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VOL. 055

How to make your packaging work harder for your brewery.


Before diving into today's issue, I wanted to announce that CODO will be presenting at CBC in Las Vegas this April.

This is a huge honor, and we'll have more details on the seminar in the coming months.

I'll include a brief overview in the resources section at the bottom of this email in case you'll be there and want to attend our talk or grab a beer.

Anyway, couldn't wait to announce this.

But enough about us. Let's talk about you (and your brewery's packaging).

I was on a call with a brewery to discuss a package refresh recently and heard something interesting. 

“We’re not sure what we should feature most prominently on our packaging. We’re all over the place now and can’t decide if it makes sense to highlight our brewery’s logo, or the beer name and illustration, the style or some combination of these things.” 

This is actually a common pain point we hear in our work.

And if properly sorted, it can help you sell more beer. 

So that’s what I want to talk about today: Some thoughts on managing your package design hierarchy based on what we’re seeing in our daily project work here at CODO. 

We’ll start with a few strategic considerations and then get more tactical and immediately actionable.

This will give you some things to think about in case you’re considering a package refresh sometime soon. 

Let’s get into it.

(Above): Fernson Brewing had a clear understanding of what issues they wanted to address and what opportunities they saw in their market. Read more about how we helped them pivot their portfolio from a monolithic Branded House towards a series of Sub Brands.

Getting started: Identify your pain points, opportunities and goals

Before making any decisions, you first need to understand your pain points and goals.

You’ll likely do this before deciding that you need to refresh your packaging in the first place. But in case you haven’t, stop and answer the following questions:

– Why are you refreshing your packaging? 

– What isn’t working? 

– What would you like to do better?

– What opportunities do you see to improve things, in small ways and big? 

This may seem like an obvious point, but if you take some time to shake out what exactly it is that you want to address and accomplish through your revamp, you’ll have a clearer road map for how to get there. 


You need to understand your broader brand and portfolio strategy, positioning and Brand Architecture

Once you’ve framed your pain points and opportunities, you need to work through your overarching Brand Architecture.

In the interest of not adding another 1,200 words to this issue, you can learn more about this entire subject in our latest book, The Beyond Beer Handbook.

But at a glance, this is an important step because understanding whether you should build a monolithic Branded House vs. a series of Sub / Endorsed Brands vs. a portfolio of standalone brands will drive different design and hierarchy decisions. 



Once you have these initial strategic parameters defined, you can dig into the nuts and bolts of sorting out where all these info types should go on your packaging.

(Above): A look at the various info types you'll have to prioritize and layout across your packaging.


How to organize & prioritize your content

For a quick lay of the land, let’s take a look at all the information you have to balance on your packaging:

– Your brewery's brand identity (your core logo)
– The beer’s fanciful name (if applicable)
– The beer’s style
– The beer’s specific art, e.g. colors, illustrations and iconography (if applicable)
– The beer’s tasting notes and/or description
– The vessel size (e.g. 12 fl oz)
– Tagline / ethos statements
– Misc. violators (e.g. Awards, BA Independent Seal, specific health claims, provenance claims, etc.)
– Admin panel (e.g. Government warning, barcode, Brewed & Canned by statement, adjunct or special ingredient declarations, "please recycle,” be kind, rewind, etc.)
– Born on / best by dates 
– Nutritional Facts (if applicable)
– Quantity (for cartons, if applicable)
– Printer / can manufacturer indicia (if applicable)

So… that’s a lot of info to fit on a 12 or 16oz can. And even tougher if you’re bottling (which is essentially a business card-sized canvas). 

Here are a handful of things to think about as you set out to organize and prioritize all of this.

(Above): Bottles present another challenge due to their small canvas size. This usually means the carrier has to carry a lot more info (story, beer description, secondary iconography, etc.). 


Visit your retail partners and look at packaging in context (how will your beer be merchandised?)

This point has two benefits. 

1. It gives you a zoomed out view of your competitive set. You can see how your competition looks, what strategies (if any) they’re using and spot opportunities for differentiation.

2. It gives you a real world, unglamorous view at how your packaging will be merchandised. 

Why is this important? 

Because you sell beer in the real world (and not the hermetically sealed, and perfectly designed confines of Adobe Illustrator).

Example: There may be lip on a cooler rack that covers up an important piece of info on your packaging (e.g. your beer style or brewery name). 

Similarly, if you’re lucky enough to get a floor stack, will any critical info on your cans / cartons be cut off by the a ~3” side of your tray. (Also, design your trays. I know this is a throwaway piece here, but sweat the details.)

This is also an opportunity to see (and ask) how retailers will merchandise your beer.

Do they orient your 6-pk perfectly up right so the main hero side panel faces out (like you so lovingly envisioned during the design process)?

Or do they shove it in the cold box however, and wherever, it fits? 

A tactical note here: We’ve started making all 6-pk / 12-pk cartons more flexible for this very reason. Our goal is to give a retailer multiple merchandising opportunities, so that wherever, or however they stock your beer, the most pertinent info will be displayed. 

An example is swapping the orientation on each end—so one end of your carton can be displayed upright and the other can work horizontally.

Those, along with a well-designed side and top panels should cover you in all use cases. 

This asymmetry may hurt your sensibilities as a designer (it did ours, at first), but we’re designing this packing to work in the real world and sell more beer, so don’t pull any punches.

Get the important info out front and center where it needs to be.


Primary vs. Secondary Packaging

If you don’t use cartons, skip right ahead to the next section. But if you do, then you have a wealth of options when organizing all this information. 

Three points to start off:

1. Your cartons do all of your selling. It’s important to design a beautiful can that can stand on its own, but your carton is what people will see in retail. 

2. Each format has a different use case.

Your cartons need to billboard and jump off the shelf. Whereas your cans (or bottles) provide a more intimate experience (imagine someone drinking it and spinning it in their hand to read the back, or peeling the label, chucking it at a passing train, etc.) 

3. Your cans and cartons can, and likely should contain different information. They don’t have to be identical. 

What this means is that your cartons can be more brand forward—so taking advantage of color blocking, pushing your brewery’s brand (if appropriate), highlight the beer’s style and ABV (if these are important value props), etc.

You have to decide what your most important info is—what you want a consumer to see and immediately grasp so they pick your beer up. 

That’s usually your brewery’s brand, beer name, style, ABV and overall vibe.

Anything beyond this (the more technical / admin TTB-type stuff) can live on your cans (or elsewhere on your carton). 

This also allows you to expand on an illustration or some visual elements that may otherwise be hemmed in on a smaller can. 

And finally, think through how your cartons can billboard on shelf to punch above their weight in retail.

So make sure you think about your portfolio's broader gestalt across your different cartons as you’re designing them—how can they work together to better stand out from the set?

(Above): Your primary and secondary packaging can, and often should contain different information. Your carton is an opportunity to reach out across the aisle and grab someone's attention whereas your can offers a more detailed, intimate experience.

Read more about Good George Brewing's branding and package design process here.

The bottom of your carton is NOT a junk drawer 

Speaking candidly here: The bottom panel of your cartons can turn into a junk drawer where we throw all the other stuff that didn’t make it into the main panels (sides, ends, top) of your carton, but that you still insist we include.

Don’t do this if you can help it. (We try not to.)

Design your bottom panel with as much intention as the rest of your packaging. 

A few things we like to include here include:

– Your brewery’s story 
– Social media handles / activations 
– A map highlighting various taproom locations (if applicable)
– The barcode (if your retail partners allow you to put it down there)
– Best by / born on date codes (if you have an efficient way to add these to your cartons)
– Some sort of coupon / nudge to get someone to visit your taproom (if legal)
– Easter eggs. Something funny for people to find and share with friends. (Any opportunity to bring more wit and delight into this dark world should be taken. Give your fans a fun aha moment.)

Anything more than this can just clutter everything up. 

Avoid the junk drawer.

(Above): How does your packaging billboard? And how does it hang together if it's not merchandised together (if a retailer organizes beer by style vs. brand)?

You need to plan for all of these use cases and design your packaging to hang together (if strategically appropriate). 

On Duping (a tactical point here…)

Another tactical point here: If you’re using Paktechs, Hi-Cones, or any similar can ring packaging, you’ll inevitably run into facing issue in retail (where your cans spin around, preventing a customer from seeing the “front”).

One way we combat this is by “duping” the can design, that is, putting the exact same art on the “front” and “back” of the can.

You’ll still have an admin panel to contend with, but this gives you a much better shot at displaying what you want people to see. 

This isn’t always appropriate, given your can design, goals and competitive set, but it’s a good move if it is.

A final thought: If everything is important, then nothing is important

There’s a meme in the design industry: "Make the logo bigger."

And we’ve seen this in our work as well. 

Can we make the beer name bigger? And our logo? And can the style size be bumped up a bit?

Properly designing your packaging involves determining what info is most important so your potential customer knows why they should grab your product. 

So think about your customers. Create a clear hierarchy that they can easily decipher.

Make their decision easier. 

And sell more beer.

Around the Shop

CODO is presenting at CBC this April!

Cody and I are honored to be presenting at this year's CBC. 

Our seminar is titled "Leverage your brand or start a new one? Brand Architecture strategies for growing your business."

(New record for longest seminar title in CBC history???)

Shoot me an email if you'll be at the conference and would like to grab a beer and talk shop.

Otherwise, learn more about the presentation at the link below.

Shoutout to CODO client Prost Brewing

Congratulations to David and the rest of the Prost team on opening their North Glenn production facility.

This move has been year's in the making and we're excited to see how they scale with this new capacity in place.

Sneak Peeks (works in progress)

Ready to learn more?

The Beyond Beer Handbook

Part book, part quiz, and part choose-your-own-adventure-style novel, The Beyond Beer Handbook is a purpose-built tool for helping you expand your brewery’s portfolio and build a more resilient business.

Craft Beer, Rebranded

Craft Beer, Rebranded and its companion Workbook are a step-by-step guide to map out a winning strategy ahead of your rebrand. Building on CODO’s decade of brewery branding experience, this book will help you weigh your brand equity, develop your brand strategy and breathe new life into your brewery’s brand.

Craft Beer Branding Guide

The Craft Beer Branding Guide outlines how to brand, position and launch a new brewery or beverage company. This is a must-read for any brewery in planning.

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