Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dripping in This Strange Design

Packaging makes or breaks a beer. What's that you say? I'm crazy? Well yeah, but not really. Beer in and of itself should be judged solely on the liquid that is either in the bottle or from the tap. This alone is simple enough, yet it's getting to that liquid that can often prove difficult.

Here's the deal: I'm a sucker for slick packaging and presentation and really, we all should be. Why? Craft beer choices for the consumer continue to grow. Here in New Jersey we now have more than 100 American breweries that offer their products to us. I am of the mindset that as a brewery if you are taking the time to care about how your product is presented to the marketplace, be it through labeling, logos, tap handles, etc, then you'll be equally if not more so concerned with and attentive to the quality of the product you put in those same packages you took such pride in creating. That well designed packaging scheme is basically saying, "Check out how wonderful I look. The beer inside is even better. Take me home to drink and I won't let you down."

You can't be loyal to a product you've never tried, so why not start with trying to stand out from the myriad of other options surrounding your products on the shelves?

And yes, as is the case with everything, there are exceptions. There are breweries with top notch marketing and packaging efforts that couldn't brew a decent beer if their life depended on it, yet there are also breweries that have abysmal packaging schemes that put out some of the finest ales or lagers in the United States. But when push comes to shove, if I'm looking to try something new and am deciding between two or three brewery offerings that I know little to nothing about, then I'm picking the one that on the shelf is most appealing to my eye.

Sure, I understand that some craft breweries might not have the budget to develop their brand as much as they'd like beyond word-of-mouth marketing, and others may have both the marketing budget and also the creative brewing mind to capture liquid genius in a bottle yet can't fathom how to actually market that bottle, but in the end it's a shame that so many breweries are just unable to take that extra step to get their beers into the hands of consumers more easily.

Fortunately, there's a movement of breweries within the industry who do seem to get and thrive on the overall scheme of complementing great beer with great presentation (Great Divide, Stone, The Bruery and Dogfish Head are just some examples), and the latest to jump on board is the Left Hand Brewing Company out of Colorado, which is in the midst of drastically overhauling it's brand labels yet still very much keeping with the brewery vibe and marketing approach of the past.

Check out some of the changes below. While the old set wasn't terrible, it never really stood out either and got to the point where it had been around for so long that it seemed to be caught in that stale, 1990's looking, flat design. The new look just pops a whole lot more with more vibrant colors and lively graphics and certainly draws me in more at a quick glance to make me stop and find out what that beer is. I can easily see more people now doing the same and picking up these Left Hand brands to learn more and ultimately holding onto them to purchase, which in my mind means mission accomplished with the design reload. An excellent job all around by Left Hand.