Industry Info

Authentic or Generic?

Posted: July 22, 2015

Genesee Brewery’s redesign included a return to the original name of Genesee Light (from Genny Light), along with graphic changes on Genesee Beer, Genesee Cream Ale and Genesee Ice. As one of the oldest breweries in New York State, Genesee Brewery boasts 137 years of heritage. “There is real love for the simplicity and values that Genesee stands for,” says Mike Mueller, brewmaster at Genesee.

Moving toward simplification of package designs to highlight a brand’s heritage is a trend we are seeing in beer marketing, from local breweries to the big household names.

Less than a year ago, Miller returned to a look for Miller Lite that’s similar to the beer’s original packaging—back when the brand debut debuted in 1975. “The decision to bring back our original look was an important one for this brand,” says Miller Lite senior marketing director Ryan Reis. “It’s authentic, proud and highlights what has always been true about Miller Lite since it was first brewed. It’s a high-quality beer worthy of those moments with friends.”

To celebrate what sets Miller Lite apart from other light beers, the brand re-introduced the Original Lite Can for what was supposed to be a two-month promotional window. Consumer response to the brand’s authenticity and great story was so positive that the brand kept the Original Lite Can in market and changed the bottle. “What we learned through this process was that our history means something special to consumers,” says Reis. “We’re immensely proud of what Miller Lite stands for and the new direction reminds people of not only where we came from, but where we’re going as a brand.”

With simplified, retro designs like these, there can be a danger of slipping from evoking positive emotional connections with consumers over heritage to conveying a brand message sans quality cues via modernity. Did our readers think Genesee Brewery’s and Miller’s retro designs moved the brands forward?

The Verdict

When I drink a light beer, I don’t want to sacrifice flavor for the sake of my love handles. I always felt Miller Lite’s old blue design diluted the brand, the traditional typefaces forced within a swirling oval, trying to be a sporty beer instead of an honest beer. But the redesign strategy works by breaking away from the traditional category blue color and delivers refreshing authenticity that consumers are seeking.

The simplified new look for the Genesee redesign, reverting back to the original naming and logo treatment is a smart move in terms of building off the brand’s 137 year history. The bold simple architecture enhances brand blocking, however it is devoid of any contemporary spins on traditional and premium beer cues. The different Genesee type treatment on the Cream Ale—initial caps—lacks brand consistency. As a result the Genesse design appears rather generic and unappealing. 

Peter Johnson

Johnson and McGreevy Inc., (JAM)


The Genesee and Miller Lite retro designs use bold flat color and lots of white space, and these new, simpler designs are a great way to cut through the clutter and be found at retail. The balancing act that both brands must manage is that this new simplicity communicate a heritage and not a more generic value message. The Genesee program seems like it’s missing quality cues and skews a little generic in my opinion.

John Parham

President, director of branding,
Parham Santana The Brand Extension Agency