06/06/2017 - 14:45

Brand focus for brewers as market gets crowded

06/06/2017 - 14:45

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SPECIAL REPORT: Brewers are increasingly focusing on branding to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving craft scene.

Brand focus for brewers as market gets crowded
Brewers are embracing the artistic and amazing, the weird and the wonderful with their labels in a bid to appeal to punters before they taste their wares. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Not content with their brewpub being one of the most popular in the Margaret River region, the team behind Cheeky Monkey Brewery made a decision 18 months ago to get their beer into a wider range of venues.

While the move has been largely successful, Cheeky Monkey managing director Brent Burton said the distribution shift highlighted how challenging and competitive Western Australia’s craft brewing scene was becoming.

It seems WA punters can’t get enough craft beer, with the number of breweries in the state surging past 60 in the past 12 months.

And there are more on the way, with two brewpubs proposed near the CBD among a wide range of new brewers seeking to supply a market with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for fresh froths.

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There are 492 breweries currently operating nationwide, with a new brewery opening at a rate of one every six days, according to industry website CraftBeer Reviewer.

Within that increasingly competitive environment, Mr Burton said branding was becoming just as important as brewing good beer to maintain market relevance.

“Branding is so important, it’s almost everything with craft beer,” Mr Burton told Business News.

“The craft beer consumer always wants to try something new and different, so to remain competitive and in the front of people’s minds, you need to have new products that you’re consistently putting out.”

Mr Burton said Cheeky Monkey had recently worked closely with Margaret River-based graphic design agency Brainstorm Design on a refresh of the company’s labels.

That work started last year with Cheeky Monkey’s critically acclaimed West Coast IPA, and will be rolled out across the rest of the brewery’s range when it celebrates its fifth year of operation early next month.

A key feature of the new branding will be the dropping of nicknames for Cheeky Monkey’s beer; its Old Reliable Pale Ale will become Cheeky Monkey Pale Ale, while the West Coast IPA was formerly known as Hop Flinger.

“We felt that it was quite important to refresh our branding, to something that’s a bit more accurate to what Cheeky Monkey represents,” Mr Burton said.

“Even though you have to stand out on that shelf, as it’s starting to get a little bit crowded, for us it was more about sending the message out about who we actually are and what we believe in, and why we brew the beers that we brew.

“We wanted the labels and artwork illustrations to do the talking for us, rather than introduce another nickname.”

The Cheeky Monkey experience is one that’s being echoed across the industry, according to the director of one of Perth’s leading craft beer specialist bottle shops, Mane Liquor’s Elliott Moore.

Mr Moore said brewers were almost screaming out for consumers’ attention through their branding, partnering with artists and graphic designers, as well as exploring new and exciting label technology, including colourful can skins and textural labels.

A consistent element across breweries, Mr Moore said, was that more and more brewers were showcasing art on their bottles or cans, rather than a classic, easily identifiable logo.

“People want you to touch the product to discover what it is,” Mr Moore told Business News.

“They want to entice you, pique your curiosity, make you pick it up and then look at it and discover what it is.

“By getting that product into your hand, it’s more likely then that you will take it away.

“You can’t taste this stuff before you take it home, and you’re not meant to judge a book by its cover, but people do.

“You can look at a product and it almost tastes good from looking at it because it looks good.

“You say ‘yep, that’s going to be a good beer’.”

For one of the newer entrants into the brewing scene, Fremantle’s Otherside Brewing Co, a cohesive, unique brand was essential to it staking out its own patch in a crowded marketplace.

Otherside Brewing has been spun-out of events management firm Sunset Events, which partnered with Block Branding to create its unique identity.

Otherside Brewing director David Chitty said Sunset Events’ festivals were the birthplace of the brand and its philosophy.

“We’ve certainly served a lot of beer over the years to lots of people as part of the entertainment offering,” Mr Chitty told Business News.

“We very much looked at music, food and beverage offerings, and arts and culture at festivals, as a unique experience, and we wanted to take those values forward into the brand proposition and try to bottle, it if you like.

“We want to take that experience into the brand experience of Otherside, and it’s why we are focusing on doing things like putting part of our sales into a fund to help local WA bands get over east, and things like that.”

Mr Chitty said another unique aspect of Otherside’s ‘Pilot’ range of beers was to give punters the power to determine what the beer maker actually brews.

“It is literally a live pilot, where we will make beer, put it out there and see what people think in the process,” he said.

“If they respond and they like it and comment on it and engage with social media and respond, and of course it sells, we will make some more.

“That’s part of our vision of being from the other side and being different … to be genuine in that offering and take that through in how we offer it to the marketplace.”

Other breweries are focusing on their physical location to establish a point of difference.

Esperance’s Lucky Bay Brewing, which opened its doors in late 2015, features a kangaroo’s head as a prominent part of its branding, a nod to the friendly roos that reside at the picturesque Lucky Bay.

Busselton’s Rocky Ridge Brewing has devoted its branding to celebrating the geological features of its location, with its flagship Ironstone Pale Ale named for the ridge of ironstone that runs through the brewery’s property, and it’s Granite IPA, which is named for the outcrops dotted throughout the South West.

Nowhereman Brewing Co, a West Leederville brewpub expected to open later this year, will also use its locality to determine the name of its beers, according to head brewer Paul Wyman.

“The brand lends itself to a bit of a story,” Mr Wyman said.

“(Fellow director) Reece Wheadon likes the Beatles song, that’s where the name came from, then using our locality, that’s what we’re trying to name our beers around.

“Leederville Lager, Crate Digger Pale Ale, we’re trying to make a real personal connection.

“If you look at Stone & Wood and brands like that, they’ve got a story, they’ve got a lifestyle and that’s what people really connect with.”

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