According to conventional wisdom, an association with the Adirondack Mountains adds value to a brand or product.
Evoke the balsam-scented air, the wind in the sails of an Idem or the rush that comes from immersing yourself in a deep spring-fed pool and you can sell everything from flannel shirts to big ticket items like guide-boats anywhere in the world.
Unless you can’t.
That’s what the owners, the manager and the sales team at the North Hudson-based Paradox Brewery found as they approached the company’s tenth anniversary.
“Our tap handles – a forged stick with a label recalling a DEC or ADK trail marker and our tagline, ‘Pure Adirondack Craft Beer’ – weren’t tracking very well in places below Albany, in Poughkeepsie and Kingston,” said Devon Hamilton, Paradox’s Director of Operations.
It was bad enough to have consumers and the aficionados who frequent craft beer festivals confuse Paradox’s products with those of other breweries which have embraced an Adirondack brand and identity.
“What we found was that once you get south of Saratoga, people tend not to be so invested in the Adirondacks,” said Hamilton.
Katie Etherton, Paradox’s General Sales Manager, added, “People aren’t choosing brands based upon an Adirondack identity. Once you get into New York, Philadelphia or South Jersey, people can’t even pronounce ‘Adirondack.’”
Without disavowing the Adirondacks – “we have a beautiful, state-of-the-art facility here” – Hamilton said the brewery needed a new or at least a refreshed identity, one “that would make us more marketable in other, more densely populated places and to those populations.”
“We love being in the Adirondacks, but that’s not everything we are,” said Hamilton. “We are a high tech, modern brewery.”
Rebranding Part of 10th Anniversary Celebration
The release of Paradox Brewery’s new logo and marketing collateral coincided with the brewery’s tenth anniversary celebration, held July 29 at its 11-acre campus, slightly east of the Northway’s Exit 29 on Route Nine.
The move to the $7 million pub and brewery from Schroon Lake in 2018 was among the many mileposts celebrated by Paradox Brewery’s founders – Paul and Joan Mrocka – and their staff, many of whom have been with them almost since the beginning.
A tenth anniversary seemed like an appropriate time to relaunch the brand, said Joan Mrocka.
The new logo required a revamped sign on the front of the building, which was hidden behind a tarp until the right moment arrived.
“We really built up the unveiling,” said Katie Etherton. “We urged everyone to join us in a countdown. We pulled the ropes, the sign was revealed and thankfully, everyone clapped. We were nervous. What if no one liked it?”
Merchandise – glassware, hoodies, caps, t-shirts, etc. – emblazoned with the new logo sold quickly.
Enter Trampoline Design
The Mrockas and their staff began discussing a rebranding of Paradox Brewery long before the tenth anniversary celebration, however.
“We danced around the idea, starting at the edges. Should we tweak the logo? Replace the tap handles? What about changing the packaging? And then we decided that if we were going in, we should go all in,” said Hamilton.
“Also, we were also already stepping away from the brown and gold colors of our original logo,” said Katie Etherton. “We were no longer leaning into those earthen-toned, Adirondack colors. We knew we preferred to use more negative space with pared-down, clean, simple designs.”
Paradox Brewery retained Glens Falls-based Trampoline Design to guide the rebranding process, which Hamilton likened to a charette.
“Initially, we were all over the map. But Trampoline went round after round with us, taking from the group discussions that must have appeared to be random shouting matches some concepts that ultimately produced our new logo. They catalyzed our thinking,” said Hamilton.
“Devon and Katie really drove the creative on the client side, with Paul and Joan Mrocka’s full endorsement,” said Sean Magee, a founder and owner of Trampoline Design. “They knew what was needed to shake things up, and they have been ready for something new and different.”
Guided by Paradox’s goal “to part with the Adirondack aesthetic and introduce a more universal look for national distribution and beyond, our design team created the ‘crowntain,’ a nod to the mountains and the history of place, but with a modern spin, and as a sign of quality ingredients and incredible beer,” Sean Magee stated in an email.
Magee added that the very name ‘Paradox’ carries with it other connotations that make the logo even stronger.
“The shape references namesake Paradox Lake and its endless back and forth flow with nearby Schroon River. A quip from Paul Mrocka suggested another type of paradox, ‘I can’t stand how much I love this beer.’ Similar contrary statements could provide material for ad headlines, beer descriptions and merchandise zingers,” Magee stated.
Despite Some Negative Reaction, No Retreat
Sean Magee said Paradox Brewery’s rebranding “was a risk, as every rebrand or new communications campaign is.”
And not every response to the rebranding was positive, Hamilton acknowledged.
“I was ready for internet fallout; I knew it was coming,” said Hamilton. “It was a big change. We went from a colored logo to one that is black and white. We went from a logo that leaned into the Adirondacks to one that abstracted from it. So I knew some people wouldn’t like it and that others would need time to digest it.”
Hamilton said he understood why not every Paradox customer reacted neutrally to the new brand.
“You invite these products into your home; they become parts of your happy moments, your sad moments, the quiet hour at the end of the day, your family dinners. People feel a personal connection to the brand. When it changes, they ask, ‘where’s my buddy?” said Hamilton.
Despite the responses from some quarters, “We’re not going back. We’ve planted our flag in this logo,” said Hamilton.
Cans with the new logo and packing will start to appear in grocery stores in January, Hamilton said.