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Hong Kong Beer Co. on Rebranding for Success

Devin Otto Kimble and Daniel Flores acquired Hong Kong Beer Co. (HKBC) in 2013. Already founders of Singapore’s award-winning Brewerkz Restaurant & Microbrewery, they set out to make HKBC a world-class brewery. The only problem? The HKBC brand didn’t have a great reputation.

Kimble and Flores found themselves faced with a challenging decision. Undertake a complete brewery rebrand and rename the beer brand they had inherited. Or give their existing brand and brewery name a refresh, setting out to deliver a quality product that would change people’s minds about the infamous name. They chose what some might call the more difficult of the two paths and embarked on a brewery rebrand, refreshing Hong Kong Beer Co.’s image without changing the name.

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The results were a sleek redesign steeped in local culture and heritage — not to mention beer that’s creating international buzz. Below is an excerpt from our interview with Kimble for the eBook, How to Set Your Brewery Apart in a Saturated Market. For the full interview, download the free eBook now.

An excerpt from our eBook interview with Hong Kong Beer Co.’s Devin Otto Kimble

Brandfolder: Hong Kong Beer Co. was founded under a different name in 1995 and you took over ownership in 2013. Tell us a little about the changes in branding and product that have taken place over the past three years.

Devin Otto Kimble: When we bought Hong Kong Beer Co., they didn’t have a great reputation. We knew we wanted to rebrand, but we owned the name Hong Kong and wondered how damaged the brand would be if we kept the same name. We took a gamble in keeping it, but it paid off. Matt Neren and the team over at Cultivator helped us refresh our brand image and make it much more sophisticated.

We’ve also been really deliberate in telling the unique story of Hong Kong through our branding. Manufacturing has really died down in Hong Kong, but we try to make everything we can here. That’s a really unique story to tell both locally and internationally.

beer bottle

Our naming convention and labeling designs all draw on local places and names. The Hong Kong Brewing logo contains a symbol of protection, and if turned on its side, it resembles the Chinese symbol for swallow or gulp, 吞. I’m actually looking at Dragon’s Back Trail out the HKBC window right now, which is the name of our pale ale. That story of a Hong Kong heritage brand really resonates with our consumer.

Brandfolder: What advice do you have for those in the middle of a brewery rebrand?

Devin Otto Kimble: I think brands should always be in the business of keeping their image fresh. Today’s breweries needs to remain flexible. After the first year of being in business, HKBC redid all of our recipes. Things change so rapidly that you have to find your niche, and you have to be willing to let that niche change. You’ve seen it with Fat Tire from New Belgium. You have flagship beers, but your brand has to continue to evolve and refresh. You’re not going to put out one killer product and be set for life anymore.

Hong Kong Beer's Brandfolder

These days, the market is all about variety, choice, and change. There are so many rotating taps. You might be featured in a hot restaurant one week, but you’ll be gone the next. The market is going to segment you, but you’ve got to find a way to segment the marketplace and stay sticky.