Industry News

Branding lessons from top food and beverage companies

Katie Lundin
April 5, 2021

The top five food and beverage businesses in the world have held those top spots for several years. The brands -- Nestle, PepsiCo, Anheuser-Busch InBev, JBS and Tyson Foods -- produce quality products consumers know and love. How do these brands dominate the industry? They’ve each invested in consistent branding.

Whether you’re working on your business plan for a new food and beverage business or starting your second business in the industry, branding should be top of mind. Here’s a look at how the top food and beverage brands approach building a strong brand identity and brand -- and what actionable lessons you can apply to your own business.

Lay’s: Create cohesion with a masterbrand logo

Lay’s is a global snack food brand and the most lucrative of PepsiCo’s food brands. With many products, unique markets and languages, it can be tricky to develop one visual brand identity that resonates worldwide.

Brand identity is the special sauce that makes your business unique and different from every other company, and includes visible elements such as color palette, design and a brand’s logo. Put simply, brand identity is what you, customers and prospective customers can see.

In 2015 Lay’s developed a new “masterbrand,” including multiple versatile visual assets that created its brand consistency worldwide. The rebrand included refreshed global masterbrand logos, new proprietary typography, a master hero photo (product shot), new background treatment and an international style guide to keep every sub-brand visually aligned.

Uniting each global sub-brand with the same masterbrand logo and similar visual styling creates consistency. This ensures that Lay’s is easily recognizable and memorable wherever you find the company.

Lessons:

  • Approach your products as part of a cohesive line, tied together by core brand traits and values. Your business name will tie everything together, but you need to think holistically about the entire product line, not in isolation about each product.
  • Rebrand to develop a consistent “master” brand identity that embodies those traits and values for use across all products and geographical regions.
  • Create a style guide outlining rules for use to ensure a consistent visual presentation across all products and locations.

Tyson: Share your authentic story

Tyson Foods is the world’s largest processor of chicken, beef and pork, and the jewel in Tyson Foods’ crown is the Tyson brand itself. The Tyson family ran the Tyson company for many years, and that relatable heritage tugs at American heartstrings and makes the company approachable.

The Tyson empire began humbly during the Great Depression when John W. Tyson “loaded up his old truck and began delivering quality chicken to other hard-working people.” We know this -- and many other details about the family-based company -- because Tyson made its origin story a core aspect of the brand.

Visiting the Tyson website, you’ll find that the navigation options offered on the homepage are limited to “Our Products,” “Recipes,” “How To” and “Our Story.” The brand has smartly directed their visitors only to pages that tell about the brand and how it will fit their lives. Tyson knows that people love stories, and stories are a core part of emotional marketing and a fundamental principle of marketing psychology. Using the phrase “Our Story” instead of the more generic “About Us,” Tyson successfully piques peoples’ curiosity.

Lessons:

  • Share your authentic story with your audience. Today’s shoppers value authentic brands more now than at any other time in history.
  • Feature your brand story prominently on your business website and in your marketing.
  • Tell your story with an authentic, conversational brand voice. The most real story can be undermined by inauthentic story-telling.

Corona: Remain true to your unique brand identity

The popular Mexican beer brand Corona is owned by beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, but despite the protection of its powerful parent company, Corona faced a potential disaster in 2020. By now, everyone on the globe is familiar with the coronavirus. Many predicted that the shared name would lead to a drop in sales for the well-known beer brand.

But that didn’t happen. Aside from a small dip in sales (due to temporarily closing its factory in response to the pandemic), the brand continued its projected growth.

So, how did Corona beer survive and even thrive in the age of coronavirus? Consistent branding saved the day.

While people couldn’t miss the unfortunate naming connection (thousands teased the beer brand on their Instagram account), Corona’s solid foundation of brand-building paid off. The buying public knows Corona well. Years of consistent visual branding, brand messaging and even the lime-in-the-neck-of-the-bottle ritual have cemented Corona’s identity in consumers’ minds.

People were comfortable ribbing Corona for their naming overlap. They were familiar enough with the brand to know that any connection was purely incidental and posed no real threat.

Lessons:

  • Brand-building is never a wasted effort.
  • Develop an authentic brand supported by a strong visual brand identity that can grow with your business for years.
  • Expect your visual brand to take time (years) to make a strong impression on your audience. And give it that time.

Every business -- especially businesses in the food and beverage industry -- must have a distinct visual identity grounded in authentic traits and values and expressed by clear visual assets. Take the time to uncover the traits and values that define your brand, then invest in the visual design assets needed to communicate your unique brand identity to your target market.

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Katie Lundin is a marketing and branding specialist at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business, and design on crowdspring's award-winning small business blog.

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