2020 Vision: aesthetics, community and sociocultural value sell beer
Engaging packaging doesn’t imply flavoursome, superior beer. A superb beer doesn’t need aesthetic appeal. But misjudge design and beer sits on shelves longer than necessary. Slapdash creativity confuses selecting-hands that avoid embellished chaos.
Beer as a mere foodstuff or means to an (inebriated) end is to deny possibility. Good beer not only excels in cuisine and fine dining categories, but it also unites people. All is lost when a brewery’s responsibility ends with beer production. Beer as society’s leveller is the opportunity to make a cultural impact.
Let’s put taste and quality aside and focus on beer’s visual representation. Let’s consider, too, its cultural responsibility and important social provision.
Engaging Artistic Imagination
Beer packaging avoiding a theme or omitting a recurring motif creates discord. A bottle or can’s conceptual eccentricity forms disharmonious relationships with its compatriots. Consistent sales success relies on solid design—intriguing, masterful, appealing.
Even successful artists paint established patterns to survive. But whilst beer packaging is an art, it is not fine art. No beer store represents a brewers’ art gallery. Beer packaging design’s undeveloped artistic imagination is thus a unique opportunity to flourish.
Album Cover Analogous Magic
Analogous magic reveals itself in beer packaging and album covers. Sleek, elegant and professional, even where there’s darkness and artistic anarchy.
Consider your favourite bands. Their album catalogues reveal regular themes, recurring forms and a consistent visual portfolio. Even a cover exhibiting no clear relationship with its predecessor has obvious lineage.
For example: the family resemblance in this article’s photograph is remarkable. Dutch brewery Van Moll Craft Beer’s Triple Trouble and its siblings share a pedigree. Its unique features are dissimilar, yet the same.
Vinyl or beer’s effective packaging develops from consistency-by-resourceful-adaptation. Skill with tempting colour palettes and simple yet thought-provoking words. Exemplary beer draped in iconic design needs nothing more.
From Imaginative Creativity Leap Memorable Brands
Creativity and imagination sear memorable beer brands into our consciousness. We recall words, colours and imagery faster than a taste. Or sound, if nostalgia shimmies us back to childhood MTV pop videos when we hear a certain song.
Imagination’s scope evokes personal music memories easier if it’s never seen the video. And it’s the same for brands.
But we’re not living in the ’80s or ’90s anymore. Shorter lines of communication and omnipresent imagery and media sell. Business develops today’s consumer products around strong visuals. So, we cannot rely on sound or taste alone—stunning design is vital for success.
Even today, if asked to visualise iconic beers. Our mind’s eye focuses first on design: graphics, advertisements, slogans, taglines. And only then do we recall the liquid gold contained within.
Big Beer’s Cultural Heart?
What flows through the heart of Big Beer—if it even claims to have a heart? Profit, monopolization and theft of ideas and intellectual property? What social responsibility uses sledgehammers to smash communities?
Big cultural event sponsorship replaces hands-on integrity with depersonalisation and indifference.
Breweries of whatever size have a responsibility to energise their consumers. To empower, engage and enlighten. To place their community sociocultural awareness front and centre. At all times.
When did breweries only producing beer for commercial gain lose the sense of fun? Why does business-value often exclude community improvement, social-mobility advancement and culture awareness?
Brewing excellence nurtures cultural narratives and creates community movements focused on inclusion and engagement. Monotonous, safe uniformity sacrifices interesting uniqueness and social capital in pursuit of predictability.
And it needn’t prove a financial burden. Intrinsic motivation is free. Small sociocultural steps bring satisfaction and the associated monetary rewards nearer. It’s about telling stories.
For example: Van Moll Craft Beer’s Eindhoven taproom values its community role. More than an outlet for its beer and guest breweries, it strives to make a difference on many levels. Besides beer—the enabler—its taproom is a melting pot of energy, art, culture and community. Providing clear social value and community spirit.
Dutch Bargain is another successful brewery adding extra dimensions to its beer production. Progressive and motivated by ‘adventure, experience and quality’. For example: its monthly Rebel Beer combines culture, art and brewing. Each beer a canvas showcasing photographers, artists, tattooists, movie-makers and rock musicians.
Every brewery exploiting opportunities to encourage thinking and promote learning deserves applause.
Beer Festival Learning
There’s aren’t enough days in a year to visit even a small number of regional Beer Festivals. Breweries, bars, bottle-shops and business-minds profiting from the trend. It seems everybody has their own Beer Festival—no bad thing if they’re viable. But spreading the Beer-Buck too thin means not all will survive.
Successful events recognise today’s drinker seeks mental engagement as well as taste. Extra special events know it’s not enough to only act as conduit between brewery and drinker. Lectures, presentations, learning and defined sociocultural value separates the good from the great. And annual festivities reward best practices honed daily in taprooms and beer bars.
Breweries, bars, bottle-shops and business-minds rarely fail from congruent behaviour. Sociocultural endeavours are continuous, not extra-curricular activities. Beer Festival success is a state of mind seeing beyond brewing output and shifting units.
It’s not enough nowadays to produce great beer. Being engaging, memorable and keen for cultural value and social change is vital. Brewing’s role involves a community contribution. Otherwise a brewery is nothing more than a dull brand, impersonal and distant.
Consumers will decide, but vital market evolution ensures the beer industry remains relevant. There is little choice. Providing a contemporary beer experience demands beer professionals offer a whole package.
It’s a race to lose market share. And skilful design, marketing, social alignment and engagement may prevail. Non-technical skills, interaction, warmth and worldly open-mindedness may usurp beer production talent.
Deniers will deny. Disapprovers will disapprove. And pandering businesses will struggle as sycophantic disloyalty switches allegiance, often. Fallout avoiding those without skin-in-the-game.
Engagement is the right approach. Maintain a foothold in the beer industry while stepping forward into new realms. Be exciting, involve people and promote learning and thinking.
History proves that offering the best does not guarantee survival, in any industry. Businesses in-tune with the times have most durability.