It’s no secret that many consumers pick craft beer based on their labels. That makes it really important for most craft breweries to think seriously about developing professional, eye-catching artwork.
I’ve been a beer consumer longer than I’ve been a beer lawyer and I’ve got the gut to prove it. Whenever I travel, either for work or pleasure, I always visit at least one local brewery or at least make a beer run to pick up some local beer to enjoy on the trip and take home. I’m always amazed at the variety of beer available in other parts of the country—and often it’s hard to decide what to buy.
Aside from using apps like Untappd to explore new beers, I often shamelessly pick beers that have interesting or eye-catching labels. This is the classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” scenario, except at worst I buy a lousy brew rather than spend hours reading a book with a lame story. Conversely, I probably miss out on amazing beers whose labels look like they were designed in Microsoft Paint.
The beer shelves are slammed, which is great for consumer choice but makes it easy for brands to get lost in the craft beer “noise”. If a consumer doesn’t know your beer, your staff or your story, it’s all based on love at first sight. We’ve all bought beer because we liked the way the packaging looks; it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
What draws one person to a particular label design over another is completely subjective, but I don’t think it’s totally random. There seems to be a positive correlation with sales for breweries who spend money or use raw talent to develop a “look” for their brand that appeals to consumers. Sometimes it’s intricate or funky label artwork that resonates a consistent theme. Other times it’s a simple design with clean lines and perfect colors that just looks sharp, for lack of a better word. It can even be as simple as bright patterns that grab our attention like we’re all squirrels seeking out shiny objects.
At the taproom, staff can recommend a new brew or guide an unsure patron. At the store, your beer packaging is doing the selling.
Here’s a list of my favorite labels and packaging from around the Southeast, in no particular order, and for no particular reason other than they look great and caught my attention. (You should be able to click or tap the images for a better view.)
Wiseacre Regular (via Rachel Briggs)
SoPro Ice Box Gose (via www.mybeerbuzz.com)
Colsons (via www.colsonsbeer.com)
Crosstown Traffic IPA (via www.crosstownbeer.com)
Good People Muchacho (via www.brewbound.com)
Urban South Paradise Park (via www.urbansouth.com)
Gnarly Barley Catahoula Common (via www.beerconnoisseur.com)
Some brands have it and some don’t, despite what’s inside the can or bottle. Some of my all-time favorite breweries don’t give a crap about their labels but make beer that I will always stock. But if those brands came out today and didn’t have a loyal following, it would be hard to attract new consumers to choose their beer off the shelf rather than a highly attractive shelf-mate.
So, what’s the point? Beer manufacturers shouldn’t skimp on brand development and package design. Apart from ensuring that the beer inside the can is awesome (and the 3,000 other things you’re thinking about), make sure the outside sells your brand for you.
Some beer-focused firms that do stuff I like (unsolicited endorsements) include Farmhouse Branding, Deep Field Design and CODO Design. Working with folks like that can help you get where you need to go with your craft beer label.