As mainstream beer sales flatten, and craft beers carve out an increasing larger U.S. market share—$22.3 billion in sales and 15% in dollar sales growth in 2015—more and larger players are heading into the craft beer market. And with nearly 3,000 craft breweries in the U.S., competition for bar taps and retailer shelves is heating up. Emphatic differentiation is becoming an essential element in the market. And brandmarks, tap handles and label design are becoming increasingly sophisticated tools of choice.

As design journalist Chris Wright points out in his recent study of craft beer design in Gear Patrol, a digital and print lifestyle publication, design is becoming so important to craft beer marketing that “the design side of beer marketing is influencing brewers and breweries, leading the beer's style and intent at an early stage rather than the other way around." In other words, 'first the design, then the beer.'

A strong example of this design-driven approach can be found in our intensive branding work for the highly anticipated Tocayo craft beer line—which renowned Chicago chef and Mexican food authority Rick Bayless created with Constellation Brands, the nation's third largest beer company.

Our assignment was to create a Mexican/Latin-inspired beer brand—name, brandmark and visual language— with authentic craft 'credentials' that would interest the craft beer drinker (Millennials 21-34), but also have general market appeal. To undertake the project we used our proven Brand Manifesto® process to conduct a deep dive into Mexican/Latin culture to create a wide range of brand platform perspectives—resulting in the selected platform “Local craft, imported flavor." Using the positioning concepts of this platform—vibrant, modern, sociable, unexpected—we created a terrific brand name: Tocayo® (toe-kai-oh). Tocayo, roughly translated from Spanish, is a person who shares your first name: a namesake. More broadly, it is someone who shares your interests, ideas and values.

The distinctive visual treatment of the Tocayo name is intended to be 'design-forward', accessible, and with craft-beer aesthetics that convey authenticity and a premium quality. In keeping with the small-batch, 'hand-made,' quirky ethos of craft beer culture, the Tocayo logomark uses a hand-drawn typeface with a colorful, hand-painted 'bullseye' treatment of the first 'O' in the name, with the second 'O' appearing in plain type. As legendary designer Milton Glaser told The New York Times in 2014, when it comes to craft beer, “The one thing you don't want to look like is Budweiser." The two different 'O's' depicted in Tocayo logo function to convey the shared-but-different concept of a 'namesake.' The 'circles-within-circles' also suggest beer being poured into a glass, as seen from above.

Now, six months after introducing Tocayo® Hominy White Ale on draft, Constellation Brands is launching the beer in cans and bottles. The citrus-forward wheat ale, made with locally sourced ingredients—in keeping with Chef Bayless's philosophy—will be on shelves beginning April 2016, with availability only in the Chicago area for now.