Package Design Trend: Dramatic Callouts

As consumers become more resolute in their preferences for trends that have been growing over the past few years (“simple” ingredients, environmentally-friendly production practices, etc.), brands are responding by dramatically highlighting these traits in their packaging. This has proved successful for many breakout brands, and this strategy should be considered in order to show potential consumers that their needs are the primary concern of the company.

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Protein bar manufacturer RXBAR took a pretty big gamble when they shrunk their logo by 60% in their 2017 package redesign. Their risk paid off enormously – by making the ingredients (which are easy for buyers to understand, a valued feature for modern shoppers) the star of the design, they launched their product into third place in its category.

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KIND chose a similar strategy with their line of pressed bars, minimizing their brand name in order to free up room for the ingredients to shine. The company states that each bar adds two servings off fruit to one’s daily routine, and that the snack is made with just fruit and vegetables or fruit and chia. The packaging callouts emphasize this “simple” makeup.

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This packaging from design agency mousegraphics reads like a recipe, taking what RXBAR has done a step further. While the funky hand-drawn typeface is a little difficult to read, the flavors are easily distinguished because whichever ingredient is most present in each bar gets a corresponding color and small illustration at the bottom. The project won a 2017 Dieline Award for Outstanding Achievement.

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Halo Top majorly disrupted the ice cream category with its loud display of its outrageously low calorie count. The treat is made with stevia instead of sugar, meaning that the brand is able to differentiate themselves from fatty, indulgent competitors. Here, this fact is the hero of the packaging, as the calories-per-pint count is the first thing that draws the consumer’s eye.

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Water for Change, which donates 10 liters of water to villagers in need for every carton purchased, won an A’Design Award for this packaging. The hand-to-hand illustration clearly calls out the value that the product offers beyond its basic function, and floating words like “eco friendly” and “sustainable” further express the image of environmental health that the brand is trying to promote.

 

 

The Present and Future of Alcohol

Alcohol is a multibillion-dollar market in the US, one that must constantly evolve in order to keep up with changing consumer needs. The category has seen some serious innovation so far this year, and our understanding of where the industry is now has provided us with some pretty significant clues as to where we can expect it to go in the near future.

The Present: Millennials Don’t Have Brand Loyalty

 

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According to a recent Nielsen study, last month only 24% of millennials knew what brand they wanted to purchase when they entered a liquor store. This is in stark contrast to 52% of baby boomers, who tend to have more developed, concrete preferences in this category. The study also found that just 11% of millennials bought alcohol on impulse.

What This Means for the Future

 

Alcohol brands can look at millennials’ lack of brand loyalty as an opportunity to have greater influence in-store, which means more investment in assets like package design and in-store advertising. Additionally, brands can be expected to make stronger attempts at building relationships with consumers via social media engagement.

The Present: Heineken Just Debuted a Non-Alcoholic Beer

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Heineken just released “Heinken 0.0” in order to compete with industry giants like AB InBev, which has made it their goal for 20% of their beer to be low- or zero-alcohol within the next eight years. Non-alcoholic beer manufacturers are also seeing the product as a potential rival to soft drinks, which have been losing retail momentum to lower-calorie options (Heineken 0.0 has half the calories of Coca-Cola).

What This Means for the Future

 

Beer brands – as well as other alcohol manufacturers – are going to start considering the financial promise of alternative markets. While producing non-alcoholic beverages may seem like an odd departure from convention for Heineken, research has shown that the European market for non-alcoholic beer has grown over the past five years as the overall beer market shrank. In Spain, zero-alcohol beers have as much as 10% market share. The future of the alcohol industry is going to depend on identifying and supporting niche trends like this that show potential for going global.

 

The Present: “Poptails” are Taking Off in the US

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The recent trend of “sloshies” (frozen alcoholic slushies, usually with a white wine base) has now evolved into “poptails”, frozen alcoholic popsicles. Initially introduced into the UK market, the treat has just become available in the US through brands like FrutaPop. Each pop in this particular brand has 5% alcohol and comes in thirteen flavors, including Sparkling Prosecco, Cranberry Mojito, Pina Colada, Rum Punch, and White Coconut Sangria.

What This Means for the Future

 

Innovation in the alcohol industry is trending towards understanding the consumer’s environment. Both poptails and sloshies appeal to young people drinking outdoors – summertime parties, poolside lounging, and beach trips are all served well by these products. Additionally, freezing the drink allows brands to incorporate the kind of special cocktail features that one could find in a bar, like the sprig of mint encased in the boozy Watermelon Mint Lemonade Pop. Finding ways to include these types of added-value traits is going to be imperative for new product development.

 

The Present: e-Commerce is Changing the Game

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The explosion in popularity of both online shopping and subscription box services is affecting the way that alcohol brands are packaging their products. Bulky, heavy glass bottles were never especially ideal for shipping from warehouses to retail locations, and they are doubly impractical for direct mailing. UK startup Garcon Wines has been in the news lately for their ingenious flat bottle design, intended to make the wine easier to fit through a traditional English letterbox.

 What This Means for the Future

 

Alcohol manufacturers (particularly wine companies) will begin straying from classic bottle designs and will start looking towards new solutions that preserve the product in a lightweight, yet functional way. It can be as simple as following Garcon Wines’ example with more compact structures, or brands can go as far as Bota Box has with their award-winning cartons, which are both much lighter and far less prone to breaking than standard wine bottles.

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As more brands begin to focus their attention on e-commerce rather than retail, design strategy will move away from what looks best on the shelf and will instead consider what will provide the easiest means of quickly transporting the alcohol to the consumer.

 

How Packaging Can Tell a Story

Effective product packaging can shout from the shelves, even as they grow increasingly crowded. It can instantly answer any question that consumers might have, so that they easily understand the product. Packaging should tell the story of what makes the brand unique and what the product’s purpose is.

First Impressions Matter Most

Consumers are creatures of habit, so they tend to choose what they know and opt for familiar stories, recognizable brands, and engaging packaging. By conveying a story through packaging, a brand can feel more accessible and relatable, instantly building brand loyalty and enhancing the customer experience.

While you can use more than just the packaging to convey your story, the packaging is usually the first thing people see. Considering that the average first impression is made within seven seconds, it’s crucial to hook your customers immediately.

How to Tell Your Story

The packaging design needs to lead consumers where you want them to go, so they understand the story you’re trying to tell. Through the use of colors, materials, textures, type, and copy, your packaging can evoke certain feelings and emotions that draw consumers in.

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and packaging can speak volumes with no words at all. As an example, Scanwood instantly tells the story of the wood’s history with their simple, yet effective packaging design. The award-winning design from Goodmorning Technology Team appeals to global retail markets by telling a story without using words or any additional packaging. As the team put it: “This branded story is now visible and understandable across all different markets and languages”.

Know Your Target Audience

Once you know your target audience, your packaging needs to resonate with that group of people. For example, emphasizing that you run a family-owned business through approachable, “down home” packaging can entice your customers by making them feel like the product is more relatable and could have been made by someone like them.

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Stonyfield displays this perfectly with their storytelling packaging. By displaying cows grazing in an open field, they instantly tell the story of happy cows on a family ranch. It evokes positive feelings and emotions, making consumers more likely to choose it over the competition. By featuring one of the family farms that supplies milk for Stonyfield, Webb Scarlett de Vlam created packaging that Stonyfield feels “now reflects who we are and what we have stood for for over 25 years.”

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Coca-Cola is frequently referenced as one of the best examples of storytelling through branding and packaging. Their effective personalized packaging instantly encourages sharing with friends and weaves a story in the minds of consumers.

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Holiday and seasonal packaging is another great example of telling a story through packaging. By emphasizing the holiday or theme (such as adding a simple bow or wrapping), it makes the packaging feel special enough to share or gift with others.

Your packaging should share a story with potential consumers about what benefits the product can offer them. Taking the time to create a remarkable design can result in long-term profits, a loyal customer base, and an effective brand culture.

Why a Tire Company Determines What We Eat

If you care about food – particularly gourmet food – it’s likely that you’ve at least heard of Michelin stars. If you haven’t, you are probably still familiar with Michelin as a company, which produces both a restaurant guide and tires.

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If you didn’t know that the tire manufacturer Michelin reviewed food, then it probably comes as a pretty big surprise that they visit select restaurants and award them zero, one, two, or three “Michelin stars” based on the cuisine. But they do, and their opinion matters a lot. Like, a lot. To many chefs, their opinion matters the most.

When you learn the history, it does make some kind of sense. The Michelin Guide was first published in 1900 as a hospitality guide for French motorists. Michelin is a French company, and cars were still a relatively new invention at that time, so encouraging road trips within the country served as a way to boost business. Eventually, the guide evolved into what it is today, which is a booklet that focuses exclusively on fine dining.  Anonymous reviewers that work for Michelin covertly visit restaurants around the world and judge the food based on a series of specific criteria. There is a first round of criteria that the restaurant must meet before the food can even be reviewed, namely:

  • The restaurant must be located in an area that is covered by Michelin. In America, that means that it has to be in New York City, Chicago, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., East Bay and Wine Country, or Silicon Valley. Former “Michelin Inspector” Pascal Remy once alleged that the entirety of the United States is covered by just seven reviewers, making it all the more difficult to receive a star.
  • The restaurant must have received a sufficient amount of buzz that Michelin deems it worthy of the company’s time.

There is a great deal of mystery surrounding how exactly the Inspectors evaluate the food. There are, however, several key traits that we do know are valued, including:

  • The quality of the ingredients used
  • The chef’s flavor and cooking techniques, and his or her ability to infuse the meal with their own personality
  • Consistency between visits, which Remy stated occur every three to four years

That last point is the most controversial among chefs, as many feel that rewarding consistency inhibits creativity and experimentation. There is a general feeling that once a restaurant receives a star, they can never change the menu, for fear of losing their star, never gaining another, or disappointing the now-skyrocketed expectations of customers.  Because of this, some chefs do not want any stars, and a very small number of restaurants have even “returned” them to Michelin.

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Even among chefs that do respect the star-rating system, the guide has been accused of fostering an unhealthy obsession. Gordon Ramsey reportedly cried when his New York City restaurant lost its two stars in 2013, comparing it to losing a girlfriend. When famed French chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003, many believed that he was overcome with anxiety regarding rumors that he was about to lose his three stars.

The 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicled Jiro Ono, considered to be the greatest sushi chef in the world, and his three-starred restaurant in Tokyo. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film, he noted that “you realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.” For chefs like Ono, perfection has become a measurable goal, and it can be difficult to find a path forward after it has been reached.

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Still, for the most part, Michelin stars tend to do a lot of good for the restaurants that earn them. It has been described as a “life-changing experience” for chefs, especially if the restaurant is lucky enough to get all three stars. Plates at a Michelin-reviewed establishment can go for hundreds of dollars, and chefs at two-star restaurants often bring home six-figure incomes in exchange for their mastery. Fine dining is an especially cutthroat field, and Michelin’s opinion can make or break a chef’s entire career.

Words of Wisdom from Scott Bedbury

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Original Packaging that was Better than the Redesign

Package redesigns are famously tricky. On the one hand, updating a product’s look can be an important part of appealing to new consumers and staying fresh in an evolving market. On the other hand, companies risk losing valuable brand equity when they sacrifice recognizable design. When faced with the challenge of a redesign, sometimes brands just don’t get it quite right, and would have been better off sticking with their original look. Here are three recent examples of redesigns that did not deliver the effect that companies intended.

Miracle Whip

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In Kraft’s defense, Miracle Whip was due for a modern upgrade. The redesign that they chose in 2009, however, was uninspiring and bland. It’s clear that they were trying to go more minimalist, but the result made the product look unappetizing and generic, with no indicators of flavor other than the words “The Tangy Original”. Kraft quickly realized the error of their ways, and in 2010 a new design was released that retained more of the fun and color of the original packaging.

Weight Watchers

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In 2012, Weight Watcher’s had their logo redesigned by Pentagram. Keeping with the trends of the time, they opted for a gradient and a heavy font, with no space between the words. The company, which sells products related to dieting ranging from books to packaged foods, wanted their new look to highlight the transformation that consumers experience through the brand. What they were not counting on, however, was that a vulgar British slang word was now smack dab in the middle of the logo, which consumers in the U.K. found very difficult to look past.

The Happy Meal

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Few things are as iconic to the children of America as the Happy Meal box. The simple, sweet design had a lot of personality, and it represented years of brand loyalty that McDonald’s had built with families. In 2014, the company decided to reintroduce mascots into their branding, including a new one in the form of “Happy”, whose realistic smile and crazy eyes terrified consumers. The new boxes quickly became the subject of public ridicule and scorn, inspiring everything from memes to thinkpieces about how McDonald’s had evidently lost their minds.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that all three of these companies – Kraft, Weight Watchers, and McDonald’s – are multimillion-dollar corporations with huge marketing teams and expensive consumer research, yet even they have gotten redesigns very, very wrong. It’s difficult work, and both the design community and the food and beverage industry are still figuring out the best ways of going about it. But for every failure, we all learn a little more about how to do better next time, which is especially true for companies that are as large as these three. If the public disaster of the new Happy Meal box prevented us from having to deal with more disturbing mascots that may have been in the works, then it was worth it.

Brand Stories: How Warby Parker Clearly Saw the Finish Line

Sometimes, overthinking is key when it comes to branding. While some companies launch as quickly as possible, others take a very deliberate approach to branding. One such example is Warby Parker.5c4190dba9c25b876e9e0a45bb4542bd

Deliberate Approach to Branding

Warby Parker was founded in 2010 by four friends at Wharton. They sell prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses online and offer a limited number of physical offices throughout the United States. The idea sprouted from the co-founders recognizing that the industry was monopolized by large firms like Luxottica, making it nearly impossible for consumers to find affordable, quality glasses.

Co-founder, David Gilboa, said, “We spent about a year and a half from when we came up with the idea to when we launched, and a huge part of that was building a brand we could believe in.” Co-founder, Neil Blumenthal, actually said that most startups underinvest in branding.

Most investors would agree that they are “more disciplined about brand than any other entrepreneur.” The founders agree that when starting out, you can’t underestimate “the importance of really defining who you are and what you stand for and having a very distinct point of view.”

They carefully explored every detail of the brand design. In fact, they explored roughly 2,000 names before settling on Warby Parker, which combined two names from Jack Kerouac’s journals (Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper). They tested the name on about 1,500 of their friends to see how they reacted to it. Blumenthal recalled that “the fact that it resonated with people sort of built in credibility.”

Even the price involved a lot of thought. They set the threshold at $100, but $99 sounded discounted and “Visually, it’s not that pretty.” Blumenthal recalled that “$95 is deliberate, visually; it’s more appealing.” While it means less revenue, he found that “You sometimes have to make tradeoffs to do something creatively and beautifully versus always just going for profits. In this case we’re trading $4, but we think that the upside is bigger.”warby-parker-bird-caseThe white and light blue branding is inspired by the blue-footed booby bird. They were also inspired by Zappos’ customer service, Apple’s focus on simplicity, Nike’s brand clarity, and Patagonia’s pro-social initiatives. enhanced-buzz-5450-1364308740-6-1WPKarlie2They’ve also had highly successful brand partnerships, with celebrities like Karlie Kloss and Ryan Gosling, as well as with productions like the Man of Steel movie.

How a Mistake Turned Into a Triumph

warby-parkerWhile the founders came up with the idea for Warby Parker in 2008, they weren’t planning on launching until March 2010. GQ contacted Warby Parker for a story that would publish in the March issue (before Warby Parker had even officially launched), so Warby Parker decided that this would be their official launch date. They later found out that the magazine would hit newsstands on February 15, so the founders realized they had to push up the launch date. The site went live on February 15 and within 48 hours, the orders came pouring in so quickly that they had to temporarily suspend the home try-on program.

In the article, GQ dubbed them “the Netflix of eyewear”, leading to a waitlist of 20,000 people. In only three weeks, the company hit its first-year sales target.

Tell a Compelling Story

Warby Parker has leaned on telling engaging stories to reach a new audience. One such story occurred in 2011, when Warby Parker found a way to participate in NY Fashion Week, even though they couldn’t afford to. They invited a number of fashion editors to a “hush mob” at the public library. There, about 30 models were reading from bright blue books, dawning the latest Warby Parker designs. Every editor that attended wrote about the event.warby-barker-1-600x587Other compelling, shareable stories include Warby Parker’s 2,000+ one-to-one video answers and April Fool’s jokes (such as launching glasses for dogs). Their social mission is also highly shareable. They donate a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair purchased. To date, they’ve donated more than a million pairs of glasses.

Trailblazing at its Finest

warby-home-try-on-600x306Most people seemed hesitant about buying glasses online. This led to Warby Parker becoming one of the first to introduce a home try-on program, where consumers can try on five frames at home, at no cost. They confirmed that people who try items are 50% likelier to buy. They were also one of the first to go direct to consumers online, rather than relying on in-person purchases. They design glasses in-house and sell only directly to consumers, which allows them to lower the cost of prescription eyewear to an affordable $95 per pair. Today, more than 50% of their traffic is driven by word-of-mouth referrals, proving that when you get the branding right in the beginning, people are sure to notice.

Infographic: Inside the Club Store Industry

In recent years we have been doing a great deal of work with club store strategy and design.  Over the course of our work we have learned to love the club, and so we wanted to highlight some interesting facts about the three key club retailers with an infographic.  Below you can find the fruits of our labor, and hope you enjoy it.  For what its worth, we plan to publish more of these soon, so let us know what you think…

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5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Branding Agency

Choosing the right branding agency

There is never a shortage of things to worry about when running a business.  As a result, even for large companies branding is an often-neglected piece of the marketing puzzle.  Moreover, even when companies decide to invest in their brand, the field is a specialized one that can be hard to navigate.  Choosing the right branding agency should not only address an urgent business need (i.e., a new logo), but it can also change the way you look at your business.

There are a variety of things to look for when choosing a branding agency, but below we highlight five of the most important ones (in our humble opinion).

1. Do they (or can they) understand your business?

This may be the most important thing to discover about your shiny new agency candidate.  Most branding agencies will roll out their most impressive examples of prior work, and they will showcase their largest clients.  You should be looking beyond the sparkly exterior and really probing their business acumen.  Its easy to create beautiful and impressive looking designs and brand identities.  But beautiful and impressive are frequently not the solution to your business problem.  Do they have the ability to understand your consumer, your industry and your position in the market?  Will they lead their ideation and design process with those things, or will they focus first on creating visually engaging and cutting edge design solutions?  Not that there is anything wrong with beautiful and cutting edge, but those should be arrows in the agency’s quiver – not arrows that they shoot every time.

2. How creative are they really?

There are no (good) cookie cutter solutions when it comes to branding – or any other creative work for that matter.  Choosing a branding agency that comes up with fresh ideas and creative solutions will help set your business apart from the rest, stay current, and identify both problems and strengths with your business positioning.  Great creative will allow you to stand out from your competitors.  Obviously you want to look closely at their portfolio, and evaluate how pretty, cool and fresh their design work is.  You want their work to stand out in those areas from other agencies that you are interviewing.  That said, you also want to consider (and have them explain) how their portfolio projects compare to other brands in the relevant industries.  You want an agency with a deep understanding of branding, design and marketing trends.  While the most creative work is not always the solution, you want an agency that can always deliver the most creative work.

3. What are their past results like?

It shouldn’t be a secret what your branding agency can do for you, and what their past results look like.  Can they meet your goals? Ask for metrics, analytics, reports, and take a look at their measurable results.  ROI has become an overused buzzword, but it is definitely relevant in this context.  Ask for case studies where they detail the ROI that a client experienced in connection with their work.  Can they point you to the success of a past client after a rebrand project?  Can they point to a product that was a big hit after a packaging design project?  Can they give you numbers?   This will help you determine what their past results have been like, as a whole, and will also give you insight into what the agency finds most important (based on what and how they measure).

4. What is their process like?

Branding a product or service can be nearly impossible without a set process.  Accordingly, most agencies follow certain processes for their projects.  Many have trademarked or otherwise named their processes.  While these are often cheesy catchphrases, they at least give you a look into your prospective agency’s creative process.  If they don’t offer up details about their process, ask about it.  Most branding processes start with some form of creative brief – ask to see a sample creative brief.  Dig in and don’t feel bad about looking behind the wizard’s curtain.

5. Are they a versatile bunch?

You need to have a real understanding of your business problem, and you should have expectations in terms of what services and deliverables you will need.  Obviously you will look to your prospective agencies for their feedback on those points, but the first step is understanding the problem.  In that regard, very few branding agencies can solve all of your problems on their own, with their in-house staff.  Most branding agencies rely on freelancers to complete certain aspects of their client projects (designers, web developers, copyrighters, etc).  Be sure to ask what their core capabilities are internally, what they would need to outsource as part of your scope of work.  The more they can control in house, the better.

Choosing a branding agency – or rather, the right agency – will take some time.  Ask for references, google them, compare portfolios, and take your time researching agencies.  And last but not least, make sure you like who you will be working with and are confident that they are the right cultural fit for your company.

Brand Stories: PBR and the $44 Beer Bottle

PBR's Brand Repositioning

Pabst Blur Ribbon, better known to most as PBR, has served as one of the most popular beers for middle class Americans since its origin in 1844.  What was once the cheapest beer on the shelf is now a global phenomenon.

Brand Repositioning in the Early 2000s

In the early 2000s, PBR gained popularity with urban hipsters, college students, and millenials. The new fans were attracted to the minimal marketing and non-mainstream attitude. Following a nearly 20-year decline, sales suddenly rose 5%.

While most companies would have rebranded to appeal to this new audience, PBR opted to keep their branding the same in order to maintain the authenticity that attracted hipsters in the first place. Instead, they sponsored customer events and featured user-submitted photography and fan art on their website to encourage customer interaction, all without calling in the PR team.

Finding an Audience Abroad

Following the example General Motors set in 1999, PBR set out to appeal to a worldwide market and created a case study in brand repositioning.  In fact, big-name brands have been branding to the foreign market for decades. If you’ve ever taken a trip to Europe, you may find Disney comics are just as popular there as they are here. Kit-Kats and Spam are two other food brands that sell just as well abroad—if not better—than they do domestically.

Through a licensing agreement and joint venture arrangement with China Pabst Blue Ribbon, the American company has been able to successfully branch outside of the United States. PBR rebranded their once generic American product with a luxury ad campaign. What has been deemed “Blue Ribbon 1844” is selling for $44 a bottle in China. The specialty beer is considered a luxury in China and gives the perception of riches.

Brand Repositioning - The Story of PBR

The brewmaster states that the specially crafted reddish brown strong ale is in fact better than its American counterpart. “Blue Ribbon 1844” has the appearance of brandy, an updated recipe, and is aged rather uniquely, but it appears that the branding and perception is what is attracting most Chinese consumers.

PBR was once considered a working-class beer, but due to recent rebranding efforts, it has become the beer of choice for hipsters, college students, everyday Americans, and foreign enthusiasts alike.  The increase in sales led to a 10% price increase in 2009.  PBR’s success domestically and abroad has led to pricing shifts throughout the beer industry worldwide.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has proven that any business can create a successful brand identity and reposition themselves to be who they want to be, regardless of their current image. They continue to be one of the fastest-growing consumer brands in the country, with widespread influence around the world.