Why Fulton was Ready for a New Brand Family

The logic behind the genesis of a new brand family of IPAs was simple for Fulton Beer CEO Ryan Petz, whose family recently announced the creation of Hop Kingdom.

Petz said Hop Kingdom is believed to be the first IPA brand family in Minnesota, and the company started it because they were ready to brew more IPAs.

“We’ve known for a long time that it’s the most important style of craft beer and was the first beer we ever released,” Petz said. “Our taproom customers, first-timers or longtime regulars are always asking what new IPAs we have. As we overhauled our brand calendar for 2023 to include more IPAs than ever before, we knew we needed to organize and brand these new beers in a way that made sense to customers.The result, Hop Kingdom, is a collection of IPAs that hits right in that sweet middle of the Venn diagram for people who love IPAs and love Minnesota.”

The top 30 brands of beers that grew the most in terms of dollars spent  in 2022 were almost exclusively IPAs, and Petz said Fulton wanted to stay ahead of the trend. The brand family includes Hop Kingdom, which is a re-release of their award-winning 300 IPA, Hazy IPA and The Juicy IPA.

“We started with 300 IPA, which has been tagged as “Hop Royalty” for several years thanks to its pedigree of awards,” he said. “We riffed on that until we arrived at “Hop Kingdom” as the idea for the brand family.”

The goal for Hop Kingdom is to create a brand that can perpetuate itself, Petz explained.

“Over the years, so many breweries — including us — have created beautiful beers that they’re so proud of with high hopes for future growth only to see the sales either spike quickly and then fall off just as quickly, or worse yet, not sell well at all,” Petz said. “Our goal with Hop Kingdom is to create a platform that builds upon itself, beer after beer, year after year, so we can keep doing this for a long time.”

Marvel comic artist Brent Schoonover gave the new brand a bit of distinction by illustrating the labels, incorporating drawings of Minnesota wildlife to celebrate the brewery’s home state.

Fulton wanted to come up with a design system that would simultaneously stand out and have consistency from one package to another. Petz said Schoonover deserved a lot of credit for his work in creating the animal illustrations, as did in-house graphic designer Michael Byzewksi, who designed the other elements on the packaging.

“We first connected with Brent about 10 years ago. Our circles overlap, and our kids even go to the same elementary school,” Petz said. “We’ve worked together on a few projects over the years, but as fate would have it, the first piece Brent ever created for Fulton was a superhero character promo poster for 300 IPA shortly after we released it. 

“That worked well for us, but the decision to call in Brent to work on this project was because we wanted to create a look and feel that was visually distinct from the type-heavy looks we’re historically known for and from anything else on the shelves.There are a lot of talented illustrators out there, but few who have the range that Brent does.”  

There are a number of considerations a company has to make before it creates a brand within a brand, Petz noted.

“I think it starts with asking, ‘What’s the purpose? How is this going to build our brand? Is this going to help our sales reps or make their job harder? Will this make it easier to connect with our distributors/retailers/consumers?’ Creating and rolling out a new brand family to everyone who has a stake in and understanding of your pre-existing brand requires a lot of work, time, expense and, most of all, attention,” Petz said. “These are all scarce assets, and if you do it wrong, you’ve wasted not only your own resources but everyone else’s, which is no small thing.” It’s a difficult enough task for a large, national brand, with greater elements of risk for companies that operate on a smaller scale, but Petz said it was still worth doing 

“Creating a new brand family represents a chance to grow, to elevate our connection with everyone who cares about our brand in the first place,” the CEO noted. “And just as importantly, it’s a chance for us internally to continue creating and having fun and connecting with people — which is why we got into this in the first place.”

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