Packaging Design

CRAFTING A BRAND:

HOW TO STAND OUT IN A SATURATED CRAFT BEER CATEGORY

Jon Moser
Design Director

July 29, 2019

We are witness to a craft beer boom. 826 independent breweries opened their doors in 2017 alone. Craft beer now accounts for more than 12.7% of the beer market in the US, driven by the thirst for quality, variety, and excitement of the most sophisticated beer consumer of our lifetime. From the dabbler to the connoisseur, the craft beer consumer is one of most passionate consumers you will find. They come with a sense of loyalty, and more importantly, ownership of a brand. This is a blessing and a curse for beer producers. The days of simply touting quality, location, and authenticity have passed. These are now the table stakes. So how do you break through and stand out in an already saturated market? It all starts with telling the right story. Your story, verbally and visually.

Craft beer takes all forms. From Microbreweries and regional players, to former craft brands that have been purchased by large conglomerates, to mass products masquerading as craft, in this category, consumers want to know and to share your story. How you connect with your consumer starts far before your logo is created, or even before your first beer is bottled. Understanding who you are and why you are here is one of the most important aspects of cutting through the clutter and sea of brands. In the telling of your story, you need to be honest, relatable and unique. From your tone-of-voice and social media, to the design of your packaging and the styles you produce, all of these elements need to be working in tandem to tell the same story. Buzz and word-of-mouth from friends and influencers carry a lot of weight in this category and drives trial amongst new consumers.

 So, they like you. Now they need to remember you. Most importantly, they need to remember you at shelf. The craft beer boom has turned a 24 ft cooler into aisles and aisles of beers, organized alphabetically or by brewery region for the consumer to wade through. Whether you are taking a Masterbrand approach to your packaging (Goose Island IPA) or a beer brand approach (Bells Two Hearted Ale), you need to identify your brand’s distinctive assets and use them consistently across your portfolio. With the challenge of creating a system that allows for flexibility while remaining cohesive, you must make sure to give each product its own personality while giving credit to the larger portfolio of the brewery brand.

 While brand is one of the most important factors in the decision process, In the craft beer category, you can’t expect to be the only brand your customer drinks. Many consumers stick to the same style of beer which gives your brand more opportunity to sway other consumers to your offerings. Creating a design system that creates clarity of style and ingredients across the brand informs current and new consumers about the product and can help inform purchase at shelf. Even within new offerings remaining true to the assets of the brand will build equity in the brewery and help validate to new and seasonal offerings to drive impulse purchases. 

 As you have established your consumer you must also evolve with them. You must innovate, create new offerings and experiences, while continuing to grow and evolve yourself. This can be a tricky area to navigate. While the craft beer community is always looking for something new, they are also very wary of change. Large departures in the look or attitude of a brewery can set off alarms to this consumer that “their” brewery may have sold out. The key to evolving and improving is staying true to the principles and story that you established in the beginning and continuing to be open and honest with your consumer.

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