Design for Alcohol Brands

  • Alcohol is a crowded market, however since pubs are the UK’s oldest businesses, achieving success in the drinks sector can pay dividends for years to come. 

    Over the past decade, the market attention paid for craft beer has seen microbreweries and cuckoo breweries gain ground amidst the larger beer brands. While in stronger beverages, rum is the new spirit du jour, as gin’s heyday is maturing. Distinctiveness in this industry is achieved by excellent brand design. Here are my top ten tips for successful alcohol design.

    1. Can your spirits bottle label be read across a bar?

      Likewise, ensure your cider bottle visible while being stored in a glass-doored fridge. Patrons don’t want to keep a bartender waiting, so drinks choices are often a snap decisions. If your bottle is the first they see, the chance of it being ordered is greater. Use bold, readable text, short words and high contrast colours will make this easier.

    2.  Does your brand fit your product?

      Whisky branding design has a different aesthetic to beer cans, as they have different heritages, production processes and consumers. Your branding needs to create an impact, which can include distinctiveness. However be careful what you’re communicating with your graphic design. Your non-verbal messaging needs to be coherent, not confusing.

    3. Consider your digital presence.

      While drinking will never be an activity which becomes a virtual experience, your online brand should be consistent with your print brand. Ask yourself, is your messaging easily readable? Are you using high-quality product photographs? Checking that nuts and bolts of your website are working is always worthwhile.

    4.  Make your marketing as good as your product.

      Hire the best graphic designer and copywriter you can find, and the process will be easier. Working with a freelance designer who you know is flexible enough to adapt to your style is just as important as a designer who is experienced in the sector. Make time for multiple revisions, amendments and don’t forget to hire a professional proofreader, who are worth their weight in gold.

    5.  Be controversial

      The great thing about alcohol is that there’s potential to get a bit naughtier in your marketing than other industries. In 2019 Carlsberg promised better beer via their Brexit campaign-parodying battle bus. Likewise, Brewdog are no stranger to a publicity stunt, with their meat and vegan burger offering, a product pleasing nobody but grabbing plenty of attention. Would you trust an insurance company or funeral director to do something outrageous? Of course you wouldn’t. But some timely, fun messaging can be a hugely worthwhile investment for a product that only promises to get its consumer merry.

    6. Embrace your heritage.

      We all love novelty, however after the initial excitement of a new drink, consider how your product is here to stay and doesn’t become a fad for a season. One way to achieve this is by drawing on your drink’s heritage. If you’re a new company, you don’t have the advantage of looking back on past generations of distillers, however you can look to the professional experience of your staff, the history of your location, the purity of the ingredients or the history of distillation or brewing. If you seem like old hands, you’ll quickly become a trusted brand to new customers.

    7. Perfect packaging design
      Packaging is a huge investment, but getting it right generates substantial profits. Consider your bottle or can, plus the labelling. Ask your graphic designer to create a useable template which can be applied to multiple products consistently. Jack Daniel’s whisky manage this excellently, while retaining brand recognisbility.

    8. Product photography
      Work with a photographer whose style you love. If you don’t have an eye for what makes a great photographer, consult with your graphic designer who likely has experience in this. Your designer will have contacts, be familiar with different photography styles, and have an understanding of how much to budget for a photographer. Plus, they’ll be able to advise on image licencing. Acquiring high-quality images which become part of your visual brand will turn a profit quickly. You’ll be able to use this photos in print and digital marketing for years to come.

    9. Print finishes

      Alcohol is a luxury item. The right consumer will choose to pay a premium for their favourite drink. Consider your current packaging and print marketing- does it look like a luxury product? You can add foil embossing, spot colours or varnishes to create a bespoke look.

    10. Create a lifestyle around your brand

      Alcohol is an emotional product, and one which creates striking brand loyalty among drinkers. We commemorate with champagne, unwind with beer and romance with wine. Selling branded glasses,  bar mats and tshirts is a great way to increase your profits and generate almost-free advertising space. Understanding the demand for your product will give you a firm foundation for branching out into events or product collaborations with other brands.

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      Grace Abell is a York graphic designer and studio owner. She's created communications design for Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery and provided art direction for Brew York's chocolate-themed beer packaging. Her tipple is a Hey! Malbec by Matias Riccitelli. You can view more of Grace's work here.