The Power of Branding in Crafting an Unforgettable Craft Alcohol Experience

Building a craft alcohol brand is like crafting a fine drink – it requires a blend of passion, dedication, and a dash of creativity. It all starts with a vision, a unique story that captures the essence of your brand. Just as each sip of your craft beverage is an experience, your brand should evoke a journey, a connection that lingers long after the glass is empty.

Crafting a brand isn’t just about a catchy name and a stunning logo (though those are important too). It’s about authenticity, about showcasing what makes your creation truly exceptional. From the label design to the narrative you weave around your product, every element should harmonize to tell a tale that resonates with your audience.

Engagement is key in this flavorful journey. Connect with your customers through immersive experiences – from interactive social media campaigns to behind-the-scenes glimpses into your craft process. Building a brand isn’t a one-time task; it’s an ongoing dialogue, a dance between your creation and those who relish it.

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Plus, we have a course specifically created to help you identify your brand story, develop your brand voice, and activate both in a way that is tangible and drives value for your brand.

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In the ever-evolving world of craft alcohol, standing out is both a challenge and an opportunity. By blending your unique essence with effective marketing strategies, you create not just a brand, but an experience that becomes a cherished part of your customers’ lives.

Dive into the article below to learn about how Effie Panagopoulos built the KLEOS Mastiha Spirit brand!

Today, we’re sharing an article our founder, Suzanne, originally wrote for Distillers Magazine. Let’s dive in!

The power of brands

Brand Builder: Effie Panagopoulos

Originally published  in Distiller Magazine, July 2021.


It’s 2008 and Effie Panagopoulos is at a beach bar on the island of Mykonos. As the daughter of a “very serious first generation Greek family,” Effie remembers fondly this trip that brought her back to Greece. After a long time away, this reconnection with her motherland felt very important to her at the time. Now, as the founder of KLEOS Mastiha Spirit, she knows it was not only important but foundational in transforming her from someone with a career in alcohol marketing and sales to the first Greek woman in history to start a liquor brand.

All around her at this beach bar, Americans are enjoying shots of a local spirit she hasn’t heard of before. A friend of hers brings her one, she takes a sip and is immediately transported back to her youth — not because she did shots as a child (thankfully!), but because the flavor reminded her of a favorite childhood dessert, Ypovrichio. The flavor was mastiha, a key ingredient in that desert she loved and the primary flavor of the spirit. Secreted from mastiha trees, which can only be found on the Greek island of Chios, mastiha is a Protected Designation of Origin product, considered an ancient superfood. Incidentally, it was also the first ever chewing gum.

The formation of an idea…

With that sip, Effie’s worlds were colliding and an idea was forming, an idea that brought together her Greek heritage, a passion for health and fitness and more than 15 years of experience in alcohol sales and marketing in the United States. She took a few years to let the idea develop and formulate product samples she could carry around to get feedback while she spent her final years in a corporate 9-to-5 “taking an old brand and giving it a face-lift” for an agency brand of Bacardí.

With her deep alcohol marketing experience ranging from entry-level side hustles to executive roles for global spirit brands with multi-million dollar marketing budgets — Effie is a treasure trove of information when it comes to building a brand. I recently spent some time with Effie to learn how an experienced and knowledgeable alcohol brand marketer approaches launching and building a successful new craft alcohol brand.

What have you found is the difference between building a brand and building a distillery?

Building a brand is most definitely a more singular, focused activity. When I’m building a brand, I don’t have the stress of keeping the lights on in my distillery. For those that do have the stress of keeping the lights on in addition to the stress of building a brand, it’s really important to have someone dedicated to doing the brand building, marketing and sales work. Building a distillery, you usually have to plan on making multiple SKUs and potentially contract distill to make the cost of doing business worth it. These are two distinctly different skill sets. A great distiller does not necessarily equate with a great marketer or operator.

On the plus side, if you have a distillery that people can visit, along with a tasting room, you have an incredible advantage. Marketing is about creating emotional connectivity with the consumer. A distillery has the potential to create lifelong consumers by guiding every aspect of a consumer’s experience with their products on site and making it memorable. What consumer doesn’t get excited to meet the founder and maker of a product?

People often say that if you have a great product it will sell itself and you don’t need marketing. What’s your perspective on this philosophy?

Having a great product is just the first crucial step. One caveat I always give new entrepreneurs is never create a brand just because you and your friends like it. That does not a business make. I did over 17 formulas and countless focus groups for KLEOS. My industry friends and I loved the drier version of the formula, but consumers liked it with a bit more sweetness. If I hadn’t worked in the corporate world earlier in my career, I never would have believed in doing focus groups. When you’re an insider, you tend to think you know it all and can be quite disconnected from the consumer. Who will drink your brand? How are you communicating to this demographic to create pull-through? What does your brand world look like, and does this speak to your target demographic? Marketing is even more crucial. Case in point: I make a product with an ancient Greek superfood that is top rated by spirits aficionados… That’s all fine and dandy, but the job I have is educating consumers and getting liquid to lips to create pull-through.

When deciding on a brand name, KLEOS in your case, what elements should be considered?

I love this question! So many people just name their brands after themselves! I get it, trust me; I had friends trying to convince me to do the same thing, but a name should have some meaning that is germane to the brand:


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