Wine & Spirits

Little Big Brands Helps Lion Brewery 'Restore the Roar'

Posted: May 6, 2014 by
Ron Romanik

The Lion Brewery, one of the oldest remaining breweries in Pennsylvania, recently tapped Little Big Brands in Nyack, NY, to overhaul their signature Lionshead and Stegmaier brands, as well as the brewery identity. Though long a popular beverage in the Pennsylvania college scene, Lionshead was viewed widely primarily as a value brand. The Stegmaier brand had grown disjointed and was perceived as a quality brew whose time had come and gone.

Ron Hammond, CEO of The Lion Brewery, took over the brewery in November of 2007 knowing that the legacy brands would need updating in short order, especially Stegmaier. "The Stegmaier packaging forced us to sell the beer at a less-than-premium price," explains Hammond. One of the big pushes for a fresh start came when Union Beer Distributors of Brooklyn, NY, happened along looking for new craft beers to introduce to restaurants in Manhattan and the surrounding region. They told Hammond that Stegmaier tasted great, but the packaging did not match the quality of the beer, stressing: "You have to give us a package that can stand up to beers in New York City."

The legacy of Charles
Charles Stegmaier established the Stegmaier brand in 1857, and the Stegmaier Brewery was once one of the largest independent breweries in America. When the brewery closed in the '70s, and the beer began trading hands, the brand image took a nosedive. Little Big Brands was tasked with creating something that Charles would be proud of and finally get this brand back on track.

Essentially, the goal was to make customers feel good about buying Stegmaier. Other goals were to consolidate the three main varieties while keeping a system that was open to new varieties. A serious identity upgrade and high quality materials and printing were at the heart of the upgrade.

"Stegmaier has such a rich tradition but the packaging no longer reflected that," says John Nunziato, creative director of Little Big Brands. Through a thorough audit of the brand, the firm found that the common Stegmaier perception was of a heavy lager. The design's uncoordinated variables did not help convey the traditions of the brand.

The new die-cut labels bring back the tradition of Charles Stegmaier with style and flair. A "C" initial was added to the front of a refined Stegmaier logo. Across the top of the main label reads: "Brewed in the honorable tradition of Charles Stegmaier." A crest above the logo conveys a history of quality brewing, and the foil in contrast with the amber bottle creates a premium impression.

The decision was also made to reduce packaging waste in both brand lines. The back labels were eliminated, and the brand "stories" were moved to the six-pack carrier. "The redesigns were about lightheartedly peeling back layers and viewing them through a youthful lens with an eye to bringing back the heritage, quality, and quirkiness that the brewery has represented for more than 100 years," says Hammond.

A headier Lion
The consumer audit of Lionshead further convinced Hammond that he really should not take the brand positioning so seriously. The brand was sold on price, but it had a cult following. For Lionshead, Hammond gave Little Big Brands a lot of leeway. "We really needed to listen to their goals," Nunziato remembers.

Again, one goal was to reduce the labeling substantially by removing the back label and reducing both the main label and neckband. The main reason for a neckband is the variability of the filling machines. It has been customary to hide the fill height, lest the customer feel that variability in fill reflects poorly on their perception of quality. Hammond decided to make fill height consistency a priority, and was therefore able to reduce the size of the neckband label.

The lower bottom label and the higher neckband create a more stately overall impression, as well as 40% label paper reduction. "It makes the whole package look a little more modern," Hammond says. Lionshead also received a complete brand makeover with a new brand mark, new lion head, authentic graphics, and higher quality materials. An unbleached kraft stock for baskets and cartons created both an environmental gain, and printing on the uncoated side created a consistent matte brand presentation.

"Lionshead was just good fun to work on," says Nunziato. "It's a brand that doesn't take itself too seriously and lends itself to creative thinking." The goal was to increase the "cool" and "aspirational" quotients with a number of design elements. The new logo is more three-dimensional, like a hand-tooled woodcut tavern sign. The letter flourishes create motion, and the bottom of the "L" and the top of the "h" are like waving flags.

More fun elements come from the picture puzzles (a.k.a. rebuses) under the cap, a lion's paw imprint on top of the cap, and the indication that it is a "paw-off cap" instead of a "twist-off cap." Light-hearted phrases such as "Light Beers Ahead" and "The Best Head in Town" adorn the neckband, and six-pack carriers feature four claw holes for human paws to grab.