How Badass Packaging Can Help Your Brand Dominate
By: Shane Cranford and Ross Clodfelter, Device Creative Collaborative
You’ve spent years perfecting your product so that it hits the right notes with every pour. Now you need to entice consumers, bars and distributors to choose your craft beer, wine or spirit above all others.
Packaging is what drives that choice. In the craft beer scene, an incredible 66% of consumers pick a beer based on its packaging or label. That’s because symbolic cues are crucial to driving purchasing habits – even more than features, benefits and price.
High-performing packaging helps consumers make sense of the market and decide what to try. It tells consumers in an instant who you are, what you’re all about and why you’re the right choice for that next round. It’s smart, on-brand and drives preference.
And it’s the one thing that category-dominating brands have in common. Here’s what that level of packaging can do for your craft alcohol or spirit brand.
It Inspires More People To Try It
Everything that ships from your warehouse is made for someone. Your packaging must be strategically relevant to that audience to stand apart from the competition. But your ability to inspire your audience? That’s the difference between being on the might-try shortlist and the decision to buy.
Attractive typefaces and eye-catching label design may be where good packaging design stops, but they’re where great packaging begins. Great packaging goes beyond the stylish interpretation of the essentials to deliver insight into your methods, your values and your story. It elevates your brand by expressing your brand not just as a product, but as the clear choice.
The result is a product with a reach far beyond your original target audience. After all, what would you rather pick up, a bottle or an experience?
Stylish and surprising, Sutlers Spirit Co is the latter, as it draws on the story of war-era merchant sutlers who sold provisions to soldiers while signaling premium cues with an opaque ceramic bottle design and a screen-printed label featuring metallic stenciling.
“Gin is usually housed in a clear bottle, but this gin isn’t like other gins,” says Sutlers owner and founder Scot Sandborn. “Our bottle is solid black ceramic with a real cork. How many others are on the shelf like it?”
“Having something drastically unique opens the door for people to recognize and discuss the product,” adds Scot. “It’s definitely impacted our ability to entice bars, customers and distributors.”
It Reinforces the Taste Perception of Your Craft Spirit
Wine lovers were dismayed learning that even an expert oenophile could be tricked into confusing a cheap bottle for a fine vintage, and vice versa. Here’s the thing—it’s not just about the taste. Taste matters, but it’s just one part of your craft beer, wine, spirit or cider. Your other senses deliver the look and feel that shapes the ritual and experience of your product.
There’s even science to back it up. Vision, sound and touch are essential to the flavor experience, and all can be stirred by captivating packaging that positions itself as a feast for the senses.
Take our packaging design for Method + Standard, a multi-sensory experience designed to resonate with a foodie audience that cares about what goes into their glass. Reminiscent of a premium olive oil, a strategically-selected bottle connects the product back to nature. Hand-drawn fruit illustrations deliberately presented on the branch show the spirit is made from fruit rather than concentrate or extracts.
During our research phase, we dug deep into the brand’s methodology, processes and philosophy so we could build an identity that encompassed naming, visual identity and packaging.
The name, the feel of the paper, the foils, the placement and size of the label, the stature of the bottle, and the artwork were all strategically designed to increase the perception of quality—the method literally defines the standard.
It Augments Brand Recognition & Familiarity
Ask someone to draw from memory the logos of the world’s most iconic brands, and the results won’t be great. That’s because we tend to recall the “gist” of something. We recognize core elements, colors and patterns, and we use those to pick out a brand from a lineup of others.
High-performing packaging design ensures those “gist” elements are distinct and memorable enough to trigger recollection even in newer consumers. It engages all the senses, features moments that invite extra consideration, and leverages the unexpected to reinforce brand recollection.
The challenge of our packaging and identity design for Midnight Moon’s new whiskey product was to bring over the brand’s existing moonshine customers while also appealing to whiskey drinkers. To do so, we drew upon existing brand familiarity and recognition by retaining core design elements while also dialing up the premium cues that would resonate with the whiskey market.
Branding and bottle shape were used to appeal to the brand’s loyal moonshine audience, while high-end papers, tasting notes and thoughtful copy delivered premium cachet to appeal to the whiskey audience.
“Today’s spirits consumers are less loyal to a single brand or spirit type,” explains Midnight Moon’s Joe Michalek. “This trend has a greater number of spirits consumers actively seeking highly differentiated, authentic brands and the packaging is the first element to engage and stimulate trial.”
“People respond very positively to Midnight Moon’s packaging – our classic label, extremely strong trademark design and powerful language,” he says. “It’s instantly recognizable, and there’s nothing else like it.”
Being memorable isn’t a just feel-good outcome added to a brief to keep your designers happy. It can make all the difference in standing out in the increasingly crowded spirits, beer, wine and hard cider marketplace. You’ve put countless hours into developing your spirit. High-performing packaging will give your category its best shot at succeeding in the market.
“Today Midnight Moon is found on shelves in every state,” says Sarah Leroy, VP of marketing at Piedmont Distillers, makers of Midnight Moon.
Don’t Die a Slow Death on the Shelf
“The distribution game is difficult for the small guys,” says Scot Sandborn. “Having a unique look and feel is what got distributors to stand behind Sutler’s Gin. It’s been crucial to our success.”
Don’t let yours be a liquor that languishes on the shelf. Before you go to market, ensure it meets the threshold for high-performing packaging that not only excites consumers but tells them that your beer or whiskey is a quality product with branding that’s deeply familiar.
Your bottom line will thank you.
Shane Cranford and Ross Clodfelter
"Shane Cranford and Ross Clodfelter are Co-Owners and Creative Directors at Device Creative Collaborative. Device is a design studio specializing in creating heart-pounding branding, packaging and interactive design. We’re daring enough to pitch attention-grabbing ideas that may be out of your comfort zone and then prove we can design them, build them, print them and launch them. We never let fear get in the way of an amazing outcome.
Our clients run the gamut from B2B to B2C to WTF. We’ve conceptualized and crafted ideas for both start-ups and established companies - from art to ads, booze to books, and cuisine to couture."