A Craft Beer Branding Guide

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What does come to your mind when thinking about beer bottles and cans? Next to memories of good evenings with friends, surely some iconic designs. Perhaps you remember the emerald green of a Heineken or Pabst Blue Ribbons’ jaunty red diagonal slash. Brand designs are often in our mind for a lifetime and directly connected with our memories. But how does a brand convince a customer to choose their beer over all the other breweries? As craft beer became very popular again over the past years, standing out has become an important challenge. Isaac Arthur, founder of CODO Design in Indianapolis, is an expert in this field and his company is well-known for its hands-on branding and package design. Together with his team, he created a craft beer branding guide.


Becoming an Expert in Branding

CODO Design was founded in 2009 by Isaac Arthur and Cody Fague, just after they graduated from college. One of their first customers was the Tomlinson Tap Room, an all Indian craft beer bar inside the Indianapolis City Market. The bar, which is partly owned by the Brewers of India guild, paved the way into the beer industry. After a first brewery client in 2011, one project led to another. Today, they worked for over 35 breweries all around the country and across the world. “We work primarily in the food and beverage industry, anyway, so we all love food and beer. It’s a fun way to take something we’re already passionate about and get to work with cool people. It’s rare to come across a jerk in the beer industry”, says Arthur.

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Isaac Arthur’s Advice for Designing Eye-Catching Packaging

The first important thing is to realize that beer can meet up with wine and artisanal food. Therefore, it is necessary to get a straight branding and storytelling. In the last years, there was a major changing in the beer industry. Old and standardized designs were given up and many companies started with more luxurious labels to connote the beer’s high quality. Consequently, it is very important to choose the right bottle or can. Most companies use the popular 12-ounce bottle in a six-pack. But more companies started to experiment with sizes and you can get a beer now in 750 ml or even larger bottles with cork-and-cage or wax covers.

“The bottles are generally a business plan decision and driven by the economics of what they want to do and the positioning they want to achieve in their market”,

says Arthur.


But How to get The Branding onto The Bottle?

Isaac suggests to start with an essential question:

“Do you want the beer to have a specific name and story or do you want to push your brewery brand itself?”

No matter, what the answer is, there’s another important fact to be aware of when it comes to the label. A 12-ounce bottle has not much space for a design. Especially, as you have to put on the TBB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) information on it. So, the designers have to be very creative in a small room. When there’s a six-pack, there’s often an additional design on that to create a better storytelling. Another embattled trick is to implement an iconic symbol into the designs, especially when there are different products. The Brixton brewery, for example, has a large B in the middle of every design, so that there can be very different designs and looks, but all in all, it is some kind of corporate design. This is also a process, where the client should be involved as much as possible. Arthur suggests to share mood boards to get in touch and find out which direction the client wants to go. After this brainstorming, Arthur and his team start to create sketches, critique them internally and then get the best ready for the client.

It’s All About Storytelling

Part of the deeper brand strategy is to create a good storytelling for the company. A larger narrative can help to bind the customer and to build up trust with the brand. But there are no hard rules for this. It depends on the brand strategy and the company’s wishes. Another important aspect is the label paper. Arthur encourages the companies to use thicker or even textured paper as on wine bottles. A good paper always gives a high-quality look and feel and this is what the customer wants to have. As paper and label design work hand in hand it is good to have this decision quite early within in the design process. When the labels are ready, you need a good printer. This has to be one, who is not just good at his job, but stands behind the product and will help at any time. It has to be a great partner and not just a printer.

Last but not least: the rules of alcohol packaging. It is very important to understand and follow the TTB rules, especially when the product is sold across state lines. Of course, the essential parts such as the warning text can be cleverly incorporated into the design, but it has to be complete and readable.

What do you think about Isaac Arthur’s guide? Do you have additional tips for a perfect branding? Leave us a comment in the section below.

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