You've spent years perfecting your brewing process, building your brewery, and making your craft beer (in your humble opinion) the best on the market. It's a great time to be entering the craft beer market. According to statistics from the Brewer’s Association, craft brewing is quickly becoming a profitable industry, with demand rising sharply.
However, the competition is stiff and unless you can communicate your beer's advantages to the buying public, your business is unlikely to succeed, no matter how good your beer is. That's where labeling comes in.
Define your brand
Craft beer is all about branding and finding your beer's "personality". Do you want to be known for your geographic location, for your "fierce" taste or for your artistic labeling? Are you looking to market your beer primarily to men, to beer drinkers in their 20s, or to those looking for a unique beer, such as a blueberry or pumpkin-flavored beer? Before you start working on the graphics and wording of your beer label, you need to have a clear idea of who you want to attract with your label and what type of impression you want your label to make with consumers.
You also need to think about how your consumers will be buying your beer. Are they ordering it online, buying it by the bottle or six-pack in a beverage store, or via their local beverage distributor (as restaurants and bars do)? These decisions affect how you design your label. You'll want more visual impact for a beer being sold at a beverage store than for a beer being sold via beverage distributors.
Will your beer be offered in bottles or cans (or both)? This also affects your label design, since your graphics will look different on a bottle compared to on a can. The choice partly depends on your branding. Are you marketing your beer as something to enjoy on a picnic or by the pool? Then, you'll probably want to package your product in a can. Are you marketing to casual restaurants with outdoor patios? Then, cans are again a better choice.
Tips for creating the perfect craft beer labels
Details matter when it comes to designing your craft beer labels. Here are a few tips to consider during the planning stage:
1. Color. The color of your craft beer label evokes emotion more than any other element of your label and is able to communicate to consumers even at a quick glance. Different colors create different reactions in consumers. For example, red represents excitement and passion; orange denotes playfulness; green represents stability and prosperity; and light blue gives a sense of tranquility and trust.
Keep in mind also how the color of your label will look against the color of your beer can. You want your label color to complement or contrast the color of the can, not compete with it.
2. Shape and size. Most beer labels encircle the can. This is largely done for cost reasons, as standard-sized labels are less expensive to produce. However, if you're looking for your beer can that stands out from the crowd of other craft beers, you might want to consider a non-standard-sized label.
Standard beer can label sizes: 12oz 3.625" x 8", 16oz 5" x 8".
3. Font. The font you use should also tie into your branding. For example, serif fonts (the fonts with the little feet) and script fonts have a more formal, classical feel. Sans-serif fonts are more casual. It's a good idea to avoid any font that is too elaborate as it can affect the label's readability.
4. Images and style. Traditionally, beer labels have had one or two colors with the name of the beer boldly imprinted across the label. However, with the advent of craft beers, the beer label has become more of an art form. It's not unusual to see multi-color labels with labels designed by local artists. I've even seen cartoon drawings on craft beer labels. However, as enticing as these types of labels can be, it's important to match your label with your target audience. Unless you are marketing to a younger audience, cartoons are probably best left on the drawing board.
5. Choice of words. The words you choose for your label also affect the consumer's perception of the beer. For example, do you describe your beer as robust? organic? creamy? hand-crafted? hearty? smooth?
6. The fine print. While not as sexy as the descriptive text, all beer labels need to have certain elements on the label that are required by law. According to the American Brewers Association, these include net content, alcohol content, beer class and type, and the name and address of your business. All of this information needs to be written in a font size that is large enough to be legible on the can.
7. The right printer. Even the best-designed beer label is only as good as the printer that executes your design. Look for a printer with a proven track record. It's not rude or unprofessional to ask to see samples or their work or to ask for references. Customer service is also key. Look for a company that will be there for you if you have any issues with or questions about the labels.
Finding a designer for your craft beer label
While large breweries are able to outsource their label design to a large ad agency or design firm, craft breweries rarely have the means to do this. Craft breweries generally either design their labels themselves or use a freelance graphic designer. Occasionally, you'll see breweries run a contest, where the winning label design gets a prize. We recommend using a freelancer unless you have experience in graphic design. You don't want your label to look homemade.
Creating the perfect craft beer label doesn't have to be a chore. Just make sure that you sit down and define your target audience and make sure that the color, font, image and words you use on your craft beer labels all support your branding.