Design: Perspective: Branding
Project Type: Produced, Commercial Work
Client: Deschutes Brewery
Location: Bend, Oregon, United States
Packaging Contents: Beer
Packaging Substrate / Materials: Glass bottle, paper, carton stock and cardboard
Printing Process: Flexography and lithography
Deschutes Brewery Doubles Down on its Brand
U.S. Craft Beer Pioneer Challenges Category Conventions – Pays Homage to Stories Spanning 30 Years
When Gary Fish founded Deschutes Brewery 30 years ago in Bend, Oregon, less than 100 craft breweries dotted the landscape.
Today, over 7,000 craft breweries exist nationally. The huge increase in competition, along with concerns of oversaturation and slowing overall consumption trends, has created an inflection point.
The category is flooded with craft brewers large and small who have embraced quirky, whimsical branding. “After 30 years, I realized that, in order to grow, we needed to evolve our marketing approach, starting with the Deschutes branding and packaging,” Fish says. Rather than following the crowd, he reached back to his roots and chose a different direction: simple and bold to recapture his market and appeal to millennials who may not be familiar with Deschutes. “Unlike many other craft brewers, we have a strong brand story that we can use to go against the grain and show how we do craft beer better than anybody else,“ Fish continues.
“If you look at the craft beer category now, it’s a sea of overwhelming visual noise,” says Simon Thorneycroft, Founder and Creative Director of San Francisco-based Perspective: Branding, who Deschutes engaged to create the packaging redesign. “The category is completely flooded by products and styles, all looking the same by trying so hard to look different. Deschutes’ packaging was getting lost and we saw an opportunity to create clarity at the shelf by putting the brand and style first, then layering in some mystery through hidden stories. Elements of these stories start on one product, overlap and continue onto the next product on shelf,” he adds.
“Everyone knows that beer comes from a brewery, so we shortened the name on packaging to simply ‘Deschutes.’ By dropping the word ‘Brewery’ it gives the Deschutes name a bigger, bolder and more iconic presence that equates with its heritage and legacy as a true pioneer,” says Thorneycroft.
The new packaging design is a striking red and fresh blue, reflecting the colors of the soil and sky of Oregon, while also communicating refreshment, “which is something often overlooked in most craft beer branding,” says Thorneycroft.
The new Deschutes packaging design system is rolling out now beginning with Red Chair NWPA, a beloved seasonal available January to April. New products and redesigned packaging will continue to roll out throughout 2019 across Deschutes’ best-known and beloved year round and seasonal beers including Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Pacific Wonderland Lager, Inversion IPA, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Fresh Haze IPA, Obsidian Stout, Twilight Summer Ale and many others.
The packaging materials and structures are not unique, but there are two specific elements to the design that makes it unique within the craft beer category.
First, is the return to a simpler and cleaner look that puts the Deschutes brand front and center. This is unusual and slightly ironic in that it’s more of a “big beer” branding approach traditionally used by Budweiser, Miller and Coors, where the brand is most important, and the style or taste/experience is secondary. And although Deschutes is light years away from those brands in personality, ethos and its vastly superior beer, Deschutes and Perspective: Branding recognized an opportunity to create much needed clarity at the craft beer shelf by putting the brand and style first, big and bold.
Second, Perspective’s design layers in some mystery through subtle/hidden imagery and stories. These begin on the carriers with characters and illustrations that continue on the bottles depicting longevity, authenticity, and innovation, while also surprising and delighting consumers. Elements of these stories start on one product, overlap and continue onto the next product on shelf, and will extend into social media as well.
For example, on Red Chair NWPA, a seasonal (January to April) beer that is the first to showcase the new packaging, the story comes from the interesting characters one meets when riding a chair lift at a ski mountain. In this case, the mountain is Mt. Bachelor, located in Deschutes’ home town of Bend, Oregon. These chair lift ride produce unique, fun and curious moments when one connects with someone they might not otherwise ever meet – something that epitomizes the soul of Deschutes. Four different variations feature a skier or snowboarder with a person in flip flops, another in diving gear (a nod to their Mirror Pond packaging), a child in wellies, and Big Foot.