel anyway. And even if you’re the first brewery in your town, there will be more opening over the next few years. You need to dig deeper for your differentiation so you’re set up for the long haul. 

What two marketing related activities do you wish more breweries would do more of?

I’m in the minority of people who still enjoy long-form content—blogs, stories, essays, books. Wrap more of this content into your marketing and you’ll have me hooked. I’m still surprised at how many breweries don’t think they need a great website. It’s such a huge opportunity to tell your story and as more and more people make the switch to exclusively using smartphones and tablets, you have to shift your design and development to meet customers there.

You only get to choose one: What’s more important for the long term success of a brewery? And Why? Exceptional Product or Exceptional Marketing & Branding

I want to say outstanding beer is paramount, but we’ve seen several breweries with solid beer and horrendous banding not get the same opportunities as better branded outfits (who may not make as good a product). So branding is 90% of the equation. Great beer is the other half. 

Is the overall Beer market:

  1. Over-saturated (too many breweries, not enough drinkers, more closures than openings) or
  2. Under-saturated (unmet demand, more breweries open than close, more beer will be consumed.)

I’ve read in a few business books that when the economy starts to go south, marketing and advertising budgets are the first things on the chopping block. So, while this is anecdotal, our business is thriving. We’re constantly on the road working with new breweries or rebranding established ones, we’ve hired three new people over the last year, and opportunities are getting bigger and more challenging. If our business starts to slow, or if the beer branding and marketing industry itself starts to slow, then you may be looking at some bad industry (or economic itself) trends ahead.

TL;DR: Ask Bart Watson what he thinks. I’ll be over here in my lane. 

Is YOUR City Over or Under saturated?

Whenever I think Indianapolis is over-saturated, I visit a place like Denver or Portland and remember that we’ve got plenty of room to grow. There’s plenty of room for smaller breweries, place-based neighborhood spots and satellite taprooms in Indy. And there are loads of underserved suburban areas that would gladly support these concepts.  

What are your Top Three breweries in your city?

Big Lug Canteen

Sun King Brewing

Bier Brewing

( bonus Points for: Black Acre / Central State / Daredevil / Metazoa / Flat 12 / 450 North / Centerpoint )

Beer Marketing People are Awesome.

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