As long as we have had creative design and branding agencies we have had huddles of denim-clad, unshaved, t-shirt wearing creatives with, lets face it, one foot in and one foot out of university huddled around the pumps engaging in the timeless British institution that we all love – the after work pint.
The conversation would flow from the unrealistic deadlines to “why don’t we have better coffee in the office?” to the ever faithful “how much was that round?!” and, most importantly, “how’s your pint?” Craft Beer has long been a trusty sidekick for anyone wanting something different, something more creative or just simply not wanting to follow the herd down Pale Lager Lane.
However, lately there has been a change, a disturbance in the force. For the first time ever, the conversation has moved from the taste and the price to the dull lifeless object that, as a designer, you would always try to hide… the label. Yes, for as long as we have had our own national drink we have been woefully bad at its branding. My God, if I see another pub clip or bottle with a poorly printed picture of England’s green and pleasant lands, a Spitfire, or cringeworthy tongue-in-cheek beer puns I may very well give up both the branding world and drink for life. Ok, well that might be a little drastic but at least my toys will come flying out of my pram!
No, the last few years we have seen an increasing number of weird and wonderful breweries from all across the land taking on traditional and international styles, but most importantly putting as much thought into their unique brand image as they have their unique flavours.
Some have gone as far as Brewdog, who haven’t just come up with an internationally recognisable and award-winning brand identity, but have gone about it militantly – literally; at the launch of their Camden bar they drove a branded tank down Camden high street!
Unfortunately for the Brits, some of the international brewers have teamed up with their local agencies and consultancies and have come up with some amazing work. From Jester King coming out of Texas with its quite simply stunning art-work, to Moo Brew in Tasmania who don’t only commission a local artist but design their own bottles in unique dimensions, making them instantly recognisable. Gone are the days of using any old pre-loaded font and tacky drawings, all printed at the small booth outside Asda. Now any new brewery with a creative and innovative product needs its very own cutting-edge design and branding agency. What’s on the outside of the bottle is now just as important as the inside.
Does it follow then that every agency needs a brewery? I’m sure no-one would disagree that we would all quite like to deal with one, just for a quick trip to the site to discover (taste) their brand identity. Interestingly enough I have met several agencies recently, all of which have either worked with a young brewery or are quite desperate to do so.
The whole thing, as well as being very exciting for a beer and branding lover, leaves me pondering whether Frank Zappa’s criteria for a country can be used for agencies; “You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer”. Now it might be some time before any agencies really register on a geiger counter but how long before you can’t be an agency, or at least a cool one, without your own beer?