Branding: Brewpubs Learn From Cosmetics Experts

Any of the major production breweries will tout the significance of their branding… or at least they should.  Branding matters for any company that conducts business in local markets all the way up to international markets.  Whether they sell services, soup, cosmetics, watches, etc, strong branding translates to dollars.  If you take a page out of the L’Oreal company play book, it becomes very apparent they place a high value not only on the company brand name but the individual brand names as well.  They’ve built several strong brands over 100+ years of doing business.  As of 2010 L’Oreal maintained approximately €1.5bn in brand assets[1] on their balance sheet.  They believe brands are a quantifiable asset.  I agree.  So why does this matter for production breweries and brewpubs alike?

The New Production Brewer

     Some production breweries have been creating label-specific brands, branding lines, or thematic designs for all beers.  Bell’s Brewery out of Michigan contracted Dave Coverly to create a label for “Hell Hath No Fury” for an extremely unique design effect.  Flying Dog uses three levels of branding integration.  First level consists of one main artist and underlying theme for all labels.  Second level is assigning a specific branding line to each beer.  Finally, individual labels in each of those series receive an integrated yet unique design.  New Holland’s high gravity series utilizes two levels of integration.  These are just a few good examples of production breweries employing strong branding techniques.  It appears as though production breweries have captured the value of branding techniques, what about brewpubs?

The New-school Brewpub

     I was recently given the opportunity to design a label for Vintage 50’s Sordid Past (dark Belgian ale).  In the process of designing the new label I realized they label each beer individually.  Vintage 50 uses magnets on their tap handles to display elliptical labels for all of their beers.  Most brewpubs use chalkboards and call it a day.  This is a powerful advantage that Vintage 50 maintains.  The power resides in creating a lasting image and unique identifier for each beer.  If your labels pop, people don’t forget about the beer.  Individuals identify with each beer to a greater extent.  Many-a-regular have their favorites that they patiently wait year-round to drink.  This creates intense brand loyalty for each beer and the company overall.  I decided to call in an expert to learn more about the keys to branding success before creating the design for Sordid Past.

Learning from the Cosmetics Expert

     Das is starting an amazing organic skin-products company. You can read more about his products and purchase at A quick peek at his website will give you some brief insight into his branding techniques. His brand philosophies are second to none so I took the opportunity to pick his brain for a while the other day.  After catching up on life’s meanderings we jumped straight into business.

Das’s keys to branding

  • Create a logo that depicts what your product is and what it does.  Is your product high end or cost-effective?  Distinctive and simple logos are great.
  • Create a slogan / tagline description.  Stay honest and make it memorable.
  • Colors dictate the mood of your brand.  Use colors that are closely associated with the feeling of your brand.  Das’s product is organic skin care; primary colors are green, white and black.
  • Stay true to your beliefs and create a framework of guidelines for the company going forward.
  • Consistency is paramount.  This creates trust; nothing matters more than maintaining trust for your brand.
  • Respect your customers.  Give when you can.  Let them try your product.

     Thanks for the insights Das.  A quick review of the design for Sordid Past will give us some insight into how I faired in creating a label for Kristi Griner’s newest beer.

Sordid Past: Review

     Applying Das’s keys to branding, I have gone back and graded myself on the entire process.

  • Logo/Label; B+:  This doesn’t necessarily depict that it is beer, but then again you’re in the pub, so you know it’s a beer.  This imagery depicts something dark and secretive?  At 8.3% with an extremely unconventional recipe, I think it fits the bill.
  • Slogan/Tagline; A: Sordid Past… I didn’t come up with name, this was Kristi’s idea.  This beer signifies resurgence from a rough transitional period for the restaurant.  Fits the bill.  The staff at Vintage 50 will always remember Sordid Past as the beginning of the new era; a commemoration to what is now in the past.
  • Colors; A:  The Vintage 50 logo consists of black, white, and red.  Sordid Past uses these colors exclusively.  Seems like a good fit.  Works well the whole theme of this label and the overall company brand.
  • Framework; C+:  This process taught everyone a great deal about the whole process of designing a label.  Questions about future designs are still being hashed out.  As of now, there is no new framework, but more of an understanding.
  • Consistency; B: Adding the logo creates a level of consistency with the customers.  On the other hand, this label looks very different from other labels.  This could be positive and negative depending on how people take it.
  • Samples; A+: Kristi and the entire staff at Vintage 50 did an excellent job of promoting this beer before it was even on tap.  There was an underpinning of beer-drinkers awaiting the release because they received free samples with a little explanation of the beer and the story.  People loved this.

     Have any other brewpubs been employing these tactics?  How would you create a valuation for your separate brands?

[1] L’Oreal. (2011, March 17). 2010 Financial Statements. Retrieved December 04, 2011 from (page 31)

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