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The importance of eyecatching labels

The Greene King Pubs team explain why great looking beer bottle label designs - especially those of craft beers - can help increase sales for the publican

Greene King Pubs Helen Cunningham

Along with beards and vintage clothing, craft beer has become the accessory to have by your side if you want to fit in with the cool crowd. No longer resigned to the dingy ‘old men’ pubs, traditional beer festivals or the occasional trip to Belgium or Munich, an interest in beer is a conversation starter and something to list as one of your favourite pastimes.

If you can identify a beer by its label, you’ll gain extra points on the respect scale. So does a memorable label encourage you to buy that beer again? Perhaps it just caught your attention in the first place – or are you more interested in the tasting notes? Maybe it’s the ABV and the thought of how much your head will hurt the next day that’s the deciding factor for you.

As the pub owner who’ll encourage these decisions, what do you need to know about stocking well-designed beer bottles?

If your customers are real beer connoisseurs, exactly what is inside the beer bottle is likely more interesting to them than the label design. In fact, they might refuse to drink anything that’s not out of a draft pump and served in a tankard.

But if your clientele fancy trying some new brands and flavours, then a display of eye-catching bottles is sure to increase your takings for the night.

It’s just marketing
As with any good marketing campaign, the packaging of a beer bottle has been meticulously planned, designed, debated and eventually signed off and printed. That beer bottle label has a target audience assigned to it and a ‘return on investment’ waiting to be reported. There’s a reason beer bottles don’t just come with a no frills label stuck haphazardly to the side. It has a job to do.

So if your customers tend to be young uns who stop by for a cheeky pint before hitting the town, your fridges should be full of brightly coloured labels with fun slogans. It sounds simple but it works. These trendy youngsters are full of enthusiasm for their impending night on the tiles and probably aren’t too fussed about what they’re actually drinking. They want to look good while they’re propping the bar up.

If your customers are more of the older generation, then a traditional, classy label probably appeals more. If the bottle shape is ergonomically designed, then even better.

Fading into the background
Bland is bland is bland. There are so many beers on offer these days that breweries can’t afford to disappear into the background. It’s relatively easy to set up a brewery and the produce independent breweries make is fantastic. Beer enthusiasts probably make it their life’s mission to try every one. So how do breweries make sure they’re first in the queue? You already know the answer to that one.

The design of the bottle and label often hints at the personality of the company that made it and displays some originality of the beer itself.

If the company was founded by 3 student friends on a gap year in Malaysia when they first discovered Asian beer, the label might have an Asian influence. This, of course, then resonates with other gap year students who’ve returned home after their travels and also discovered the beautiful taste.

Perhaps it’s two brothers who decided to set up a brewery venture together and their surname represents an image – using that image is a great way to personalise the label. You’ll then have fans requesting something like “the one with the face, the weird face!” and it’ll become known as such.

Both of these examples lead you, as the pub owner, to take advantage of these trends and stock exactly what your customers are looking for.

Perhaps “the one with the weird face” is so funny or the Asian beer brings back such memories that beer enthusiasts start to collect bottles. Stocking these popular beers is therefore a great way to attract people into your pub.

Starting with the first beer labels that went a little out of the box when it came to design, the slightly rude labels featuring semi-naked women and a tongue-in-cheek name garnered attention and ultimately fans. Maybe the beer inside the bottle wouldn’t have been as widely known had they not been perfect for presents and a bit of fun.

So is this where beer bottle designers got their ideas from? And what makes a design good enough that it doesn’t just catch the eye of bar punters but ends up as someone’s favourite drink?

Think about the initial thing you notice when you meet someone for the first time – it’s usually the way they dress, style their hair, or their general demeanour and you instantly know if they’re your kind of person. Are they slightly zany, or the opposite and more reserved? The beer bottle label usually reflects what’s to be expected inside the bottle. And similarly for your pub; the beer you stock should reflect what kind of evening your guests are likely to have.

As with people, we know not to judge a book by its cover. That slightly insane girl with the pink hair might actually be sweet as her candy floss-like hair on the inside. Of course once your customers sip the beer, they’ll know if they made the right choice or not. Usually depending on how fussy they are, they might accept that the beer simply looks good as an accessory, or they could be disappointed by the beer’s qualities that seemed so perfect. Again, it’s about knowing your customers as well as your stock.

Also remember brands. The former customer in our example would love the brand labels, perhaps disregarding the label as well as the beer’s taste, whereas the latter would be willing to try something less obvious.

Your customers might be attracted by brands or funky labels, or the beer’s taste could be the only quality they’re interested in. Your customers might feel an affinity for a specific brand or design of label because of their lifestyle. Your customers could find a fun label intriguing and buy it as a gift for someone else.

What’s important to know is your customers. Understand what they want and stock your bar accordingly. If you know they’ll love a variety of well-designed beer bottle labels, then fill your bar up! Craft beer is having a ‘moment’ but beer appreciators know that it’s here to stay, so it’s worth doing your research into what’s available and investing in some good products.

Always remember that beer companies will try to stand out from the crowd and inject their personality into their brand and the beer labels will highlight this. So embrace it, as it’ll be your customers who’ll be attracted to them and supply you with the profits. 

To read the Greene King Pubs online guide 'How to Run a Pub' click here.


25 May 2015