The ‘Wonkification’ of beverages, creating a story behind every sip

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing. Photo: Anchor Brewing.
San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing. Photo: Anchor Brewing.

Related tags Craft beer Millennials brand differentiation

‘If there is a poster child product in the proliferation of niche beverage brands, it’s craft beer,’ says Josh Kelly, managing partner, chief strategist, FINE branding agency.

There’s a lot of debate over what qualifies as ‘craft’. But one thing is clear it is not a judgement about the quality of the liquid. There’s more added-value than ever in the story behind the bottle​,” he said. 

Josh Kelly
Josh Kelly

Scott Ungermann, brewmaster at San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing, asks the bottom-line question you might ask of any drinkable product: “Did you enjoy the beer while you were drinking it? Would you want another when you’re done?” 

The trick is, a lot of variables influence your experience of a drink​,” added Kelly. 

Making beverage brands is more than upgrading water designing a cheery can, writing a jaunty jingle, and loading up the trucks​. 

Today, a growing consumer segment bases their enjoyment of what they drink on whether they have a true feel for where it’s made, how it’s made, what’s in it, the story behind it, and even how it’s personally served.​” 

The Wonkification of beverages

According to Kelly, in an effort to win the hearts and minds of an increasingly curious consumer, we see a renewed emphasis on inviting people into the source, whether it’s a region, neighborhood, or direct into Willy Wonka’s proverbial chocolate factory itself. 

There’s a heart and soul when you walk around this building​,” said Ungermann. 

If you look at how we make beer - everything done by hand, time-honored traditions, the people - I really believe what we do is the original way of crafting small-batch beer in America, and more specifically, in San Francisco, since the 1800s​.” 

That sense of source and place manifests itself in a variety of ways beyond the beer, claims Kelly, from the intimate photography of their copper brew kettles to video origin stories that evoke the Gold Rush, to meticulous drawings of Sausalito label artist Jim Stitt and Anchor’s collaboration with sports teams like the San Francisco Giants and Golden State Warriors.

All these details draw you closer to Anchor’s sphere; its city and brewery even when you can’t get a reservation. 

Place-making tactics aren’t confined to craft beer, either. 

We’re trying to express our sense of time and place in whiskey​,” said Steve Hawley, director of marketing, Westland Distillery and principal at 51 Eggs Branding, in Seattle, Washington. 

In a way, we are introducing a new category of whiskey into a 600-year-old industry​.” 

With an identity and labels that evoke Pacific Northwest industry, a video anthem that celebrates its context with visual immersion and poetic narration, and a pioneering ‘Our West is Whiskey’ message, Westland’s brand takes pains to ground consumers in a place that hasn’t traditionally been associated with whiskey, creating meaningful difference in an industry where even the varieties of oak used in barrels have historically been limited. 

If you can’t visit a distillery or winery, a digital destination may be the best place to get a depth of content, functionality, and imagery that mimics the experience​,” said Kelly. 

The design for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ online destination was inspired by a new offline visitor’s center. For Ashes & Diamonds, the same millennial community drawn to their winery on famed HWY 29 gathers around the modern, streamlined experience where the brand lives online​.” 

According to Kenn Fine, executive creator, FINE, some of the most interesting studies around wine show how much perception influences reality. 

Most people won’t develop the expertise to distinguish nuances of taste, so you have to connect them to an experience​,” he said. 

These emotional connections contextualize the image consumers get when they drink​.”

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