Image taken from barbeerians.com
The other day I was walking to the warehouse of my workplace, my water bottle in hand, when the thought hit me: 'Man, I really like containers. How they hold things, how they look, and how they come in different sizes. But i do not know why I purchased this container." Being a beer fan, this stream of consciousness got me to thinking about the containers beer comes in, and the influence the beer's label/packaging has on whether or not i purchase it.
Now, personally, I think I am a pretty normal person when it comes to what does and does not catch my eye. I like pretty things, shiny things, animated things, colorful things.. All of these qualities attract my eye and provides the fodder for a quick day dream on what the artist was thinking when she/he/they came up with the bit that grabbed my attention: did they set out to make something beautiful, or did they utilize psychological/sociological approaches to heighten the chances it would attract more attention.
One example of an approach that could increase sales, if successful, is appealing imagery.
One facet of this subject was mentioned in an article on contexts.org about the Normalization of maleness and whiteness in beer packaging. In this posting the author, Rachel McCarthy James, points out that males and whiteness are constantly normalized within the design of the boxes. A few of the boxes she uses to highlight her point are Rogue's Mocha Porter, the Carolina Beer Company's Low Down Brown, and McSorely's Irish Pale Ale.
Personally, I think that the 'normalization of maleness and whiteness' is a non-issue with most beer labels. These days, most labels seem to utilize animals, words, or objects. I believe it is these things, or a combination of them, that attracts us. Case-in-point: Mr. T's 30 lb necklace.
A site called The Simpsons Archive takes this imagery notion a bit further. Jeffrey Katzin, in an article entitled Advertising of America's Beer Companies and the Duff Corporation(2002) states that the big beer companies try to not only attract attention with their ads, but they also try to associate a mindest/image with their product. Mr. Katzin provides examples of this using each of the big beer brands in the USA:
The Anheuser-Busch Company bases its advertising on athleticism and humor. The symbol of the Budweiser Clydesdales affixes an association of speed, strength, agility and swiftness to the company. The company's slogan is "Budweiser - The King of Beer," to assert its dominance and superiority over rivals.
The Coors Brewing Company associates itself with the rugged outdoors. The late 1990's featured commercials based around the slogan, "Tap the Rockies, Coors Light." These commercials featured giant, skimpily-clad, young, attractive people playing volleyball, Frisbee, or bowling through the Rocky Mountains, each of course toting a Coors Light.
The Miller Brewing Company's slogan for its newest drink, Miller High Life, is "Experience the High Life," and expresses the company's desire to be viewed as the intellectual, upper-class brand of beer.
The Duff Corporation looks to take advantage of the typical Homer Simpson consumer through Duff Man, the athletic, suave, good-looking superhero spokesman. Duff Man's coined phrase is some masculine formed grunt of "Oh yeah" and usually is followed by some sort of body thrusting.
These points are not made to ridicule, but to point out a marketing tactic that does work, even sub-consciously: buy our product, and in doing so show/tell others what kind of person you are. The 'big boys' do this through tv/radio commercials (i.e. their marketing/advertising budgets).
The great thing about being a microbrew fan is that when we purchase a microbrew the image we immediately create is not open and shut as it is for people who purchase bud (fun person), miller (classy), coors (outdoors fan). Rather, since our purchase is unfamiliar to most beer fans we create curiosity: 'why did she/he purchase that beer?' 'What is it about that beer that makes it worth the price?'. We can't help but attract people to craft beer albeit in small steps.
So, this all brings us to a final question: When you are in your favorite/preferred beer store, and you are interested in trying something new and you have no pre-conceived idea of what you want to get, what gives the upper hand to one beer over another? Let us know.