Fast-growing craft brewery Little Bang has used HP Indigo variable data printing to give its beer cans presence on the shelves and personality in the eyes of the consumer.
When Ryan Davidson and Fil Kemp started the Little Bang Brewing Co. craft beer-making operation in Adelaide eight years ago, they had little idea how popular their product would become. In that time, it has grown from a first run of 5000 litres a year to 500,000. They have moved twice, their beer is now sold all over Australia, and they plan more expansion.
While craft brewing is flavour of the month, and its rapid uptake appears to mark a return to local rather than mass produced beer, it is nonetheless a competitive environment. Those beers are competing with the multitude of other craft beers available, and multitude of established beers produced by breweries with very deep marketing pockets, and vast experience in getting their product purchased.
Little Bang recognised that it would have to be smart with its limited marketing budget, and recognised the visuals of the can could play a major part in creating impact for both its online sales and its increasing number of in-store opportunities.
Little Bang started with a trio of beer styles that the duo identified as missing in the market: a Barleywine, a Saison, a Steam Ale, and they gave them improbable names, like Galactopus. Ryan Davidson says, “We were doing absolutely everything ourselves. When it came to the labels it was me and Photoshop to create them, and we had a labeller to print them, and then we stuck them on by hand, which with 8000 cans meant we had serious RSI.”
Those labels had standout graphics, and for five years Little Bang used various means to print and apply the labels, including buying time on a local canning and labelling line. But there were issues, and by 2018 as production was really ramping up the duo knew they needed a better solution. By chance one of their customers was Ian Sarney, local area sales manager for leading label printer Peacock Bros.
Davidson says, “Ian was a top bloke, he liked beer, and when we talked about the ongoing issues we were having with labels he rattled off solutions and opportunities we could not even dream of. We were gripped.
“As he showed us what could be done, we really understood the opportunity – high impact visuals with variable data could provide us with a great marketing solution to make Little Bang beers stand out, emphasise their personality, provide a point of difference.”
LABELS THAT POP
Since that time Little Bang has used Peacock Bros. as its label producer, and specifically has used both its HP Indigo digital colour presses while leveraging the features such as HP’s Mosaic variable data software. Davidson says, “Ian is still our fixer. Peacock Bros. are an honest operation, and innovators, they have given us great ability to create a definite style, they were the first printers that we met that really wanted to get alongside us.”
Little Bang wanted labels that in Davidson’s words “really pop”. He says, “We were both big on video games, and we wanted to recreate that dramatic impact for Little Bang. The HP Indigo at Peacock Bros. has inspired our creativity, and has delivered in the result.”
The Mosaic software developed by HP and running at Peacock Bros. essentially means every label can be different, but within defined parameters. The software can be easily instructed to keep certain elements as they are, and allow others to be varied with infinite combinations, creating a dynamic set of labels, which look the same, but not quite, which creates consumer interest.
Davidson says, “Using HP Mosaic has meant we have been able to introduce a playful element to our beers on the shelf, it has helped us to differentiate ourselves in a crowded market. We use Mosaic sparingly, for instance we had one beer label which had a Union Jack flag in one corner, and all we would vary on that label was one of the colours in the flag, but it is enough to pique interest. That combined with the pop that comes with the HP Indigo technology gives us what we need.”
Those cans are now found on the shelves of bottleshops around the country, from the independents to the big two at the Coles and Woolies owned chains. Little Bang has grown from two to the current 44 staff. It has moved into its third premises, which now also includes a public tap room serving the amber nectar on the premises.
The company took variable data to the next level with its Little Bang Hazy IPA, where they spent several months developing an algorithm that gave every single beer can a different name, which Davidson says, “was a terrific idea, each can is a personalised experience.” The algorithm has come up with 47,000 different names so far, which has meant 47,000 different labels produced on the HP Indigo at Peacock Bros., effectively 47,000 runs of one.
The relationship between Little Bang and Peacock Bros. is now more a collaboration. Ian Sarney, area sales manager at Peacock Bros. says, “When I first came into Little Bang for a beer the owners told me there was an issue with the labels, and I knew that Peacock Brothers with its HP Indigo digital label print technology could really benefit their business, both in the functionality of the labels, and in the way that Little Bang wanted to use them in its marketing.
“We have worked together really well over the last three or four years, with Little Bang really able to exploit the opportunities that HP Indigo and HP Mosaic provide. Little Bang is a creative business, and the labels reflect the personality, and clearly help the business achieve the cut-though and positioning it wants, in what is a crowded market.”
Peacock Bros. has been running HP Indigo as its main digital printing equipment for a decade, and in 2017 ordered the first HP Indigo 8000 Digital Press in the Asia Pacific, which joined its two existing HP Indigos.
Mark Daws, director, Labels & Packaging ANZ at HP Indigo supplier Currie Group, said, “It is fantastic to see technology that we represent here in ANZ being tried and tested to its full potential. The power of innovative and engaging graphics on packaged goods is key to brand marketing success. It is the final enabler at the point of purchase, and we as consumers are swayed by cool experiences such as this.
“Digital printing is ideally suited to this way of marketing and the possibilities are endless. It allows brands such as Little Bang the opportunity to refresh the customer experience, branding and consumer engagement without the need to change the contents. There are many well-known success stories of global brands that have leveraged HP Indigo technology in their marketing campaigns but there is nothing more satisfying for me to see our customer, Peacock Bros. partner with local, entrepreneurial start-up brands such as Little Bang to achieve success in this way.
“It perfectly demonstrates the power of digital printing, and proves that with a little creative thinking you can achieve big-bang success.”
This article was first published in the July-August 2021 print issue of PKN Packaging News, p32.