Mistakes Breweries are Making in Branding – Part 3

This will be an ongoing series of posts! Check back for other posts under the same title as new topics come up. I won’t pick on any particular brewery, and I don’t want to be overly negative, but I think starting with what’s wrong can help shed light on what might work better!

See part 1 – A logo is not a brand here
See part 2 – Unusable Logos

Who makes this beer?

The beer world is in an interesting place when it comes to packaging design and branding. Breweries and designers have realized that there are no rules (minus legal TTB details, if they care) when it comes to wrapping a 16 oz can with a label. No name or branding on the front, no problem. Gangsta Mickey Mouse breakdancing, of course. Tide Pods with hops inside of them, sounds appropriate. 

As much as I want to talk shit from a branding perspective, I get it…you need to sell beer. Hype through Instagram and word of mouth is real, and it moves beer. 

In this article, I want to ponder these questions…

What happens when the hype is gone?

Will customers remember your name or brewery?

Can your customers recall one specific thing about your packaging or brand?

TLDR; The third mistake brewers are making in branding is that they are not branding their brewery first. So much of the focus is going to how cool, or funny, or modern their labels look without considering the impact of longer term branding. People build brand recognition through repetition, so branding your brewery prominently will mean folks will remember who you are. There’s a lot of competition out there these days and breweries that aren’t keeping up are falling off. Trends only last so long and you don’t want to depend on that for your sole branding strategy.

Core beers

Beer shelves are definitely different than any other set of products in a retail store. If you look at almost any other product, there is a strong emphasis on how products stack together and their branding presence on the shelf. We are visual people, so this would make sense in a number of ways. People recognize things easily by landmarks, or quick and easy visual clues. “Look for the beer box with the big red star.” That’s surely an easy way to tell someone how to find your beer on a shelf.

A number of breweries are branding their beers in this fashion. Consistent branding across cans or bottles so when they stack on a shelf, it’s totally obvious that collection or products belong to a given brewery.

I also get that some of these same breweries are pushing one-off taproom sales for beers that may never sit on a shelf. 

But then, there is a product treadmill where customers are wanting new beers to purchase frequently from their local store or bottle shop. Retailers and distributors want to see new and fun beers coming from your brewery to keep that treadmill moving! This never ending run of pushing new products and wanting to gain and keep attention, can often resort back to the zany, fun, attention grabbing labels.

Consider what might happen if a one off beer makes a return and becomes a core beer for you? Do you have core elements, colors, visuals that you can carry over to a more core beer style label so people will still recognize that beer from your previous releases?

I hope the points above help reinforce the idea that branding elements are important on any label you put out. Your logo, color coding, beer names, and graphical elements should be considered.

Branding your brewery first

You build recognition through repetition. When customers see your label branding enough times, they should be able to quickly recognize your packaging. This requires that you have enough branding on your labels to start building that brand recognition!

You want folks to remember the name of your brewery, and your brand right?

Place your brewery logo and branding prominently on your labels to start building brand recognition. Can labels aren’t always facing the same way on a shelf, so I think repeating your logo or brewery name across various sides and angles helps, as well.

I suppose there could be one argument some might make where their brand aesthetic does not have a large logo, or brand name placement on their packaging. If you are able to have very strong and consistent branding across all your packaging, you can build brand recognition. One problem to this approach is that you are likely building recognition of the design style or label aesthetic, and likely not your brewery name. Consider discussions like this: “have you tried that beer that is all gold with the black square on the front?” versus something maybe like: “have you tried [brewery name]’s beer? The one that is all gold with the black square on front?”

One solution: hybrid style label

Why not consider creating a strong and recognizable label branding system that allows for fun and unique art on each label? Create a strong brand first, with consideration of a “frame” that can wrap around your artwork. You can also create a system where custom artwork overlaps or interacts with your label branding system, to create even more interest.

You can start building strong brand recognition and shelf presence, while also allowing for some fun and unique artwork to compliment your brand. Win Win.

These are a few examples that CBC created that showcase this hybrid style.