The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, September 7, 2018
How important is a brand image? Obviously, it doesn’t matter to me and you. We are above all that and are just interested in price and quality.
We couldn’t give two hoots about the design of the label. They say that 50 per cent of all advertising is wasted, but the problem is that they don’t know which 50pc. It is the advertising spent appealing to me and you that is wasted.
Or is it? Can it be a coincidence that several of the major breweries in the local area have changed their image in recent years?
Two of them, Greene King and Adnams have replaced the traditional heritage type pump clips and labels and have gone for a more modern style.
The picture of Clock Jack, the mechanical figure that strikes the hours on the church clock in Southwold, has been largely replaced by stylised drawings of the coast, with Adnams inserted somewhere in the picture, perhaps as a bottle top masquerading as a seashell, while also harder to spot is the Greene King Abbot.
Woodfordes have dropped the Wherry, but remain traditional with the stylised figure of Nelson taking pride of place. I guess that these rebranding exercises have cost a significant amount of money, and that someone has calculated that they will result in increased sales.
Such initiatives can go badly wrong. What is rapidly becoming Adnams’ most popular beer, Ghost Ship was developed from a 9% beer brewed in 1975 called Deathly Pale. It was marketed in a bottle with a skull and crossbones design, but rapidly withdrawn when it was realised that it resembled a bottle of poison.
More recently, the Tollgate brewery in Derbyshire had the not so bright idea of naming one of their beers after Kalika, a Hindu Goddess. After the predicable outcry, the beer was rapidly discontinued. Meanwhile, down in the South West, the Ottery St Mary Beautiful Days Festival removed a brand of cider called Sui Cider from sale due to complaints that the name was insensitive, although reports suggest that the producers seem to disagree and have no plans to stop marketing it.
One of the more distinctive beers around is Charles Wells Bombardier, with its label featuring the flag of St George and advertising referencing the Napoleonic Wars. Wells has recently been taken over by Marston’s and this has prompted a rebrand. Gone is the flag and the ‘beer of England’ tagline to be replaced by a description of it as ‘British Amber Beer’. This has incensed a landlord at a Kent pub who refuses to use the new advertising materials and claims that his sales will drop if Bombardier is not identified as specifically English. Fortunately for him there is another brewery in Kent with some very dodgy publicity material which treads a very fine fine line between being humorous and offensive. Shepherd Neame, I’m looking at you.
In the end, brand image does affect my choice of product however much I would like to believe otherwise. I think that I am increasingly aware of products which seem discriminatory to some members of society. I was congratulating myself on becoming more aware... until Google offered me an article which listed the 35 sexiest people in Hull a couple of days ago. The ex-footballer Dean Windass and former politician John Prescott both made the list.