Brew up New Branding and Labels to Stand Out in the Crowd

By Gary Paulin and Mark Lusky

How do you set yourself apart amid a sea of craft beers and ever-more-creative labels and packaging?

According to a December 2018 USA Today article, “Small and independently owned breweries, or craft breweries, were making about 5 percent more beer at the middle of 2018 than the year before…” With that level of competition comes pressure to brand in a way that connects indelibly with the marketplace. Here are some ways to set the gears in motion:

  1. Be practical as well as promotional. Give consumers something they will use in their daily lives or in one case, recreational outings. Frisco, CO-based Outer Range Brewing Co. decided last year to include extended content label trail maps on its microbrews. The move generated a bunch of buzz among both consumers and industry colleagues.
  2. Name drop. Tying a craft beer release to a celebrity can be fodder for memorable labels and a noteworthy promotional campaign. Carson, CA-based Phantom Carriage Brewery fills the bill. Notes an article in, “It’s that ghoulish time of year again! ‘Lugosi’ (Vintage 2018) is our long-awaited bottle release that pays homage to the legendary actor Bela Lugosi. Bela portrayed Count Dracula in the classic 1931 Universal film…Dracula.”

It fits right into the brewery theme that “pays homage to classic horror cinema…[the brewery] is named after an obscure 1920s Swedish horror film. The taproom/eatery atmosphere and décor is influenced by ominous castles and brooding cellar and features a small, on-site movie theatre showcasing creepy cinematic classics,” notes the Phantom Carriage website.

  1. Contrast in a colorful world. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Yellow Pages sales rep was demonstrating his directory’s bright, four-color display ads as a great advance beyond the mono-color standard of the day. He showed me a page full of colorful ads. I placed my client’s black-and-white ad on the page and asked what would be noticed first?

Use of classic black and white and other designs that offer contrast to colorfully-cluttered craft brew branding can stand out from the crowd. For example, Outer Range has released “Shelter” featuring a simple, elegant black-and-white motif. In a world where busy-ness and over-stimulation is the norm, simple and soothing labels can prove a very effective way to engage with prospective buyers.

  1. Create a work of published an article addressing an artistic trend in the craft brewing world: “Creativity in craft beer is at an all-time high. In the tanks, but on the outside too; label design turning art-form as more and more of the world’s top breweries are pairing with artists and progressive design talent. From label designs that could stand alone as conceptual artworks to daring aesthetics that define a brand, as the craft beer juggernaut rolls on, its relationship with the arts rattles alongside at a gathering pace; beer cans are officially the new record sleeve.”
  2. Reach out and touch someone. The more senses that can be engaged, the better. Craft brew branding is primarily visual. However, there’s something to be said for adding the sense of touch in some situations. Tactile labels can present a rich, textured and memorable look and feel. Among ways to do this are foiling, embossing, varnishing, laminating and use of textured stocks. In some cases, a combination of techniques can create compelling and intriguing effects that stay on the minds of buyers along with the taste of the brew itself.
  3. Appeal to populism. Basic, earthy branding content reflected in craft brewer labels also can ring true as another way to appeal to consumer preferences for authentic and less showy presentations. La Cumbre Brewing Co. makes this point on their website: “These beers are all we have. They are our pride and joy. No million-dollar ad campaigns. No fancy marketing, just the best beers we can make, served the best way we know how.” This concept also can be captured on labels. In some cases, as with Vancouver, WA-based Trusty Brewing Co., the name itself is the concept.

There are many ways to brand beyond the crowd. Start with creative brainstorming that considers anything and everything, then see what sticks.

About the Authors:

Gary Paulin is director of sales and customer service at Lightning Labels, a Denver-based custom label printer that uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and custom stickers of all shapes and sizes.

Mark Lusky is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Contact:; 800.544.6323 or 303.481.2304.

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