CBC: The science of packaging and label design

The online Craft Brewers Conference continued with a presentation by design and marketing experts CODO Design describing a scientific approach to packaging: Using Science to See What Packaging Works and How Your Brewery Can Sell More Beer.

This 90-minute, 85-slide, presentation was delivered by a team with over a decade of experience working with craft breweries, food and beverage artisans, hospitality groups, wineries, distilleries, cannabis startups, and bars and restaurants on everything from positioning, branding & rebranding, naming, print & package design, and more.

As previously noted, the CBC presentation content is currently free for anyone to take a look at, but will eventually transition to being available only to Brewers Association members.

Much of the content was equally relevant to kombucha brewers, as shown in our recent report on the rebranding of Equinox Kombucha. The result was a classic in the “Bifurcation” design identified, below, as a significant trend in craft beer packaging.

The science of consumer responses to design

A series of experiments in a specially designed store was conducted by the consumer research firm Package Insight to discover how often volunteers looked at specific bottle and can designs. This was accomplished by, literally, tracking volunteers’ eye movements (using custom eyeglasses) when they were in front of displays. They were able to measure how different groups of people respond to different designs. This applied a quantitative lens to the otherwise qualitative field of branding and package design.

Measurements included:

  • Total Viewing Time – How long did they spend fixated on an item?
  • Time To Locate – How quickly did they see an item on the shelf?
  • Instances Viewed – How often did they look at an item?
  • Purchase Decision – Measures how many participants chose to buy the item.

Packaging trends

CODO detected several “visual trends” in craft beer packaging. These are generalized, industry-wide approaches to label artwork and visual brand design. These trends have changed in popularity and impact over time. Examples include:

These trends among craft beers have clearly influenced kombucha brands, as shown by these examples of the “Bifurcation” and “Slash” designs.

Best performing designs

Analyzing the data they collected from the 96 participants in the study, they ranked the top-performing trends by sales. The “heavily illustrated” and “pressure-sensitive” (i.e., stickers) categories performed best. Heavily-illustrated packages, especially those with large type, attract repeat scanning by consumers looking over brands on the shelf.

There’s a clear divide in styles between maximalism and minimalism. These extremes sold the best.

Here are examples of both trends from the world of kombucha. There don’t seem to be many examples of the Minimal design among kombucha brands (Hint: If you want to stand out from the crowd…).

Key takeaways

  • Try larger typography on your packaging to encourage repeat views.
  • Consider packaging format, vessel size & breaking out boxes into individual units.
  • Older participants self-reported that the brand/brewery story is important to them. They’re reading the packaging, so make sure you’re telling your story.
  • Explore whether your brand fits better within minimalism or maximalism.
  • Assess your local market: What trends do you notice? Ask your distributor for sales info to determine what’ s working—and what isn’t.
  • 88% said package design was important to craft beer marketing.

2020 Beer Branding Trends

CODO Design has just published (May 11, 2020) a lengthy review of craft beer branding trends over the last decade, and a look at what’s to come. They identify, among the now 8,000 brands, the aesthetic markers that define the craft category.

There are more details on the trends discussed in their CBC presentation, and they highlight the growing trend of rebranding (e.g., Equinox and Go Kombucha in the UK; Upstart Kombucha, Circle Kombucha, Better Booch, and Humm Kombucha in the States):

It’s a little early to call 2020 the year of the rebrand (and we think the next several years will be full of high profile ones—including a few huge ones that we can’t speak about just yet…), but we think you are going to start seeing hundreds of breweries refresh their story, identities, positioning and packaging over the next few years in a bid to stay relevant and competitive. 

CODO believe that rebranding is such a competitive advantage that they’ve spent the last year documenting it. Their new book bundle, Craft Beer, Rebranded, is available for $40 and includes a free workbook that is a step-by-step guide to help you map out a successful strategy for rebranding your brewery.

Expert Opinions

The 2020 Review includes ten industry experts sharing their thoughts on the future direction of craft beer and branding. Choice quotes:

There will surely be some unforeseen development that will rock the industry, but as such I cannot foresee its nature. Alcoholic milk? Calvados spritzers? Who knows.

Jeff Alworth, Author, Beervana Blog

In general, growth is still strongest the smaller you are and the more local you are. While some regional craft breweries are still growing in broad distribution, that’s now a zero sum game more or less–collectively that space isn’t growing too much. Local is still a part of the demand and so there is space for smaller, nimble local players.

Bart Watson, Chief Economist, Brewers Association 

Walk into a brewery today and you’ll see yoga classes happening in the morning, cycling clubs showing up after a ride in the afternoon, sign-up sheets for hikes or athletic events and more. Whereas beer was once considered the beverage of choice for dudes with guts, they have been replaced by new generation of drinkers who want moderation and have a thought towards being health conscious.

John Holl, Editor of Beer Edge: The Newsletter for Beer Professionals

Unusual ingredients range from native botanicals to doughnuts and cranberry & orange sours to spiced Saisons, sour NEIPA’s, using all sorts of fruit or IPA’s with any amount of chili, and other spicy additions. Limited releases and Collab brews are still high in demand. Basically anything that appears to be rare.

Corinna Steeb, CEO and Co-Founder, Prancing Pony Brewery (Totness South Australia)

The movement towards local neighborhood taprooms will continue. It taps directly into the essence of craft beer (hyper-local, face-to-face socialization, supporting local businesses, etc.) and is the most profitable way to go to market. Right now, all the craft growth is coming from the smaller players

Joel Hueston, Director of Commercial Strategy, First Key Consulting

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