Small and independent craft breweries have changed the face of beer with their unique flavors, style varieties, quality, and eye-catching labels. As competition grows in the craft beer market, breweries are pushing the boundaries of label design to stand out from the competition and attract discerning customers. Unfortunately, they can end up stirring up controversy for being culturally insensitive, sexist, etc. in their quest to be different and cutting-edge. While it could be argued that “there is no such thing as bad publicity,” breweries can’t ignore the possibility of losing customers and tarnishing their brand over offensive labels.
There are ways you can make your craft beer labels memorable (in a good way) through creative label artwork, shapes, and materials. We’ll show you how!
The Brewers Association Cracking Down on Offensive Beer Labels
At this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, the Brewers Association (BA) announced it will be taking steps to prevent breweries that use offensive or sexist names and labels from marketing their businesses with the industry trade organization’s intellectual property in regards to World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Fest awards and medals. The BA will still allow brewers with questionable names to participate in its awards competitions and join its membership ranks, but winners with offensive names won’t be celebrated during awards ceremonies. The new policy has been written into the BA’s advertising and marketing code, but it won’t apply retroactively for past winners who will still be able to use the marks.
According to BA guidelines, beer advertising and marketing materials should not:
- Portray, encourage, or condone driving and drinking;
- Depict situations where beer is being consumed excessively, involuntarily, as part of a drinking game;
- Portray persons lacking control over their behavior as a result of consuming beer;
- Portray or imply illegal activity as a part of drinking beer;
- Make representations about unsubstantiated health benefits;
- Claim or represent that individuals cannot obtain social, professional, educational, athletic or financial success or status without beer consumption;
- Claim or represent that individuals cannot solve social, personal, or physical problems without beer consumption;
- Promote underage drinking;
- Contain sexually explicit, lewd, or demeaning brand names, language, text, graphics, photos, video, or other images that reasonable adult consumers would find inappropriate for consumer products offered to the public;
- Contain derogatory or demeaning text or images.
Besides being in the good graces of the BA, craft brewers also need to consider how their labels can be perceived by customers. Craft beer appeals to a variety of people and alienating a group can damage your brand and hurt sales.
Customer Demographics Are Shifting
According to an annual report released by the BA, craft beer’s retail dollar value was estimated at $23.5 billion, a 10 percent increase over 2015, making up 21.9 percent of the total U.S. beer market. Craft beer is appealing to a wider audience which has helped the market grow and diversify. Although young, white males are the biggest demographic of craft beer drinkers, other demographics like women and Hispanics are beginning to buy more craft beer. Some insights of craft beer drinkers:
- Millennials account for a majority of the market, followed by Gen Xers who make up a quarter.
- Women are surging into a 32 percent share of the overall craft beer market (Nielsen Report), while women ages 21-34 comprise 15 percent of overall craft drinking volume (BA).
- By 2019, “Hispanic beer spending is projected to grow 31 percent” (IHS Global Insights) and “43 percent of Hispanic consumers order craft beer in restaurants and bars at least once a month, and 31 percent consume craft beer at home” (Technomic).
Not only are craft beer drinkers becoming more diverse, even certain craft beer styles and flavors can resonate more with particular demographic. For example, a Nielsen report found that 20 percent more women preferred blonde ale/golden ale than men, and consumers aged 35-44 are the most adventurous in terms of variety of preferred style preferences. Researching your customer base and consumer trends can help you fine-tune your craft beer labels so they’re more appealing to your target audience.
Design Tips for Craft Beer Labels
Labels and packaging are essential for selling products, but it’s especially important for craft beer because there’s a chance they haven’t heard of your product before. According to Nielsen’s Craft Beer Category Design Audit:
- 66 percent of American craft beer buyers say that a beer’s package/label is “very” or “extremely” important for getting them to notice it.
- 60 percent say that the package/label is “very” or “extremely” important in convincing them to give it a try and buy it.
- Overall, 71% of craft beer buyers say they like to try brands with bold and interesting packaging. While package and label design is relevant for all consumers, women are slightly more swayed by design than men (75 percent vs 66 percent) when it comes to the craft beer category.
Long story short – labels are important! Here are some ways you can customize your craft beer labels to make them pop from store shelves.
- Branding: Labels are a quick and effective medium for expressing your brand and what makes your beer different. You can communicate your brand in a variety of ways through creative names, bold patterns, color, custom artwork, a stylish typeface, humor, and more.
- Artwork: Working with a local artist, or one that aligns with your brand, to create custom artwork is a great idea for adding visual interest and a personal touch to your labels. There are many styles of art you can choose for your labels like contemporary, rustic, abstract, natural, pop, etc.
- Materials: There are a variety of materials you can choose from like cost-effective wet strength paper, clear film for a “no label look,” or metalized film to add eye-catching shine. There’s even holographic foil films that look like it has moving patterns when light reflects off them. There are different factors that should be considered when selecting a material like cost, how it works with the bottle/can, label application method, compatibility with the label artwork, and whether it goes well with the brand.
- Shape: The most common label shape we print is rectangle since it allows for more design space and easily wraps around bottles. However, we can print other shapes to add a unique touch to your labels such as round, oval, or custom shapes like a shield, diamond, star, etc. (Custom shapes, however, can result in a one-time tooling fee if we don’t have the cutting die in stock.)
- Finishes: Not only do finishes protect your labels, they can also enhance how they look. Laminates work best for beverage labels because they’re the most durable against moisture. Most labels are printed with a glossy or matte finish, but we can also do a spot UV coating to make certain parts of the label stand out. For example, you can have a matte label with a spot UV gloss coating on your logo or another design element to create an interesting look.
Craft beer relies on visual appeal as much as product quality to attract customers which is why some breweries are turning to aluminum cans for their packaging. There are numerous reasons why cans are becoming popular again like cost, freshness, portability, and sustainability, but there’s another one you may not be too familiar with – shrink sleeve labels. Commonly known as ‘shrink sleeves,’ these labels are a specialized print product that form fits to a container with 360-degree graphics coverage.
Read more about the benefits of shrink sleeving cans and what you need to know before going down that road.
Selecting The Right Label and Packaging Partner
Whether you decide to use pressure sensitive labels for bottles or shrink sleeve labels for cans, it’s crucial that you select a printing company that can help you achieve your label and packaging goals. Digital label printing is popular among craft breweries because they’re ideal for printing small quantities and multiple label versions. Flexographic label printing, however, can help craft breweries get a lower cost per label if a beer gains popularity or a seasonal product turns into a year-round offering and they need more labels.
We offer both printing techniques, pressure sensitive labels, shrink sleeves, and a variety of materials and cutting dies to achieve the product look you want. Contact our customer service team today to see how they can help you create a label solution that will work best for your craft beer and brand.