Scan the packaging in your supermarket's beer aisle, and you might get the impression that the beer industry is marketing to two completely different species. In one camp, you've got the craft beer drinker, who likes oil paintings of Queen Anne and will dissertate on the nature of hops at the drop of a mildly ironic porkpie hat. In the other, you've got the mass-market beer drinker, who like his beer wet. But Redhook, a 29-year-old, Seattle-based craft beer company with big ambitions, is hedging its bets that American beer consumers aren't so starkly divided, that somewhere out there, there exists a gray area, where the extreme beer snob meets the dude for whom the high life is of the Miller variety.
To lure this moderate consumer, Redhook recently tapped Hornall Anderson, a Seattle branding agency, to dream up new packaging. "The idea was always about creating a Redhook that's upscale but still everyday," says Hornall Anderson brand strategist Patrick Rowell. "No one is telling that story. This is how Redhook can distinguish itself."
?This was about creating something upscale but still everyday. No one is telling that story."
There's some compelling logic at play. Craft beer represents just 7.6% of the $101 billion spent on beer in the United States. Though that figure is on the upswing — according to the Brewers Association, a craft trade group, craft brews are the beer industry's fastest growing segment — it's hard to imagine that microbreweries, which are small by definition, will rival the Budweisers and Millers of the world anytime soon. So it makes sense to take a middle-of-the-road approach — to appeal to a more beer-literate public without alienating Joe Blow who doesn't give a crap about where his hops were grown, he just wants to crack open something refreshing after work.
Hornall Anderson tried to get at that in-between space by reducing Redhook's packaging to its simplest components. The old bottle had a split, multi-colored label that gave the flavor's name top billing, with a tiny "Redhook" logo relegated to the bottom, occupying just 5 to 10% of the overall real estate. The new bottle features a single label dominated by the brand name and a white mountain range — a reference to the Seattle area's natural topography. Each flavor is a single color. Flavor names are small and consigned to the top left corner. And the flavor descriptions are whimsical instead of windy, Copper Hook, for instance: "Thinks gold and silver are way overrated."
A simple beer icon highlights whether the flavor is refreshing, smooth, bold, or dark.
Of course, you still need to get across what the beer's all about, so Hornall Anderson devised a clever mechanism that Rowell calls a "beerometer?: a simple, accessible beer icon on the six- and 12-pack cartons that highlights whether the flavor is refreshing, smooth, bold, or dark. The rest of the carton is given up to the brand name and the mountain graphic. Line a bunch of them up, and they start to resemble a rolling mountain range, which goes a long way toward building equity on the shelf. As for the shape of the bottle, it's shorter and squatter than what Redhook had before, again to distinguish itself from other craft beers, but also because 'it felt masculine,' Rowell says. ?And it also felt — blue collar is too strong of a word — but everyday."
Rowell is quick to point out that Redhook isn't trying to be so "everyday" that it competes with the likes of Coors or MGD. Redhook still costs more than a six-pack of Coors, because, frankly, it's a better beer, and the packaging needs to convey that. 'What we're saying is that this is something that a mainstream domestic beer drinker would trade up for,' he says. "But it's also going to be a staple beer for that highfalutin' beer drinker. It's a sweet spot that few brands are doing." In short, he says: "The idea is to create a new market."
[Images courtesy of Hornall Anderson]