Western Australia’s Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co. is rebranding again just over two years after it undertook the last revamp of its brand.
Brendan Day, operations manager at Cheeky Monkey, spoke candidly about the reasons why the brewery was investing in new branding.
“I could give you a whole song and dance but in all honesty, we’ve made some mistakes in our history,” Day admitted.
“We’ve struggled to find our own identity and that is the core issue.”
Finding an identity in a maturing market is an ongoing exercise and something that many other brewers have been grappling with.
Earlier this year, Melbourne’s Exit Brewing also made the move to change its branding to be more reflective of its customers, whilst Mr Banks has also had a revamp, changing its name and branding to Banks Brewing this month, so Cheeky Monkey is not alone.
The rebrand is also a result of a changing business model and strategy at Cheeky Monkey.
“Cheeky Monkey was a venue, which is all it was at the start with no wholesale,” said Day.
“Being a family-friendly venue was enough to stand out in what was a stuffy cellar door region. Wineries didn’t have playgrounds – the tone of Margaret River wineries was very different.
“At the time that was enough and we banked on it and it was an authentic proposition. But then we grew and started packaging.”
Growing as a business and a brand
The last Cheeky Monkey rebrand was undertaken in 2019, the same year it opened its new production facility in Vasse.
“With that, we had ambitions of being a little bit more mainstream. The rebrand then was something that as a business it makes sense.
“It wasn’t done without thought or haphazardly. We had a consultant come on board, one of the best of the game, I only have positive things to say about them. We didn’t go into it half cocked.
Day suggested that trying to throw the net too wide in terms of its audience was a key issue with its previous branding.
“We’d just got a trophy for our pale ale and created all this branding to appeal to a more mainstream audience. We had session ale in bottles, lager in bottles and cans, we were trying for something very ambitious.
“Our branding was built for a more mainstream audience than we wanted to target, when we were thinking we could target all those people.”
Cheeky Monkey’s most successful products were changing at the same time as its strategy and influenced the direction its branding would take.
“We found that we were having more wins with these products that were authentic to what we really wanted to do,” Day explained.
“We’ve always had a limited release program, the West Coast IPA started as a limited, the East Coast IPA started as a Surf Break series. We always had fun with those beers and they were working in the market but they were just not connected to what our brand was.
“[The performance of] our West Coast was pretty impressive at the time, and it has continued to be basically our flagship product.
“Our Surf Break beers were really popular, those smoothie and pastry sours. I brought my dad through the first time and told him what we were selling, he couldn’t believe it when I told him these sell out within hours.
“We found that those beers that we really wanted to do were the ones resonating with people.
“Unfortunately, what we wanted to create did not resonate with our branding. When we created that branding we did a good job, but it wasn’t right for us at all – there was a disconnect.
“So we approached Jarrod from Zendoke, who’s had his beautiful little fingers over cans in WA and beyond, and he pitched an idea about essentially a collaboration with sofreshpeche, which has also done some significant work with Feral, and they have been working with myself and Brent to create something more authentic to us.”
Another consideration for Cheeky Monkey was being compliant with alcohol advertising standards, having faced an ABAC adjudication panel a number of times for its packaging primarily.
In fact, Cheeky Monkey’s new packaging and branding has been pre-vetted by ABAC.
“ABAC wasn’t the reason for the change, but we definitely thought about when we were changing the brand,” Day explained.
“What we learnt was, basically of all of our complaints, pretty much nothing we have ever done, was, by itself, appealing to minors.
“I have certainly disagreed with some of their judgements in the past, but it’s fair to say Cheeky Monkey is already playful, then you add a smiling monkey, it’s more playful, anything else that combined with that, it becomes a bit of a question mark.”
However, Day said he hoped other brewers could learn from Cheeky Monkey’s experience.
“We are almost a case study for them when they send out what to do and what not to do!”
Cheeky Monkey strategy
Despite its struggles with its brand identity, Cheeky Monkey as a business has been very successful, securing a $350,000 grant from the WA Government, opening a major new production facility as well as an R&D site at its original brewery.
The new rebrand really reflects how far Cheeky Monkey has come as a business, explained Day.
“If you distil it all down, we got some stuff wrong along the way but we really learnt who we were as a business,” he said.
“We’ve still been successful but when you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one and that’s kind of where we ended up.
“For us to be more authentic as a business, not everyone will resonate with what we come up with.
“But we’re incredibly lucky to have the kind of consumers that appreciated what effort we put into the liquid.”