Thursday, October 29, 2009

Topsy Turvy

If Gilbert and Sullivan were to write a musical about brewers festivals, it might reference the recently concluded Skamania Lodge in house beer fest. Jeff Alworth over at Beervana has an extended write up. Go there if you want to know about the beers and the setting.

An issue that he raises is the nature of beer festivals. He rightly notes that the Oregon Brewers Festival was started to promote Oregon craft beers, a crucial boost to getting folks to try these new fangled brews. In 1988, most people were drinking the big boys beers and had not heard of much less tasted a craft beer.
What Alworth is saying or at least proposing is that festivals have evolved and are now numerous. He adds that this particular one may have been about promoting the destination rather than the beer.

I couldn't agree more and it speaks to the maturation of the industry that the craft beer "brand" is a significant enough draw with a significant enough following to bring people to a place that needs to fill beds.
There's nothing new about putting good food and drink on the table and attracting folks to it. What is different is exploiting a particular type of combination, craft beer + "festival" to fill the seats.

The OBF can take some credit here, but many other festivals have proven to be good "products" that can be used as a lever to bring people in to consume other products. No wonder the OBF turns away more vendors every year who want to sell stuff to festival goers. (Not that we don't want our vendors there, but there is a limit to the real estate.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is it a stunt or another approach to authentic brewing?

The following video represents one of the more ambitious and expensive ways to create a unique beer. It is also a publicity stunt worthy of P.T. Barnum. I say that with great respect.

Here is a very limited release of a beer that sells for the equivalent of $26 USD, though most folks will never have the opportunity to spend that much on it. With just 960 bottles produced, don't look for it in the aisles of the local Fred Meyer.

Jeff Alworth at Beervana has already discussed this brewery and this beer, so I'll leave you in his far more able hands when it comes to taste and style.

This is perhaps the most vivid, and perhaps expensive and dangerous, promotion of a craft beer that I've seen. Interesting that just a few years ago, the Oregon Brewers Festival considered bringing the festival-opening keg up the Willamette River on a sailboat. In that case, as in the case of BrewDog, it was all about the publicity, not authenticity.

Regardless, three cheers to BrewDog for lifting our spirits.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Origin of the species

GABF may be open and running. Biketobeerfest has come and gone. But, the progenitor of all things beer festival(y) kicked off, or tapped on, this past Saturday. Oktoberfest started pouring beer and the oompahs and prosts can be heard nearly across the Atlantic. Thanks to the web, we can experience it visually or virtually or whatever. For some fine, iconic photos of the event, go here.

Oktoberfest revelers consume six (6) million liters of beer at the two week festival. That's about 50,000 barrels of beer or 100,000 kegs, depending upon how you like to count. There are few craft breweries in this country that reach that level of production in a year much less sell that much in two weeks. It's an impressive number.

The festival draws six million visitors from around the world, though one imagines that as many Muenchers abandon their lovely city to avoid the carnival as stay to enjoy the riot. Regardless, Oktoberfest is a touchstone for those of us in the beer festival business.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

HUB Biketobeerfest 2009 a delicious success

Hopworks Urban Brewery put together two wonderful crafts: brewing and bicycles. The event, held at the brewery on Saturday, September 19, was well attended without being overrun. No problems getting a beer, unless you spent the extra time in the line where the beer was being served from the Hopworksfiets mobile tap. (See the Photostream and links).

The official blurb can be found here, but the real celebration is the fusion of craftsmanship in two related industries. The connections are obvious. Craft beer and bicycle building are one part science and one part art. Beer is a social beverage and bicyclists have bonds of camaraderie along with many social connections, a sort of "we're all in this together." And, nothing refreshes quite like a good beer after a long bike ride.

But beyond these connections, why put these two industries together? From a promotional standpoint, especially in sudsy Portland, the need for local brewers to differentiate and rise above others is essential. This is not to say that HUB does not have excellent beers that can stand on their own, but they also know that they need to be noticed and get people to the brewery. Frankly, I had never been there even though it is a short bike ride, you can drive if you must, away.

In aligning themselves as craftsman with malt and hops with the craftsman of steel and brazing torch, they have signaled to the market and thirsty consumers that they are serious about quality. One only had to walk through the exhibit of beautiful, locally made bikes to see that. And, the Hopworksfiets custom cargo bike has created a sensation so great that when Dave Barry blogged about it, it nearly took down for the count. Such is the power of social media.

The event wasn't all serious craftsmanship, though. There were plenty of games and music and, of course, the incomparable Sprockettes provided their brand of circus and dance.

As a festival, the event succeeded for the guests. As a promotional event for Hopworks Urban Brewery, I cannot believe that they will not reap many rewards. Oh, and the beer was good, too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A well worn path

It has become commonplace for chefs to write cookbooks. The routine goes something like this: chef opens restaurant, chef builds loyal clientele, chef "writes" cookbook that expands upon or documents his or her recipes enjoyed by customers. Rinse and repeat.

While my tone may be somewhat flippant, there are many examples of this practice. I am staring at Coyote Cafe by Mark Miller right now. The book is 20 years old and is published by 10 Speed Press, a house that seems to specialize in this genre. These books are really quite useful. Readers learn how a chef approaches recipe and meal development, learns a thing or two about preparing favorite dishes and, no surprise, the chef cements, or intends to cement, his or her place in the cooking pantheon.

In a move that seems to piggyback on this approach, a troika of local beer writers and a brewer are proposing a book of recipes from the local scene, Recipes from Beervana.

One complaint often voiced by a minority of beer aficionados is that Portland, and other craft brew havens, lacks a serious and consistent approach to food and beer pairing. It's not clear that the authors of the proposed book intend to uncover this truth or debunk it. The blurb on Facebook reads, Follow Mike DeKalb, owner of Laurelwood Brewing Co., Lisa Morrison, the Beer Goddess and Annalou Vincent, of Beer NW, as they trek across the Pacific Northwest in search of Recipes from Beervana! Then look for the book in Spring 2010 and get ready to get cookin'!

What is interesting about their approach, though perhaps not unique either, is that they are asking us to follow them in social media as they explore the many possibilities for food and beer. Will this interactive approach seek commentary from those who follow? Will their editorial choices be steered by their community of followers? Wait and see.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Good news for advertisers and sponsors

A combination of ideal weather, excellent event management and the charms of a well-established festival made this year's Oregon Brewers Festival a success. Record crowds meant that festival advertisers got more than their money's worth. For those 14 or so sponsors, our promise of 50,000 program guide readers worked out a bit better than expected. Actually, the size of the crowd from an advertiser's perspective is not quite accurate. We did distribute nearly every program printed this year, 50,000. Certainly, there is a pass along rate that we cannot guarantee, but if it were a bit more than "1," advertisers would reach every visitor.

The attendance numbers may be more important to those who are considering next year's event. It just keeps growing and the crowds this year were treated to far more hospitable beer lines thanks to improved operations and planning. What to expect for 2010? The planning begins now, with discussions about web site strategy as well as a round table "lessons learned" with committee members who were instrumental in producing this year's event.

Stay tuned for more as plans are made.

The 2009 Program Guide

Here for those who want to see a complete digital version of the Oregon Brewers Festival Program Guide.

2009 Oregon Brewers Festival Program

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A guide to the brews, 2009

The Oregon Brewers Festival is a massive undertaking, certainly for the organizers but also the guests. It takes nearly a year of planning and preparation. For festival guests, it can be a challenge to get to the taps of their favorite brews. This year, with 81 beers featured and a "Buzz Tent" with even more beer, the task of finding what you want can be daunting.

That's where we come in. We have developed two graphical guides to the festival that are published in the Program Guide, the slick, 56-page digest-sized printed program distributed to all festival guests. The Beer-O-Meter and the Tap Map provide a quick reference for the beer at the festival and is locations. In particular, the Beer-O-Meter, gives guests a quick tour of several dimensions of the brews being served: brewery, product name, color, IBU value and, in the online version, tap location. This piece is the handiwork of Holly O'Leary, the Program Guide designer and graphic artist extraordinaire.

This and the Program Guide are available as downloads on the OBF website, Visitors, you saw it here first.

2009 Oregon Brewers Festival Beer-O-Meter

And now, the Tap Map

2009 Oregon Brewers Festival Tap Map

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bikes and Brews

Synergy is an often misused term, or at least it was in business a few years ago. But, I think this qualifies for synergy and where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Portland is certainly known for its brewing. The city is a leader in the craft brewing scene with more than 30 breweries within the metropolitan area. The Oregon Brewers Festival, one of the largest festivals of craft beer in the country, celebrates that success every year.

Portland is also known nationally and internationally for a growing and robust bicycle culture. Aided by content-rich BikePortland blog, the city's volume of bicycle commuting, racing, touring and just plain bike fun continues to expand.

It's only natural that two of Portland's leading cultural commodities would get together. Enter Pedal Tours of Portland and their latest tour, Oregon Brewery Trail Tour coinciding with the festival.

The festival no doubt benefits by highlighting the connection between Portland's rich bicycle scene, the city's local breweries and the celebration of craft brewing at the festival. Let's hope that Pedal Bike Tours of Portland is rewarded with plenty of folks wanting to learn more about the city's breweries before they settle in at the festival.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Craft beer sales increase, but why?

The prolific Jeff Alworth at Beervana posts what appears as good news for the craft beer industry in these dark hours of recession. Indeed, if you are in the brewing business, you want to be in the craft segment. I agree with Jeff that this is good news and I also support his contention that craft beer sales are partially the result of a rise in average price for a barrel of craft beer.

Because this is a blog about brand and marketing, I think this rise in prices is an interesting one given the current economic downturn. To recap a couple of statistics that are contained in my comments to Jeff's post, craft beer volume is up a bit shy of 6% 2007 to 2008. A report in a Chicago area newspaper says that craft beer sales are up 12.6% according to the Neilsen Company.

I know that I am stepping into dangerous land when I start to discuss statistics, but it appears that the increase in sales has to come, partially, from an increase in prices. And, this was accomplished in spite of a declining economy.
Assuming you believe my math that you cannot get to 12.6% sales increase on 6% volume increase without charging more, we are left to speculate as to how to get there. And, here's what I think has happened.

Craft brewers know or should know that their product is a luxury product if you believe the data about the consumer. The dominant cohort of craft beer buyers is male, 25-34 years-old and earns $100K/year. I imagine that this buyer is purchasing Starbucks coffee in the morning after a few rounds of Bridgeport IPA the night before. In other words, what we once associated with luxury--expensive alcoholic beverages, premium coffees, etc.--is now considered a normal purchase, at least by this niche.

How did brewers exploit this advantage? By bringing out increasingly more expensive products. My opinion only, but you cannot have that sort of sales volume increase by cranking out another ordinary pale ale. You need to have new products that sell for more because they have more to offer.

Witness the rise of the seasonal and the proliferation of "Belgian-style" beers. It wasn't long ago that just a few breweries brought out a holiday ale around Christmas. Reflecting the "winter warmer" heritage of the British cousins, these bigger, maltier beers were limited in production and a bit higher in price. Now, it seems, every craft brewery has a holiday ale.

On to the Belgian-style products. I might be blinded by living in Oregon where we have so many breweries and they are often leading the market in style and product development. I use Belgian-style as a metaphor for the great expansion in the line-up of beers on tap from any given brewery. And, Belgium seems to be a big inspiration. Our major brewers in Portland were once satisfied to offer perhaps five to six products most of the year with the occasional addition of a seasonal or the introduction of a new product. Now, go into the tap rooms of Bridgeport, Deschutes or Widmer Brothers. There, you will see many of the same five to six alongside that many or more seasonals, specialty products, "reserve" series, etc. Granted, the price of a pint of most of these beers will be about the same, but you are surely paying close to $5 a pint (honest or not) for them. The real differences come at the retailer when you're buying packaged beer. Those specialty beers come at special prices.

I, for one, applaud these changes as it demonstrates the growing sophistication of the buyer, the producer and a vastly improved variety in product. I'll probably never tire of a Blue Heron, Mirror Pond or Ur-Alt. But, I also am a ready target for that special new brew for which I am likely to plunk down a few more shekels.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Video promo and complementary festivals

Summer is, naturally, the time for festivals. We're talking about beer in this blog, but it goes far beyond that, of course. I've just spent a bit of time at Beervana, perhaps Portland's most incisive beer blog, and saw what I thought fit very well with the whole notion of promoting a brewers festival. Through the use of social media and with a well produced, though amateur, video, one comes away from it with a desire to go to the North American Organic Beer Festival. I know I do.

North American Organic Brewers Festival, 2008 from Alison Grayson on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Product (re) launch and beer (brand) documentaries

A day that begins with tropical fruit and ends with a pint of local beer is a day that is bound to be a bit odd. In my case, not odd so much as disparate. And, the distance between tropical fruit and local beer is not as great as some of the other activities, but let's look at the beer side of things.

Bridgeport Brewing re-launched their Hop Czar product this afternoon in fine fashion, though somewhat restrained compared to previous product launches which I attended, notably Ropewalk Amber Ale. Nonetheless, the brewery continues to show us how combining good products and professional marketing and brand management can make for a good consumer experience. Judging by the nearly packed house, a few other Portlanders agree.
Following that authentic experience, I attended the Beer Wars movie "event" at a local theater. My low expectations arose from the fact that the producer/director a) claimed familiarity with the beer "category" having been CEO of Mike's Hard Lemonade and b) doesn't (cannot) drink. The latter problem is not an issue, but someone whose experience resides with a kiddie drink that only competes against beer because it is nominally a malt beverage is perhaps not the most capable person to dissect the complex issues in beer competition.

The film's thesis seems to be that the big three, now the big two, are category crushing, brand behemoths who will do and say anything to remain the dominant breweries in the universe. Their rapacious behavior is aided and abetted by an out-of-date distribution system that the breweries support and cherish because it rewards them with the leverage they need.

The movie succeeds at a certain level with folks who have had little exposure to the craft brewing business. That is to say most folks regardless of their beer preferences. One could see a documentary like this from Frontline on PBS, but without the fawning over a very select number of craft brewing business owners who seem chosen for their on-camera capabilities. Stone Brewing and Dogfish Head are featured and, indeed, their owners are great in front of the camera. Interestingly, both companies seem to be succeeding quite well. Stone admits to an average 46% growth year-over-year since its inception. So, where is the threat if these guys do so well? Who is being harmed? It would have been useful to show the breweries that struggle against the three-tier system and are not nearly so successful.

The one odd bottle in the six pack, if you can excuse the metaphor, is Moonshot. This unlikely product, "premium" beer with caffeine, is the brand brainchild of Rhonda Kallman, one of the brains and brand builders behind Boston Beer and Sam Adams. By the end of the movie, my fellow movie goers were booing or calling her out, much as the Beer Advocate's Todd Alstrom does in the live panel discussion that concludes the event, for producing something that is technically beer, but hardly fits with the craft brewing industry. Sure, she knows all about building brands, but what, exactly, is in that bottle and why should we care? Is adding caffeine to a contract brewed light beer anything like a complex, rich beer made by the same person that is trying to get the distributor to carry it? The audience, and this author, say no.

Ultimately, Beer Wars is a reasonable distraction, sort of like the Hammerhead I enjoyed after the movie. But, it doesn't satisfy in the way Hop Czar did or the cask-conditioned Blue Heron I enjoyed while watching the band and dancers at the Bridgeport Brewpub.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Venerable Oregon Brewers Festival celebrates 22 years of American craft beer

PORTLAND, Ore. – April 13, 2009 - It’s the event that brings together 80 craft breweries, 2,000 volunteers and 70,000 beer lovers for a four-day summer celebration of American craft beer. The 22nd annual Oregon Brewers Festival, one of the nation's longest-running and best-loved craft beer festivals, will take place July 23 through July 26 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. Event hours are Noon to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Eighty craft breweries from 14 different states will each send one product to serve at the event; an 81st beer, Collaborator, is a joint project between members of the Oregon Brew Crew homebrewing club and Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. More than 70,000 fans annually travel from points around the world to sample more than two-dozen beer styles, ranging from malty ambers to bitter pales to fruity wheats.

Joining the breweries are industry exhibits by hop growers, homebrewers, breweriana collectors, and national beer writers and publishers. Four days of live music showcases the best high-energy talent the Northwest has to offer. Food booths sell meals and alternative beverages, while the Crater Lake Soda Garden provides handcrafted sodas free of charge to minors and designated drivers. Minors are allowed into the event when accompanied by a parent.

Admission into the festival grounds is free. In order to sample beer, a taster package is required. Taster packages are available in $10, $20 and $50 increments. All packages include a 2009 souvenir mug, which is required for consuming beer (mugs from previous years will not be filled); a souvenir program that includes a map of where the beers are located onsite; and various quantities of tokens, which are used to purchase beer. Patrons pay four tokens for a full mug of beer, or one token for a taste. Additional tokens may be purchased at $1 apiece. Sales of taster packages and tokens cease one-half hour prior to the close of the event each evening.

Alternative modes of transportation are encouraged, with free monitored bicycle parking available each day. The main entrance is at SW Oak Street and Naito Parkway, one block from the MAX Light Rail line.

The Oregon Brewers Festival takes place during Oregon Craft Beer Month, a celebration of craft beer by Oregon's specialty breweries. A variety of special events will take place at craft breweries throughout the state, culminating with the Oregon Brewers Festival. The festival also hosts two ticketed auxiliary events: the Oregon Brewers Dinner, held on the eve of the festival opening, and the Oregon Brewers Brunch and Parade, a kick off to the festivities held the morning of July 23.

The Oregon Brewers Festival was founded in 1988 as an opportunity to expose the public to microbrews at a time when the craft brewing industry was just getting off the ground. Today, that industry has succeeded, especially in Oregon, and particularly in the city of Portland. There are currently 96 craft brewing facilities in Oregon, and 30 breweries operating within the Portland city limits – more than any other city in the world. The Portland metropolitan area boasts 38 breweries, making it the largest craft brewing market in the United States.

For more information about the Oregon Brewers Festival, visit or call the event hotline at 503-778-5917.


Note to Editor: High resolution digital images are available upon request.

Chris Crabb

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

2009 Festival Media Kit

Here it is. The official guide to the guide. Advertising rates and specifications for this year's Oregon Brewers Festival.

2009 Oregon Brewers Festival Media Kit

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beer Packaging-Bottles and such

From a tweet this morning came this link to beer packaging.

In early November, I had an opportunity to visit Copenhagen, which inevitably led to a visit to the Carlsberg Brewery. Carlsberg is an enormous brewery with a global reach and not the sort of brewery that would find its way into a blog on craft brands and local festivals. However, Carlsberg stands out in packaging because of their rather incredible museum of tens of thousands of beer bottles from around the world.

A visit to the original brewery, now more museum, but with a pilot brewery for their specialty beers, reveals a rich history. You might say the same for Anheuser-Busch, too. And, Carlsberg has horses, Jutland horses, whose original use as dray beasts of burden probably pre-dates the Clydesdales. These stout pony-horses are sized for a European capital and easily as charming as the US version. But, I digress.

Carlsberg, expansive as they are, are protectors of their brand even as they expand it and have a keen sense of history. They also have a keen sense of science and an early "open source" sensibility about its use. Their lab or research center, still operating on the site in the outskirts of Copenhagen, has pioneered a number of innovations. Rather than keep those innovations to themselves only, the founders believed that they should be shared. Even with competitors.

Enjoy this diversion to macro-beer land and visit the brewery if you ever find yourself in Copenhagen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Packaging design-Holly Koons O'Leary

Designer, graphic artist and cake-baking maven Holly Koons O'Leary has created package designs for prominent local brands of food and consumer products including Bob's Redmill, The Oregon Dairy Council and Oregon Scientific. She has recently turned her attention to coffee packaging. Her craft beer expertise developed from consumption, an honest approach.

1. Describe the process for developing a good package design. What steps do you take with a client and in what order?

Define the following, not necessarily in this order:
How do we want the consumer to feel?
Direct competitors, if any.
Distribution (retail markets, geographic areas)
Price point
Rebrand or Re-Fresh?
Personality of the product.

2. How do you incorporate existing brand identity, i.e. logos, color, typography, into a package or label design?

That depends on how a client defines the points I listed in no. 1.

3. Do you treat package design differently than you would an overall brand and identity scheme for a client?

Not really. Some technical, logistical considerations are necessary though.

4. What considerations, other than legal requirements, do you see as unique for beverage package design, and in particular, beer package design?

Flavor profile. In other words, how the packaging scheme looks sitting on the shelf. This is not just for beer packaging but for food and beverage in general. I like to recommend a contrasting profile to what others are doing so the products don't get lost amongst other brands. Although, sometimes a clients intentions are to directly appear similar to a competing brand in order to lure a potential customer. Folks like when beer looks like beer. To me, a successful example would be Rembrandt Toothpaste. No, not a beer. But a lovely, sophisticated package design in a sea of glittered plastic, holographic logos and promises of the virtues of a well-brushed mouth. Which brings me back to "intention" and "competition" which I listed initially. I imagine the Rembrandt folks intended to elevate their paste to top shelf, which is where it resides. Elevation is not always the goal, of course. But a contrast in flavor profile (whatever the product) can also achieve increased visibility, causing consumers to gravitate to your product.

5. What impact does the package as a physical entity have on the overall design? For example, when do you recommend a special bottle or can vs. a graphical treatment of a standard bottle?

Hmmm...good question. And one I'm not sure of the answer. What I've experienced though is the use of unique form factors or "new" designs in cases of innovative products, brand elevation and special limited edition items. This is tricky and should be well thought out for many reasons. Use of specialty packaging may successfully convince consumers that a product is truly unique, enticing them to make a purchase or appear as a desperate and frivolous gimmick that only increases the cost of a product and not its value or benefits. Cost is a huge factor when special packaging is being considered. Not only is the cost of producing the actual package typically higher, but many increased costs are associated with such a change on a production line as a product is being packaged or bottled. It's essential to communicate EARLY with the production team to examine the need for additional equipment, machinery adjustments or increased man power that might be required to get a product to market in a timely and affordable manner. Shipping weight and space, as well as storage of a package prior to bottling/producing, must be considered.

6. For you, what makes a great package and/or label for a beverage? What do you want to see on the shelf?

If a package captures my attention and makes me want to eat, drink, rub something on my skin, look, smell or feel a certain way, then the package is good. That doesn't mean the product is great. If I purchase the product, then the package is even better. But, if I've purchased a product and it IS great and lives up to the promise of it's package, then I consider the package exceptional! I think packaging appeals to consumers on an emotional, gut level. So, that is how I like to design packaging...with my gut (and a whole bunch of other considerations listed in no. 1).

7. For some brewers, making the step from draft beer to packaged beer is a big one involving significant investments. What weight, in terms of time and budget, should a brewer put on the package and/or label design?

Perhaps go back to number 1 and really look at...
Direct competitors, if any.
Distribution (retail markets, geographic areas)
Price point
Then, hire a GREAT designer to create a solid design for you. No need for a snooty ad agency but this is also not a job for your nephew right out of design school either. There are plenty of fantastic designers out there who are affordable. Have a conversation with them and please be willing to pay for this expertise too. Designers are thinkers who can offer great solutions to make your product a success. Shop around. Get some estimates. Approve the one that works best for you. It's not necessary to break the bank but be prepared to spend SOME money. Otherwise, it will be painfully apparent that you were a cheapskate. If your package is well designed, consumers will see that you take pride in what you produce. That is important in the retail arena as you begin to develop a relationship between the consumer and your product.

8. When do you know it’s time for a new design?

Pay attention to trends. Better yet, be ahead of the trends. Or, go back and recapture/redefine something that has become a cliche. People like that. For example, I have BIG plans for the starburst! Really I do!!

9. In your opinion, what are three particularly interesting package or label designs?

Sophisticated, reliable, high-end but worth the price...
Rembrandt Whitening
Honest, real, straight-forward...
Vintage Beer Packages
Fun, unique...
Japanese Fruit Drink

To reach Holly, go to Holly O'Leary Design.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Packaging-Dean Lindsay

Dean Lindsay, Dean Lindsay Design, provided these answers to the questionnaire posted earlier. This is the first installment.

1. Describe the process for developing a good package design. What steps do you take with a client and in what order?

First, let me say that there are different kinds of package design: specifically, structural design and graphic design. Second, although the design process is similar for both disciplines, the deliverables are quite different, as are the unique creative steps in creating a package structure compared to a label design. The big difference is the inclusion of technical understanding and engineering within the design process.

In my case, I built a packaging biz around the structural design of the primary package. In the beer category, that is the bottle (glass & plastic), the closure (yes, there are alternatives to the metal crown) and sometimes, secondary packing like the basket carrier, multipack or carrying rings or straps for both cans & bottles. At one point in the 90’s, I even explored redesigning the metal can (remember Coke’s curvy can?).

I'll agree that package design usually means label design. Brand graphics should be an integral part of creating a new package innovation but graphic design usually follows along its own path once the structure and technical requirements for package manufacturing, handling, labeling, etc are developed.

Having said that, I think the basic design process steps are pretty much the same for any new package, whether it's structure or brand graphics: understand marketing goals & the target consumers; determine the technical constraints (including packaging costs & margins); agree on criteria for evaluating designs; allow time to create and develop a range of top designs; & test these designs with consumers; and finally, bravely commit resources to the new package roll-out.

These process steps may sound like a good plan but we all know how easy it is to make a list; and how important the maturity, experience and personalities of the various team members in different packaging disciplines can make (or break) a smooth project. And then there's just plain good luck.

2. How do you incorporate existing brand identity, i.e. logos, color, typography, into a package or label design?

First, there's the marketing rule that a new package needs to protect its brand equity, which includes all of your design elements. I’ve come to believe that this is code for 'its always been this way so present it that way' (and call it innovation?). Then there's the designer’s hope that with any new package design, there's an opportunity to improve the design presentation of the brand, and in turn, the consumer's experience with the package and the product. I call this intersection of hopeful design thinking the 'sweet spot'. I try to inject that sweet spot into any new package whenever I can—sometimes below the surface of the package—literally.

For example, think about an embossed logo on a glass bottle, or subtle label finishes, colors and materials that consumers can touch, feel and see while they are consuming the product. If its done right, the result can be a memorable, emotional connection with the package—that’s the ‘sweet spot’. And dont forget the other package structurals: think how the shape of the package, or the cut of the label, or the way bottle looks in the basket carrier, or even the way the package closure is opened---each of these design elements can enhance the brand identity (or in the case of Coke, Grolsch, Perrier, et al, how the package shape can become the brand identity).

3. Do you treat package design differently than you would an overall brand and identity scheme for a client?

For consumer products in general and for beer especially, packaging at the point of purchase IS the brand identity. In fact, on shelf, package design has a laser-like quality in its ability to entice a consumer to purchase the product in a matter of seconds. Concurrently, if the package design is weak compared to a competitor, consumers will always go for the more engaging design. There's no room for egocentric design fantasies or marketing mistakes. Package design isn't about the designer or the marketing manager; it's about meeting the consumers’ expectations through appropriate communication decisions that differentiate the brand.

4. What considerations, other than legal requirements, do you see as unique for beverage package design, and in particular, beer package design?

For beverage packaging in general, it seems to be about the bottle design and the label. Sorry, but bottled water tastes like water to me, whether the bottle is round or square. I remember designing the first Gatorade sport bottle in the early 90’s. We used the same push-pull closure that was used on floor wax, because it was available, it was novel and it seemed to be a more convenient way to dispense the product. In those days, who knew? In the last decade, there is an ever-increasing need to differentiate beverage brands on shelf since the category is huge (again, who knew?). New filling technologies, package materials, closure systems, molding techniques, label styles and design savvy have opened wide packaging opportunities. There are a lot of cool bottles out there.

Beer package design is a little different, and is an integral part of the consumer’s experience with the product. Whether at the tavern bar, the restaurant table or at the supermarket, the package presentation of the beverage at each venue is usually different, and requires design support for a unique market positioning. Think about your feelings while imbibing a chilled brew at a favorite restaurant or bar, compared to sipping a cup at the ball game. On-premise, the icy bottle is placed in front of you for your inspection; the relationship with the package and the brand has started. Sound like romance? You bet. Don't miss an opportunity to enhance the experience through design when expectations are high, as they are with niche and craft beer products.

Dean Lindsay – BIOGRAPHY (3/2009)

Dean Lindsay is currently a design consultant specializing in structural packaging design innovation and brand development. Dean offers over 30 years of strategic creative design experience.

Dean is the founder of Dean Lindsay Design, Inc., a Chicago industrial design firm specializing in package innovation and development. Dean’s company lead major design initiatives for clients in various product categories including Pepsi-Cola, Kraft Foods, Gerber Products, Miller Brewing, ConAgra, Unilever and Bristol Meyers Squibb. Previous to starting Dean Lindsay in 2003, Dean was co-founder and Principal at Kornick Lindsay for 22 years.

Dean has directed the design and development of product and package innovations that significantly contributed to his clients’ sales and profits. Dean holds over 50 patents for structural package designs and has worked on global brands in Europe and Asia.

Dean started his design career with Container Corporation of America in Chicago. He holds a graduate degree in Industrial Design and an undergraduate degree in Medical Illustration from The Ohio State University.

Dean Lindsay Design, Inc.
808 Chestnut Avenue
Wilmette, Illinois 60091
dean at deanlindsaydesign dot com

Thursday, March 19, 2009

More programs, greater reach

The Oregon Brewers Festival made changes to their pricing scheme this week that will result in far greater reach for advertisers. Here is the post on the Facebook page:

Admission into the festival grounds if free, as always. In order to taste beer, you must now purchase a taster package. Taster packages are available in $10, $20 and $50 increments. All packages include a 2009 souvenir mug, which is required for consuming beer (mugs from previous years will not be filled); a souvenir program that includes a map of where the beers are located onsite; and various quantities of tokens, which are used to purchase beer.

Patrons pay four tokens for a full mug of beer, or one token for a taste. Additional tokens may be purchased at $1 apiece in whatever amount you wish.

Here's the packages offered:

$10 package: one mug, one program, four tokens
$20 package: one mug, one program, 14 tokens
$50 package: two mugs, two programs, 38 tokens

There will be no more individual purchasing of mugs - you want a mug, you buy a package. But mugs are still good throughout the weekend, you'll just buy more tokens. This should speed up the admission lines considerably.

The reason you are getting more tokens in the $20 and $50 packages is that we are reducing the size of our program and printing one for everybody, so the program price is dropping from $4 to $1. That means three more tokens per package, plus everyone will have access to beer descriptions, the hop-o-meter, and the map of the taps.

You can join the discussion here or there. The Facebook page can be found at: Facebook Price Discussion

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brand development, accelerated

Marketers like to wax philosophic about the value of doing the difficult, but necessary work of understanding the audience, defining the brand characteristics, messages, etc. before ever associating an image with a product. In the often compressed time frames of product development and product launch, one has to work quickly. Or, there are times when the right image just plain suits the product and there is no reason to slow down.

A close friend and nationally published illustrator, Bill Cigliano, provides illustration to publishers and advertisers seeking a unique visual perspective. In the case of beverage packaging, existing and commissioned work has brought impact to craft beer brands.

"On Hop-Ocalypse, my art is used on that one specific brew and that happened because I had an existing painting of an atomic bomb mushroom cloud that appealed to them. I think it’s a really distinctive label and package, quite attractive and I like being part of that," Bill said. The client, Clay Pipe Brewing Co in western Maryland, serves a small, but growing market in and around the Chesapeake Bay area.

Hop-Ocalypse and its visual identity occupy that place where a striking image provides exactly the right emotion for the product. In this case, the product name and the illustration have obvious connections. The image, already in the artist's portfolio, found another life with beer, a happy marriage.

For the Captain Lawrence brand, Cigliano created an enhanced image that could be carried across an entire product line. This approach, common visual identity across products and packages, enables the brand, regardless of the product, to be easily identifiable to the consumer. (The exception in this product line is their Belgian-style summer ale.)
In these cases, exciting imagery matched marketing expectations. The many questions appropriate to brand and product development were answered, perhaps intuitively, before the images were selected or commissioned. Regardless, they work for their respective owner/brewers and contribute to the interesting body of work in brewing and beer art.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Package and label expertise

Several acquaintances, friends and relatives have agreed to provide you with their insights into package and label design. Perhaps more broadly, their experience can lead to even greater value for those seeking a differentiated brand in the growing craft beer market.

I have invited three designers and artists with diverse backgrounds to comment on the following questions. I will let them speak for themselves as their answers are posted here, but let me introduce them briefly.

Dean Lindsay: Dean has many years of experience in package design and in food package design in particular. There is plenty to see and learn from his website.

Holly O'Leary: Holly is a talented designer and illustrator with experience in food packaging and is currently working on another favorite beverage, coffee. Her portfolio is available here.

Paul Mort: Paul works with clients across a range of design disciplines. You can reach Paul at Felt Hat.

The questions submitted to Dean, Holly and Paul are:

1. Describe the process for developing a good package design. What steps do you take with a client and in what order?

2. How do you incorporate existing brand identity, i.e. logos, color, typography, into a package or label design?

3. Do you treat package design differently than you would an overall brand and identity scheme for a client?

4. What considerations, other than legal requirements, do you see as unique for beverage package design, and in particular, beer package design?

5. What impact does the package as a physical entity have on the overall design? For example, when do you recommend a special bottle or can vs. a graphical treatment of a standard bottle?

6. For you, what makes a great package and/or label for a beverage?

7. For some brewers, making the step from draft beer to packaged beer is a big one involving significant investments. What weight, in terms of time and budget, should a brewer put on the package and/or label design?

8. When do you know it’s time for a new design?

9. In your opinion, what are three particularly interesting package or label designs?

The questions are not exhaustive, but should give you some workable ideas about the use of packaging and labeling as a way to differentiate your products. If you have questions you would like to submit, just add them in the comment boxes below.

A fanciful look at beer brands

The New York Times reported on efforts to reduce binge drinking and the fallout from those efforts. While there is no reasonable argument to increase alcohol problems, the illustrations of beer coasters from the article is humorous.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The brand, pt. 2

Today's post is really a place holder. Draft Magazine just posted an article about Penn Brewery's label update. Since I spent my formative beer drinking years at nearby Bethany College (a good decade or so, really, before craft brewing existed), the article merited a post. Iron City was the brew of choice for me and its brand has remained strong in the Steel City, and not because of label art. But, I digress.

Draft equates the appreciation of label art with album art, a sort of misnomer in the age of iTunes and the vanishing CD market. Regardless, the few nuggets from the article and comments from the CEO are worth tucking away.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The brand

Folks who ply their wares in the brand and marketing realms are careful always to point out the "The Brand" is not simply your logo and typeface. It is, depending upon the source, the entire experience of a consumer with your product and company. But, we're trying to sell beer, here. We just want to stand out from the crowd on crowded retail shelves. We want our tap handles to scream, "Try Me!"

I subscribe to the guidance that before a label is designed, marketers and brand managers have to answer the who and why of their consumers, the questions of how their beer is different and what attributes are likely to make that beer stand out.

So, what to do? Can't engage in months of evaluation, consumer testing, alternative versions of a preferred label. Here's a short cut. Return here for Packaging 101.

Brewers Festival Advertising will explore package design from a practical perspective in a series of upcoming postings. As new material is posted, I will announce it via Twitter. To follow, go to @markreber.

But, what does this have to do with beer festivals in general and the Oregon Brewers Festival in particular? Quite a bit. If you are exhibiting at festivals, consumers will know you by your brand and by the visualization of that brand. They will want to see you at the festival in the familiar clothing of the labels and packages they see elsewhere.

Festivals, and in particular the OBF, offer brewers a good opportunity to reinforce existing brand references and to extend the brand as new products are introduced.

Your comments on "brand" as well as the integration of retail packaging schemes with consumer trial marketing are all welcome. As well as any other comments.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mythologies and mythos

Scouring the interwebs for beer marketing so that you don't have to, I came across a campaign for Sea Hag Ale from New England Brewing. They were profiled two years ago in a Fortune magazine article for developing a mythology about their beer. This led to a campaign with interaction among customers and the like. In itself, this is not especially new. The Republic of Tea accomplished this on a grand scale many years ago, developing an entire product line based upon a fictional place.

What I found interesting about the campaign was the confluence of my searching and the dozens of "tweets" popping up each day and the Fan pages on Facebook. In just two years, the opportunity to build a story around a beer, or even an entire mythology, is greatly abetted by technology that enables us to reach thousands in just seconds.

So, how does a brewers festival fit in? We only need to look at the use of King Gambrinus by the OBF as an example, but we are limited only by our imaginations. And, as Aristotle pointed out, mythos, or plot, is the essential element of the play, in his case tragedy. No tragedy in beer stories are necessary.

How does a good yarn or story put your beer in the spotlight?

Friday, March 6, 2009

OBF Program Guide

Visitors to the Oregon Brewers Festival have had the opportunity to purchase and use this program guide each year. We settled on a booklet size after several tries with larger forms. Guests told us they wanted a program that could be carried easily and, perhaps, fit in a back pocket. This size and style has been the standard since 2003.

What do you think? Too much? Too little? Does it need more content in some areas and less in others?

We have also included a "Tap Map" with the guide since 2006, a change that appears very welcome.

Should the guide remain in print or go digital, or both? How about mobile?

Oregon Brewers Festival Program Guide 2008

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Brand revivals

Don't expect this beer to be featured at the 2009 Oregon Brewers Festival. However, it's a good lesson in brand development, or redevelopment, and by one of the experts at brand revival, Pabst.

The craft brewing phenomenon in this country, at least in this writer's opinion, grew from a desire to actually taste what the drinker had in front of him or her. In some ways, the growth of craft brewing was a reaction to sophisticated brand development and segmentation and marketing. "I don't care about the babe commercials, the sports tie-ins and clever slogans. Give me a brew with taste," were on the tongues of microbrew aficionados as they stormed the barricades.

That was then. This is now. Craft brewing has evolved and most brands are paying attention to, well, brand.

That's where we come in. The Oregon Brewers Festival, like so many others that have followed, is a brewer's opportunity to not only show and tell, but taste. Sampling, a common practice in so many pubs and breweries, is the heart of a festival dedicated to expanding the craft brew experience.

As most brewers know, that is never enough to put the brand on the beer drinkers map. It takes an integration of on-premise experiences, shelf-talking, brand language and various channels of promotion to insure that a particular craft brew, no matter how well made, gets into the hands of the desired drinker.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Old schools and new tools

The Oregon Brewers Festival serves the world's oldest beverage, beer. That's old school. Promoting the festival and serving the interests of the brewers that make it possible relies on traditional communication channels from word-of-mouth to printed display advertising. The festival waded into the rising waters of new media and social networking with Facebook and Twitter. Now, the advertising initiative is putting its toe in the same waters.

For more than 20 years, festival guests have carried and used the Program Guide to learn more about craft beer and more about the craft beer being poured at the festival. Breweries, pubs, bottle shops and more have reached that audience with display advertising. Thank you, advertisers.

The festival wants to do more. More for advertisers, more for guests and more for the craft beer community. But, we need your help. We need to know what "new tools"--Facebook, web advertising, blogging links--craft brewing marketers want and need to reach their audience. And, what makes the most difference to the audience they reach.

Comment here and make suggestions about those things that will make a difference for craft brew audiences whether you are marketing to them or are one of them, or both.

2009 Brewers Festival Advertising

The Oregon Brewers Festival is revamping its approach to advertising this year. We recognize that beer marketers are looking for more ways to build their brands and create communities that support their products.

We are not abandoning our commitment to the festival program, though. It remains a vital part of the festival guest's experience and an indispensable guide to "what's on tap."

Look for new ways to reach the largest beer festival audience of its kind in the coming weeks. To join the conversation, leave comments here with programs and approaches that you think will help your favorite brew reach its audience.