It’s been said that outward appearances are not a reliable indication of true character. We disagree! We believe you can rightfully judge a book by its cover, by its plot, where it sits on the shelf and what it’s sitting next to on that shelf. That cover won’t tell you everything of course, but it should be enough to get Joey Buysmoore to pull out his wallet and take it home for further inspection. A similar logic could be applied to things people actually still buy, like craft beer.
Successful craft brewers have realized that when it comes to selling beer in a marketplace with one zillion competitors, what’s on the bottle is just as important as what’s in the bottle. So how can your brand rise above all that noise? Consider pressure-sensitive beer labels as a possible differentiator in a predominantly glue-applied label market. They could help convey your brand essence — that wide collection of surrounding ideas that directly informs customers about your brand, including identity design, responsive website, marketing materials and (yes) your rad set of labels.
Harvey Shepard, a graphic designer, blogger and beer fan out of Seattle, has actually written a book about it called Oh Beautiful Beer: The Evolution of Craft Beer and Design. It’s a classy hardback that celebrates the innovative label designs that the global brewing industry is producing today. The amazing art in the book is a testament to the creative brand minds that are battling for popularity in the stiff, competitive market of craft beer.
“We have over 4,000 craft breweries in the United States now,” explained Shepard. “So, it’s not like in the 1980s where there were just a handful of craft breweries. If you were a craft beer then, that was enough for somebody to take you home. Now, I’m sure we’ve all been to that big mega beer store where craft beer is just pouring over the shelves. So, what do brewers have to do to get their brand to pop off the shelf and into a customer’s hands? On a shelf, that beer label really becomes the voice for the brewery.”
Shepard, who consults for label-maven Avery Dennison, first established the Oh Beautiful Beer website, which, like the book, houses excellent editorial and imagery of beer labels and design work. Avery Dennison, of course, is a global manufacturer and distributor of pressure-sensitive adhesive materials. You probably immediately recognize the name from your computer printer’s sticker-applied labels at home, but Avery Dennison is also an aggressive innovator in the beer and beverage label branding business.
Visit Avery Dennison’s website and you’ll see a ton of innovative products to help craft brewers brand items to customers. In the world of beer, bottles, cans, signage and promotional items like coasters and stickers are no-brainers, but what about keg wraps, keg collars and shelf talkers?
“We launched our first craft beer portfolio back in 2013,” explained Jeff Greenlief, craft beer product and business development manager at Avery Dennison. “We’ve now taken a different approach and revamped that portfolio — not only to include bottle labeling, but materials for cans, growlers, crowlers, tap handles and promotional materials. So across the board there are nine different touchpoints within a brewery that could use labeling material, specifically pressure sensitive. The reason I keep saying pressure sensitive is that right now, in craft beer, 70 to 80 percent of the breweries are using glue-applied label solutions. Our material is the one where the adhesive is already on the material along with the facestock material you’ve chosen to help your brand stand out. It’s all together, just like a postage stamp or a label you would use within your office.”
Why does pressure sensitive matter?
Let’s talk specifically about bottle labels. One of the first questions facing a craft brewer regarding labels: Do you want glue-applied, pressure sensitive or shrink sleeve (read up on shrink sleeves here)? Glue-applied labels are still the most widely used option in this particular segment of the market often because of the individual unit costs, which has its pros and cons. Glue-applied labels typically come with a limited range of rectangular papers. Glue-applied labels can be applied at a pretty high speed too, up to about 1,500 bottles per minute, with either hot or cold glue.
But there are other big considerations. First, the sizable downside here is the front-end capital expenditure for implementing a glue-applied labeling system. Why is pressure sensitive a better mousetrap?
“Glue applied is a very costly setup,” Greenlief said. “It’s quite capital intensive. You’re talking tens of thousands of dollars up-front plus change parts. Even on the aftermarket in terms of purchasing, you may get into $20,000 or $30,000, and for a small brewpub that’s a lot of money because whether you sell beer or not, the bank is going to want their check every month.”
Pressure-sensitive increases color, imagery, textures and shapes and is much lighter on the wallet from a total cost standpoint. You can get into a smaller unit, even aftermarket equipment, for a fraction of what a glue-applied line would cost, and pressure-sensitive increases line up-time, reduces rework costs and the changeover doesn’t involve a big cleanup — nothing more than changing the roll in the machine. Plus, you get different shapes, a highlighted appearance on the bottle or different embossments, which you cannot even touch with glue-applied labels.