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  • Writer's pictureHugo Mylecharane

Beer Branding and Branding Beers

A Local Beer is proud that our branding and eye-catching, trippy can designs are recognised on shelves across the country. But what does a red triangle in Victorian-era London have to do with how an Independent Brewer advertises itself gets recognised today you ask? Well sit down and grab a Local Beer or two as once again we delve into the surprising and exciting (well for me at least) world of beer history!

Design, branding, marketing and advertising have become powerful forces in the way we interact with not just beer, but indeed all products and services in recent times. Aspects of advertising and promotion though have been around for a very long time. One of the most famous examples is the stone mosaic penises still present in the streets of Pompeii. These were constructed in ancient Greece to advertise the presence of a brothel in the area (a vagina surely would have been more appropriate) and to direct revellers towards that establishment.

Branding in its most literal sense had been around just as long. The term comes from when furniture, pottery, livestock and even human slaves had been marked with a sharp implement, stamp or heated metal brand to donate ownership.

What may surprise you though is that despite these practices occurring for thousands of years, legislation around branding and advertising is quite recent. It wasn’t until 1876 that companies and their brands were able to be trademarked in the United Kingdom. The first company to do so, and the world’s first registered trademark, was, you guessed it, a red triangle that belonged to, you guessed it again, a beer company.

Bass had become a popular beer in London during the late 1800s partly due to its consistency and quality at a time when a slew of new and inexperienced brewers had joined an unregulated industry. This led to some of these inferior brewers trying to pass off their product as Bass beer in efforts to earn a quick and easy Pound. To counter this tactic Bass had the bright idea to brand their barrels with a red triangle advertising to pub owners that this was an authentic Bass brew. This worked well until these same competitors started stamping their own barrels with the same red triangle to continue their scam.

Fortunately for Bass, a solution to this issue would arrive when in 1875, the Trade Marks Registration Act was passed. Bass would now be legally protected against those breweries caught fraudulently passing off their beer under Bass’s name or logo. This new law only came into effect the following year which is why an employee from Bass spent his New Years Eve of 1876 sitting on the doorstep of the new trademark office waiting for it to open the following morning and file their application. Bass’s red triangle then became the world’s first registered trademark.

The following century and beyond saw an extraordinary change in the way we thought about, interacted with, and consumed beers and just about everything else in life. Foster's television advertisements in Britain in the 1980s starring Paul Hogan, as, well, Paul Hogan, is notable in how influential it was in establishing Fosters over there as the most 'trendy and masculine beer'. The campaign was far more successful in promoting an Australian image and bringing in British tourism to our shores over the following decades that anything put out by our Tourism department. But for all the upside there may unintended consequences to successful branding and advertising. For better or worse the success of Paul Hogan and Fosters arguably continued for much longer than they otherwise would have due to these ads (okay definitely for worse).

Today those in marketing departments of beer companies would declare what is inside the can and bottle is FAR LESS important to the success of the company than what they do to communicate, promote, advertise and market it. (although they avoid saying this to the brewers’ faces) Take a look at any successful beer brand today and it is hard to argue otherwise. This doesn't sit well with many craft beer purists but even they are not immune from the reaches and power of branding and marketing.

Numerous studies by breweries and market research firms have shown that those in blind tastings, when asked to rank beer samples in order of preference, will give measurably different results once they know the brand and product they are drinking. I certainly felt sad learning this but then felt better knowing that there are organisations out there paying people to drink beer in the name of research. Where the hell do I sign up?

For all the complexities around branding and marketing and its impact on us and society at large, at least A Local Beer can rest easy knowing that our name and brand and design are protected in part thanks to a red triangle and a man sleeping on a trademark doorstep on New Year's Eve all those years ago. And we'll drink to that any day.


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