Friday, April 30, 2010

Packaging in the marketplace

Image taken from

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 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:

For Budweiser:
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.

For Coors:
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.

For Miller:
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.

Duff 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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Hey folks I wanted to apologize for falling off the 'an update a week' wagon, but I can assure you that my absence has been due to beer related (i.e. genuine, non-drinking) projects.

More on that later I promise.

Currently, I have a few ideas in draft form that i need to add some color to, perhaps a little flash, and in no time I will cease to be gravity's bitch and shall instead become her nemesis.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

The craft brewing industry: a case of unique competition

Image taken from

In most veins of business, national or international, competition often creates a ruthless atmosphere in which competing companies/products do whatever they can to weaken their opponents. Whether it be through litigation, negative marketing campaigns (see verizon v. at&t), or huge marketing campaigns. With that being the norm, it is incredibly nice to see that paradigm turned on its ear in the beer industry. In recent years, and especially recently, collaboration between breweries has become a popular endeavor.

A few collaborations that I am aware of:
I have never been a part of such a project (yet, giggity) but I presume that material cost, freight cost, marketing cost, etc are split between the participating breweries. Not only that, but it strengthens social bonds, creates new ones, and helps the participants foster a greater appreciation for their fellow beer industry brethren. In short, I cannot think of a downside to collaborative brews, and I hope they continue. Beyond the benefits listed above, they prove that while 'competition' is an unavoidable facet of every industry, the brewing industry proves that it can be more than a term that insinuates animosity.

Personally, I would like to see a collaboration between Surly and Schell's brewery of Minnesota. Surly + Schell's + Great Waters Brewing Company would be great as well. Ok, need to stop the day dreaming.

Teamwork in the beer industry is also starting to exist beyond one-off collaborative beers. Earlier this year Dogfish Head, Russian River, Teo Musso (brewmaster of Birrificio Le Baladin) and Leonardo Di Vincenzo (of Birra del Borgo) teamed up with chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Italian food emporium Eataly to open a brewery-pub on a New York City.

Where would you like to see collaborations occur next? Whiskey? Cheese? Toy stores? Let us know.

Monday, April 5, 2010

2010 Craft Brewers Conference (CBC)

Image taken from

This year the great city of Chicago has been blessed with the opportunity to host the Craft Brewers Conference.

For those of you coming for this conference, or to enjoy the related festivities, I thought it would be helpful to provide links to listings of some of the aforementioned festivities, to some of the great Chicago breweries/brew pubs, as well as some links to bars that may or may not be hosting anything official but are worth a visit.

Listings of events and special taps available during the conference:

Chicago breweries and brew pubs that are well worth trying/visiting (in no particular order):

Some great bars that are worth visiting (in no particular order):
  • Delilah's - a bar that Michael Jackson, the beer hunter, called 'one of the most important bars in America'.
  • The Map Room - constantly rated in the top 25 beer bars in America.
  • The Hop Leaf - Another one of the top beer bars in America.
  • The Village Tap - a great low key bar that has a great beer garden.
  • Clark Street Ale House - a classy joint that provides great beer in an atmosphere that will make you feel important midway through your first round.
  • The Long Room - real laid back vibe, nice beer selection, and a great crowd.
  • Quenchers Saloon - free popcorn, great beer, great love of beer, one of the best bars in the city. A personal favorite.

While you may not get to all of these places, or try all of their wares, I hope you have a great time in Chicago (while you are here), and that you will come back soon!!

Friday, April 2, 2010

The first days of the Stone Brewing Company in Chicago

Image taken from Grilled Ribs

April 1st marked the first day that Stone Brewing Company has been available in Chicago and in greater Illinois. For the craft beer fans in Illinois, this has been a long time coming. With Illinois, in particular Chicago, being as big a state as it is (in terms of population and beer consumption), there are many people who are surprised that this did not happen sooner. According to an interview Greg Koch, the CEO of Stone Brewing company, did with Metromix Chicago this teasing was not done on purpose. Rather, according to Greg: At Stone, we felt from the very beginning [a loyalty to] a very strong philosophy and ethics-driven company. So we focus on making the very best beers that we can and we do not participate—ever—in shady business practices. I’m really not trying to give Chicago a bad time, but the reality is that the beer business in Chicago kind of has a reputation. So we knew that if we were going to be successful we would have to build our reputation as a brewery and as a sought-after beer up very significantly or we’d be left out in the cold.
This is completely true. Any new brewery owner in Chicago will tell you that there is a huge, seemingly endless amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out, and permits that need to be aquired before you can begin brewing beer.

Regardless, Stone is in Chicago now and people could not be happier. For those of you who are not aware of the Stone Brewing Company, here are a few bits of information about this very respectable company:

If this was not enough, the Stone Brewing Company has collected instances where they were the focus of articles/news pieces in various magazines, newspapers, etc. In short, for a beer company that has been been making world class beer since 1996, this day was a long time coming.

Personally, I am quite happy to be able to enjoy what the other major beer markets of the country have been enjoying before 4/1/2010. So, if you live in Illinois, be sure to pick up some Stone when you get the chance.