I buy wine by the look of the label and the cue of a few key words which I recognise. For me to look into every single wine I want to buy would see me never looking away from the beer aisle. When I do go for the grape it’s the way the bottle looks which sways my decision because I simply don’t know the flavour differences between a French Bordeaux and an Australian Merlot. Marry that to the price tag (if it looks good but costs £3.50 then I probably won’t buy it) and I make my purchase.
Buying this way means that what I see has to look really good and jump off the shelf into my basket. But what about beer? Over a few years of drinking beers - which I’m sure could be replicated in wine if I drank more of it - I’ve learnt what to expect from a bottle of Belgian dubbel, from a Czech pilsner, a New Zealand pale ale, a British best bitter. So when it comes to a new beer for me to try, it’s the branding which really grabs me.
The bottle label or pumpclip is the beer’s opportunity to catch my attention, draw me in and make me want to buy it, whether it’s on a supermarket shelf or the bar. Some breweries do a very good job, making me want their beers immediately, but others make me frown with disappointment. Take a look at Pump Clip Parade for an example of these beers. Would you order any of them?!
Image is a big thing when it comes to buying something. Some people might like to buy the smutty named pint of ale (“I’ll have a Drew Peacock, love!” 'Drink too much of it and you will!' she replies and Oh! how everyone around the bar lets out a big belly laugh) in the same way that they might wear a fading Fat Willy’s t-shirt with one of those knowing, cheeky grins which says ‘yeah, my t-shirt says willy’. But I don’t like them at all.
It may be a personal choice but a pumpclip or bottle which evokes a farm or steam trains or animals or uses smut or innuendo or cartoons or anything made in Microsoft Word with clip art makes me move on to something else without even trying it. They say to me ‘I’m boring’, ‘I’m not taking this seriously’ and/or ‘I probably won’t taste very good’. I rarely find out if they are good beers or not because I don’t order them.
|That's more like it! I love Bristol Beer Factory's labels|
Branding is difficult to get right and costs money but it’s also what sells beers to those who don’t know what they are looking for. It’s able to promote the beer but also promote the brewery and give an idea as to what they are like. My tastes might be different to others’, but I like a clean and modern design, something smart but also practical.
|Clean and simple and eye-catching. Great beers too.|
Compare Magic Rock with Toad Brewery (toad-themed), Marble with Skinners (tossers and knockers), Moor with Nortumberland Ales (some of the worst beer branding in the whole world), Bristol Beer Factory with Fallen Angel (erotic art labels), Kernel with Cotleigh (birds?!). I know which I’m choosing out of these (hint: the first of each comparison is the good one). And is it any coincidence that the better regarded breweries in Britain have the most appealing branding? (And has anyone ever had a really good pint of beer that’s got a terrible, wannabe-funny pumpclip?)
|I love the Moor labels.|
I judge things I want to consume by their appearance. I’m sure a lot of others do that, too. For new drinkers, if they went into a pub and just saw a line-up of smutty pumpclips then what does that say about real ale? If the pumpclip is bright-coloured and has a cartoon dog licking himself, then what does that say? And will it make them order a beer or not? Faced with a line-up of cleanly designed, smart lager fonts or a few old-looking or pun-laden pumpclips then I know where my money would go. What the good examples I’ve put above do is make me want to order their beers. They look simple and smart and bold, they tell me everything I need to know (style, strength – compare that to the Cupid Stunt clip at the top and I have no idea what the beer is) and they are confident that the beer will do all the hard work once the customer’s attention has been caught.
What do you think are the best branded beers in the UK and what are the worst?
|Magic Rock nailed it!|
The ‘bad’ examples are just ones I’ve noticed while drinking or looking on PCP. There are many more than just the ones I’ve listed. The hit-list of should-be-banned pumpclip items are: cartoons, animals, smut, farms, clip art/word art, innuendo. Anything more to add? This post could have a quick word-swapping edit run over it and it would easily apply to websites as well. Why are there so many bad brewery websites?