Branding Beer 101: How Buzz Words & Packaging Impact Beer Branding

Branding Beer Blog Title Image

Today’s craft beer market is packed with new breweries, established mainstays, brewpub filled towns, and enough taplists to make your head spin. As a brewer or brewery owner, the task of naming a new brand, much less determining the beer branding descriptors used to draw in your target market, can be a challenge. So what’s appealing to today’s fickle beer buyer? What catches their eye? And better yet, which words and images shouldn’t you use to avoid shelf-purgatory and/or a tap that won’t rotate?

Thankfully, the fine folks at Nielsen compiled 2 surveys of craft beer consumers over the past year and came up with some interesting data on branding that might just make you think twice about which beer types you take to market,  which verbiage to use and how to effectively package your product.

Branding Beer: Stylin’ and Profilin’

As the craft beer industry has seen explosive growth over the past 6 years, so has the variety of available styles and flavor profiles. The biggest segment of growth for branding names of late have been “Barrel/Wood Aged” beers. In 2013, they accounted for 154 products and are now in excess of 500. While not as prevalent, the “Sour” style grew from 33 products five years ago to now over 270. Also growing have been the abundance of “Citrus” or “Tropical” branding, and while “Hop” flavors have grown, they’ve remained far more steady over recent years.

The descriptors with the fastest annual growth rate have been the “Citrus” and “Tropical” flavors. Both grew in excess of 100% annually.  The “Citrus” definition currently holds the highest share of the craft beer market for these 5 categories, coming in at 2.6% of all craft beer brands.

Branding Beer: What’s the Buzz?

Consumer craft beer buzzwords awareness level - beer branding

Right alongside the popularity of certain styles are the “buzzwords” that will entice the palate of various types of beer consumers. Buyers are more likely to gravitate to branding that includes words like:

  • Drinkable
  • Independently Owned
  • Traditional
  • Limited Edition
  • West Coast (IPA)

The same customers were less interested in purchasing a product described as:

  • Sour
  • Funky
  • Piney
  • Hazy

Remember, this a sampling of the general public, so not everyone gets excited about the latest Milkshake IPA.

How much awareness of this terminology used can also play a central role in appealing to a broad base of customers. More than 70% of those polled gravitated toward beers termed “Independent,” “Traditional,” “Hoppy,” “Drinkable,” “Limited Edition,” “Citrus/Citrusy,” and “Barrel-aged.” Less impressionable were descriptions such as “Brett” and “GABF.” Age can also play a factor on awareness, as younger drinkers tend to be better tuned into craft beer slang. Those between the ages of 21 and 44 were shown to have awareness levels in excess of 50%, while those 65 and over held an awareness level of 33% or less.

Branding Beer: May I Have Your Attention Please?

Craft Beer Terms - Purchase Influence - beer branding

Beer branding – Purchase Influence

Shelf space is more limited than ever, making it critical to hone in on the branding you choose to capture the attention of your intended customer. So it’s even more important to determine how your packaging, color palate and labeling will jump off the shelves and catch the eye of your targeted demographic. According to Nielsen’s “Craft Beer Category Design Audit,” in the past year, 3,905 new beer items hit shelves, with 75% of those being “craft beers.” Furthermore, your typical craft beer buyer spends 70% of their time deciding which beer to buy, but only once they’ve arrived at the shelves.

Of the consumers surveyed, 48% stated that the design of the carrier or box weighed most heavily on their decision, followed by information about where the beer was produced (43%), the logo or brand name (39%), the color scheme on the label (36%), and lastly the alcohol % by volume (29%).

Branding Beer: The New Market

Now you might be thinking, “I rely less on shelf sales than ever before.” A vast majority of the country’s craft brewers are operating at a local or sub-regional level, with more tap-only beers being consumed than ever before. Which is why it’s important to take advantage of the tools available to you. Listing your newest releases on untappd and utilizing other online resources to self-distribute are a few examples.

You also need to be able to track your kegs, keep up with the shipments you receive, vendor balances, track your distributor sales, and rest well knowing you have sufficient stock to meet demand. Most importantly, that all of this can be viewed through a real-time, single source of the truth.


While OrchestratedBeer may not be able to help you design your newest seasonal release, we do know how to help you Conduct Your Craft on the business side. Helping breweries track of all the nuts and bolts that hold a business together, it enables you the time to focus on more interesting things like brewing delicious beers and branding beer by dreaming up imaginative names, designing creative labels, and continuing the craft beer revolution.

Find out the many ways OrchestratedBeer can help provide a single source of the truth for your brewery. Download our brochure and feel free to contact us. We would enjoy getting to know you and your business as well as discovering if we are the brewery management software that best fits your needs.