It's pretty tough going for the mainstream beers at the moment, with all the growth coming from the craft category and the old stalwarts struggling to keep up as palates change and new tipples tickle fancies. Speight's Gold Medal Ale is still the country's most popular beer brand by volume, however, and the brand has recently tried to become more craft-like and even branched out into—block your ears Southern Men—cider. So, in an effort to create a more cohesive family unit and ensure the flagship variety continues its reign, the brand has been given an overhaul by Dow Design.
The extended Speight’s family represents over 20 years of product development from the brewers, between Speight’s Old Dark, released in 1991 and Speight’s Cider released in 2011, so, consequently, label design personalities differed significantly.
Dow’s senior creative team of Donna McCort, Will Fletcher, Andrew Sparrow and account director Stephanie Perrett were invited to work with Lion on bringing them all into line and the results will begin appearing in beer fridges and chilly bins around the country this month.
Lion and Dow Design knew from consultation with consumers that any change in the Gold Medal Ale design would receive close scrutiny from Speight’s hard core fan base.
"From its roots in the south, the Gold Medal Ale has earned a fiercely passionate following across the country, which we take very seriously," explains Speight’s’ marketing manager, Jonte Goldwater. "Leading beer sales across New Zealand, Speight’s Gold Medal Ale is as popular as ever and we want to ensure it stays that way."
In late 2011, Lion reported that Speight’s Gold Medal Ale grew volumes during the quarter, but the recently released half year report to March 2012 shows Lion’s Beer, Spirits & Wine division in New Zealand saw overall volumes decrease 3.7 percent in the first half of 2012, leading to a 7.2 percent revenue decrease to NZ$350.1 million. And that decline was "driven by falling beer volumes as a result of the overall market contraction and a highly competitive market, and exacerbated by a poor summer season".
Speight's old and new, courtesy of Te Ara.
Dow’s creative team established the key identifiers or "hierarchy of visual elements" integral to the brand and these were the family traits expressed across the entire range.
Refining the Gold Medal Ale labelling, the gold at the centre was emphasised and the cluttered and less relevant combination of messages was reduced. The visual focus is now firmly on the leading elements: the arched logo across the top of the roundel, the triple stars, the signature of founder James Speight, and the statement ‘Master Brewers since 1878’. A keen eye might also pick up an evolution in logo type.
Speight’s Summit Lager and Speight's Cider had more contemporary designs, so they only required minor tweaks and Lion is also gunning for a more craft-like feel with the recently released Golden Pale Ale and Triple Hop Pilsner, which join the existing 5 Malt Old Dark and Distinction Ale to create a more comprehensive range of ‘craft beers for the mainstream market’.
"All share the quintessential roundel and gold foil elements on their clear self-adhesive labels, combined with bottle neck labels adding sophistication in strong, rich metallic colours," says Dow's creative director Donna McCort.
Outer packaging has also received significant attention and the new design has been carried through to other consumer touch points including the beer taps in Speight’s Ale Houses, pubs and bars across New Zealand.