By Fred Czuba
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Whether you are on the consuming end of the craft beverage food chain or designing recipes for your next holiday ale, both parties have one element in common: The Love of Story.
Every craft producer has one. Every customer wants to hear one. But too often in our haste to sell and to buy, we pay far too much attention to the price point on the shelf, forgetting that packaging — and labeling in particular — is not just a list of ingredients. Perhaps it is because so many have forgotten what a good story is.
A good story doesn’t just list what’s inside the bottle. Back in the ‘70s, America went through a fad where generic labeling was trendy. Simple black-and-white packaging identifying mayonnaise, red wine and beer were amusing, and the contents inside were decent examples of what was labeled, but there was no connection between seller and buyer. Seldom a second purchase. No child on your lap next to the fire saying, "Read me this story again daddy. It's my favorite." No mother would read to their child from a book simply labeled, "Fairy Tale," and no child would be interested. They want to see the cover, the pictures. They want to know the names of the characters — root for the underdog and have their hearts race for the imperiled hero, even though they know how it ends. That is the essence of story, and a connection that every manufacturer hopes to build with their customer.
Here are a few guiding tips on how a producer/storyteller can connect to their consumer/listener.
1. Engage the consumer
"We make great beer," "We use only quality ingredients" and "Growing grapes since 1972" can all be facts, but are total yawns. It works as a beginning, much like "Once upon a time," but it doesn't say much more. If I saw a label that said, "You can read the fine print, but we know you're more curious about what happens after you remove the cork," I would buy it out of pure curiosity. It's the promise of a good story that pulls you in.
2. Tell your story, not someone else's
Just because everyone makes an IPA or a pinot noir or a gin doesn't mean you have to. Bow to the market out of necessity if you must, but your story is uniquely yours. Only you can tell it. Whether this means that your Celtic roots drive you to harvest grapes for a particular wine only on the night of a full moon or you are a brewer who is the great, great, great grandson (or granddaughter) of George Washington and every batch contains a blade of grass from Mount Vernon, it's your story to tell and it’s unique.
3. Catch their eye
Most consumers judge a book by its cover. A label is not just an ingredient list, a government warning and a barcode. Everyone has that. Be creative. Whether you use paper labels, Mylar or ink decoration, think first about your story and second about the cost of creativity. Yes, budgets are important, but if your product is not jumping from the shelf to a customer's hands, then no one is reading your story. Luckily the craft beverage industry has an ample supply of designers and marketing agencies to aid you in telling your tale.
4. Make them want to read the story again
Do you leave a listener/consumer hungry for the next chapter? With so many choices on the shelf, customer loyalty is a thing of the past. You should not expect that your beer/wine/kombucha/vodka is the only one they will try. But your story should bring them back again and again and hold all others up to your standard. Do you invite them to your world/facility, engage with social media and leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the crowded forest of product choices so they can find you again? There is no one way to do this. If that were true then there would be only one light beer on the market.
And to that point: currently there is an online post attributed to the Brewer's Association asking the public to contribute funds for craft brewers to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev to "take back" craft beer. Even if this is not "fake news" or a Russian hack, one must ask why AB InBev has been so fixated on the craft beer industry for years. The answer is simple. AB InBev craves the narrative. So long as the craft industry has an interesting story to tell and expresses it in very personal ways, then connecting with the listener will yield a long and enriching experience.
Fred Czuba is a BING member and the sales manager at Tri-S Decorating in Tualatin. For nearly 30 years, he has enjoyed listening to and telling the stories of the craft beverage industry.
By Scott Pillsbury
For the Oregon Beer Growler
We at Rose City Label frequently get asked about the price for a “standard” beer label — but unfortunately, we don’t have a very good answer. When we began printing labels for 22-ounce bottles nine years ago, there was a pretty standard format that most businesses used, but not anymore. Now that there are a variety of options, beer label pricing can be more expensive.
Of the last 100 beer labels we printed for our top brewery customers, there wasn’t a single “standard.” That’s because there is demand for variety in terms of sizes, materials, printing methods and requests for extra embellishments. With all this diversity, there really is no way to answer the question about a standard label. Everyone is fighting to set themselves apart on the crowded shelves, and a “standard” label just won’t work.
In the last 100 orders, we used:
— Twenty-nine different die cut label sizes. Our standard 4-by-5 rectangle (once the most popular size) only accounted for 15 of these orders. Now people want bigger labels that cover more of the bottle in order to show off their graphics and branding.
— Fifteen different label materials. Our premium synthetic paper and digital BOPP still accounted for 54 of these orders, but 46 of them are on a textured stock, a clear or metallic or a premium paper suitable for embossing.
— Sixty traditional vs. 40 digital. Nine years ago we didn’t even have digital printing, and now it accounts for 40 percent of the beer label orders — digital is booming. This is especially true for short-run, seasonal and specialty collaboration beers.
Nine years ago, we never would have envisioned 29 different beer label sizes — the creativity and diversity is amazing!
With all of these options, it is no wonder why beer label price diversity is on the rise.
*This is a compilation of the last five orders from our top 20 brewery customers.
More data about these 100 orders:
— Largest quantity: 151,200
— Smallest quantity: 500
— Lowest per-label cost: $0.062
— Highest per-label cost: $0.69
With all this experience in beer label diversity, we have what it takes to meet all of your craft beverage label needs. Cheers!
Scott Pillsbury is a founding member of B.I.N.G. and President of Rose City Label Company, a family-owned business that has been a leader in the Northwest label market since 1928. The company prints for more than 80 craft beer companies, as well as wineries, spirit producers and was recognized as the 2015 OSU Austin Family Business of the Year. Scott and his wife, Sherrill, have four children and live in Portland. They enjoy food, travel, running and beer.