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Beer with me. Brands with conscience

Beer and its branding are moving to a new space where innovation, concepts and missions are re-defining industry traditions.

Quick, name a recipe to create a beer brand: start with a logo in a gothic style font, lots of gold, badges, banners, line illustrations of hops and barley and presto!

Traditionally, beer brands were based on two attributes: on the one hand, their origin, which guaranteed a recipe and know-how, and on the other hand, quality, both in terms of raw materials and methods of production. From a branding perspective, the result after so many years of this approach was a low differentiation, highlighting only the most iconic and representative of each country or region.

Is a new approach possible? The demand for new concepts, not only in terms of styles but also in terms of design, “freed” brewers from having to comply with the aforementioned classic resources to concentrate on proposing true differentiation. The break with tradition began to be reflected in increasingly unusual names and disruptive packaging designs, with new visual languages to reawaken this category. The results were a new strategy rather than a simple description of the ingredients.

Debra Lawson, its CEO, says that “the project conforms to the organizing model of a ‘circular economy’, raising awareness among younger audiences, which the nonprofit seeks to add to its donor base.

Small local brewery brands and their own styles took advantage of these permissions by appealing to the culture and complicity of consumers who welcomed them with open arms. Because of this diversity in the new beer offer, it is difficult to find a common visual pattern, but a way of thinking of both brand and identity ranging from extreme minimalism to a neo-baroque as it might be understood these days. As a dominant presence, illustration leads the product image, typography and lettering alternate their prominence and colors -where even fluorescents unthinkable in other times can be found- completing the repertoire of a contemporary language.

However, innovation is not only observed in the intrinsic nature of the product or its image. We find brands with triple impact and propositive proposals, which are forcing big brands to either adhere to them or be left behind.

An interesting example of both product and purpose is Been a Slice, a beer made entirely from old bread that is normally thrown away, and the proceeds from its sales go directly to the Second Harvest organization.

Its packaging features a slice of bread with angel wings, informally illustrated on a white background. Honest, no frills or fancy words.

TRU Colors is another great example. In their mission they state, “We are committed to ending the cycle of gang violence in America’s neighborhoods by breaking down barriers and creating new opportunities. Is the time. Educate and change ingrained perceptions. Empower and elevate individuals and communities. Uniting people with a powerful medium for social change: beer. We are acting. And it is already working.”

TRULight is presented as a Premium beer with a graphic and simple visual language. Again, honesty in image accompanies purpose.

Meanwhile, big brands strive to provide evidence of sustainability, although in contrast to small brewers, this sounds more like one-off promotional actions than credible and relevant consciousness-raising.

Probably not too long from now big brewers can stop looking down their noses at these small local producers and learn the lesson: developing and achieving real social consciousness and impact, while innovating both in their products and their brands.


By Julio Ferro

Founder at Hurra! branding agency. Graphic designer with more than 20 years of experience.

Twitter: @julio_ferro

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