The Key to Beverage Branding and Packaging Design Success

The Australian beverage market is currently worth $438.9 million and expanded by 2.1% during 2021, overtaking the consumer goods and services sector and the overall growth of the economy. Producers of alcoholic beverages in particular benefited this year, with a 3.4% increase of Australians drinking wine, a 2.6% increase in sales of spirits, and a 0.5% increase in beer consumption (after a decade-long slump).  Whether you’re an established brand looking to attract a different demographic with your latest product, or an ambitious newcomer determined to make a splash with your innovative offering, now is the time to start preparing. Once your product is on the shelf, the power passes to the consumer.  So, how can you convince customers to take a chance on your beverage over the competition? One key component: packaging.

How to Do Drinks Branding and Packaging Design the Right Way 

Since we eat (and drink) with our eyes first, it makes sense that the visual elements of beverage branding are the most important to get right. On a subconscious level, consumers are having to make decisions and form opinions about products faster than ever before, because more and more brands are clamouring for their attention. Once customers form an emotional connection with your brand, the challenge becomes retaining their loyalty as new products enter the marketplace. You may find that a packaging redesign or complete rebrand is necessary to recapture the attention of your audience or to expand your appeal.

What Makes a Successful Beverage Brand?  

For us, successful drinks branding is about creating a meaningful, lasting connection with your customers. As the humanity and sociability of brands becomes more important than ever, the last thing you want to be seen as is a faceless company focused on revenue. To stand out, follow these key steps.

Define Your Market Demographic 

On the surface, it seems logical that wine should be marketed to an older, more sophisticated demographic, beer to a predominantly male demographic, and energy drinks to the youth. But as the beverage market continues to diversify, generalising about your audience can be a recipe for disaster.  Creating a profile of your ideal customer – how old they are, where they work or study, what they do to relax, what are they currently drinking and more – will help you create targeted branding that cuts through the noise. If you don’t understand your audience, how do you know what is going to connect with them on an emotional level? 

Deliver Your Message (in a bottle!)  

We believe that at the heart of any successful brand is a good story. Humans are hardwired to respond to storytelling – it’s how we make sense of the world and of ourselves.  Storytelling is also the key to creating a genuine connection with your audience. If you can evoke an emotional reaction from customers, they’re going to remember your brand over your competitors. Focus on what it is that makes your brand and business truly unique. That’s your silver bullet, but you have to find it and then articulate it for your audience, and that’s where we come in.

Develop Ownable Brand Assets 

Any beverage branding agency worth their salt stresses the importance of developing a strong brand identity. But too often their advice is to use your rivals as inspiration, which can lead to derivative branding or uninspired designs. Sure, you should see what your competitors are up to, but you need to zig where they zag. Your brand identity and visual design elements must be ownable and distinctive – customers should be able to recognise your product range even if you take the logo off. With your personal brand story already articulated in a compelling way, unique ownable assets and clever packaging will help amplify it.

Design Disruptive Beverage Packaging  

Beverage packaging and labels tend to have a small surface area, making it difficult to include everything that you may wish to communicate to consumers. That’s why you need intelligent design, where everything from the bottle shape to the choice of font represents your brand in a cohesive and interesting way. Don’t be afraid to get creative, either. Taking risks may not always pay off but disruptive packaging design done intelligently will get you noticed. Products that stand out, sell. So make your beverage leap off the shelf!

Tips for Effective Drinks Branding and Packaging Design 

We strive for intelligent disruption with each of our packaging solutions, and conduct a brand and category audit specific to each project, however there are several packaging cues to consider in each particular market. Different colour palettes, typography and imagery evoke different feelings and are associated with specific flavours and types of beverages.  Following familiar trends can win the trust of consumers, but breaking the mould is where you will yield the best results.

#1: Beer Packaging  

From progressive craft beer to old-school, mainstream beer brands, packaging designs in this market tend to favour colour palettes which complement the type of beer itself. Striking patterns are used to signal experimental flavours or to appeal to a younger audience. Badges and crests commonly adorn more traditional beer labels, suggesting heritage and legitimacy within the wider marketplace. The use of discoverable design elements can help create something truly unique.  Coca-Cola Amatil came to us wanting to refresh their Vonu Pure Lager label – a low-carb, handcrafted beer known for its crisp, pure taste. By switching to a clear bottle and incorporating elements of surfing culture into the logo and imagery, Vonu Pure Lager now clearly reflects its brand identity of carefree living.

#2: Soft Drink Packaging 

Arguably the most iconic soft drink brand is Coca-Cola, with its timeless red and black colour palette, old-fashioned scripted font, and a contoured bottle design inspired by the cocoa bean (which the designers mistakenly believed was on the list of ingredients!) Soft drink packaging primarily features vibrant colours and simple logos, which can be easily recognised at a distance. Customers are also accustomed to colour reflecting flavour; red or pink for strawberry and other berry flavours, green for apple or lime, brown for cola, orange for orange, and so on. Again, the use of design craft and discoverable brand elements add depth and give consumers something new to engage with each time they interact with your brand. 

#3: Wine Packaging  

Wine packaging design trends revolve around the variety and varietal. Muted tones work well with sparkling wines and pastels are a great accompaniment for blush wines, while moody shades and geometric imagery suit sophisticated red wines such as cabernet. Wine packaging design also generally reflects its price point; consumers expect an expensive wine to exude elegance, while cost-effective wines can experiment with more playful bottle shapes and label designs. Never underestimate the importance of clever beverage branding. With our help, the Saint Clair Family Estate have created a world-class, highly awarded New Zealand wine brand in less than one generation.

#4: Non-Alcoholic Beverages Packaging  

For juices and dairy products, conveying freshness and wellness is key. Clear bottles are typically chosen to showcase the product and for appetite appeal, and the labels used to convey nutritional information, with less focus on communicating brand identity. Healthy drinks like kombucha, iced teas and vitamin-infused water follow these trends, highlighting their ingredients and utilising clean, minimalist packaging designs. In stark contrast to this are energy drinks, which convey their benefits through frenetic patterns and vibrant shades. And it makes sense – if you’re tired and looking for something caffeinated, only the wildest designs are going to grab your attention! When Nexba approached us to refresh their brand it was about more than just a packaging update for their range of kombuchas. We needed to develop a full brand architecture that would work across a wide range of non-alcoholic beverages including liquid breakfast, veggie blends and seltzer. 

#5: Spirits Packaging  

There are six basic types of distilled spirits – rum, gin, brandy, whiskey, tequila and vodka. Head to any bottle shop and you will immediately pick up on the design trends of each variety. Vodka brands use the blank canvas of the colourless spirit to suggest hidden flavours or evoke certain moods, while whiskey brands use vintage bottle shapes and typography to attract a more mature demographic. With spirits branding, less can definitely be more – we stripped back Wild Turkey Rare for a refined yet still masculine feel, and focused on the Fijian heritage of Rum Co. of Fiji to foreground their authenticity.

From elegant wines to experimental energy drinks, the success of your beverage branding can depend on having the right packaging design. Whatever your vision is for the future of your brand, we can help. 

Contact us today so that we can create the best drinks branding strategy for your business.