Remember when you were a kid and you liked to play the games on the back of the cereal box while you ate? Somehow the entertainment value helped make the cereal taste even better. I don’t think I ever really grew out of that phase; instead, I’ve translated it to reading my beer bottle while enjoying a nice cold one. And guess what? The entertainment factor is still a differentiator that helps me pick out a beer from among dozens that I haven’t tried yet. So what are we really talking about here? Package design, sure. Creative naming, definitely!
But more than anything, bold and sometimes brazen marketing ploys that effectively make a brand stand out and be memorable in a wildly over-saturated market. Following are a few of the most memorable that I’ve come across.
Brilliant Beer Brands
Let’s start with Arrogant Bastard Ale from Stone Brewing Co. The label has an awesome, eye-catching line drawing of the devil drinking a brew, but it’s the “story” on the back that really makes this beer’s personality BOLD. The description on the bottle lets the reader know, in no uncertain terms, that this is a beer designed for connoisseurs. It’s so dramatically in your face that it keeps me reading and re-reading for as long as it takes me to enjoy the delicious ale inside.
“This is an aggressive ale. You probably won’t like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory–maybe something with a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at convincing you it’s made in a little brewery, or one that implies that their tasteless fizzy yellow beverage will give you more sex appeal. Perhaps you think multi-million dollar ad campaigns make things taste better. Perhaps you’re mouthing your words as you read this.
At Stone Brewing, we believe that pandering to the lowest common denominator represents the height of tyranny–a virtual form of keeping the consumer barefoot and stupid. Brought forth upon an unsuspecting public in 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale openly challenged the tyrannical overlords who were brazenly attempting to keep Americans chained in the shackles of poor taste. As the progenitor of its style, Arrogant Bastard Ale has reveled in its unprecedented and uncompromising celebration of intensity. There have been many nods to Arrogant Bastard Ale…even outright attempts to copy it… but only one can ever embody the true nature of liquid Arrogance!”
Another brewery whose beers I have enjoyed immensely is Flying Dog. Not only are the labels artistic, bold and striking, the back of the labels are downright provocative. In fact, one beer has had a lawsuit filed against it for crossing the line. As a creative, I appreciate pushing things to the proverbial line… and then seeing how much further you can go without losing marketing integrity. One that succeeds is Raging Bitch; not only is it delicious (IPA’s are my favorite), but the description is also very well-delivered:
“Two inflammatory words…one wild drink. Nectar imprisoned in a bottle. Let it out. It is cruel to keep a wild animal locked up. Uncap it. Release it…stand back!!! Wallow in it’s golden glow in a glass beneath a white foaming head. Remember, enjoying a Raging Bitch, unleashed, untamed, unbridled—and in heat—is pure GONZO. It has taken 20 years to get from there to here. Enjoy!”
In addition to labels, beer bottle caps featuring words of wisdom are high up on the entertainment-value category. Just like ending your meal with a fortune cookie, starting a beer with words of wisdom rounds out the experience, and invites you to open more to see what’s under the next cap. (And who hasn’t turned into a philosopher by the end of a “festive” night?!)
Magic Hat Brewing Company’s caps are great. All have the same design, regardless of the beer flavor it tops, but the under-caps hold very different messages. Whether you’re drinking a #9, a Braggot or Hocus Pocus, you’re sure to enjoy it even more having unlocked a dose of enlightenment and a great conversation starter.
Some standouts are:
- What could be better than a beer with Eddie Vedder?
- The journey is the truth
- Condoms prevent minivans
- Don’t cook bacon naked
- Life’s a garden. DIG IT!
Finally, so as not to leave my other favorite drink out in the cold, many wine labels have also effectively broken the barriers of wine’s straight-laced, conservative persona.
Wicked, Winning Wine Brands
So many wines, so little time! How do you choose which to bring home, just off the wine-store shelf? The label, of course! The front catches your eye, the description on the back is their chance to capture you…hook, line and sinker!
A great example of this is the Naked Winery & Orgasmic Wine Company. Well…as you can tell by the name, there is nothing subtle here. They’re bold and commanding, just like their award-winning wines. One of my favorites is the Climax Table Red, “Big, juicy with a strong spicy kick at the end…just the way a Climax should always be.” The back label continues with: “Soft at first, expect a rock solid finish. A firm body with plenty of girth stretches the palate for a full mouth feel. Engorge with succulent cherry flavors and undertones of dark berry flesh, this blend is ready to release with flavors that shoot out at the finish. Our Climax will leave you screaming for more.” So if you want your brand to get noticed and keep them coming back, be bold, be distinctive, be brave. Cheers!