Vancouver, BC (October 8, 2008) – Founded in 1985 and remaining as BC’s most widely-distributed craft beer, Okanagan Spring Brewery called on Subplot Design Inc. to lead the charge on a massive “revolution” of its brand identity. The Okanagan Spring logomark, retail packaging and all collateral materials were rebranded to help reposition the brand in BC’s competitive craft beer market. The new identity and packaging was launched to the trade in mid-August, with retailers stocking the full product line-up by early September.


In its first 20 years, Okanagan Spring has grown to become BC’s leading craft beer brand. However, in recent years, their share has been slowly eroded by other craft brands, pseudo-craft brands and by the insurgence of strong imports like Stella and Heineken. Okanagan Spring’s target groups of 18-25 males who are just beginning to discover the value of craft beer over mainstream brands, and 25-40 males who have been long-standing fans of the brand, were seeing the brand as tired, stale and “my Dad’s beer”, not something they valued.


Despite top marks for the liquid itself, the brand had low (and declining) recall, poor differentiation and the logo itself had very little unaided recall among even the most diehard fans. The packaging was even worse: it followed the category clichés of “old world” ribbons, banners and crests, oval labels, and zero unique communication. It was a “logo on a bottle”; nothing more.


Multiple rounds of research were conducted by the Lana Porter Group to initially test market share and positioning in 2006, and then, in collaboration with Subplot Design Inc. in 2007 and 2008, to test positioning statements, the permission to change the logomark and packaging, and actual packaging concept directions. The result was the green light from consumers to revolutionize the brand: to change the logomark radically and to completely overhaul the packaging system to reflect an ideal positioning of “craftsmanship, purity and authenticity” rather than the logo-centric and “historic” packaging that was the brand’s, and remains the industry’s, norm.


“We soon realized that, while other brands may talk about ‘craft brewing’, they don’t go anywhere with it”, says Subplot Design principal and lead designer on the project, Matthew Clark. “There is an over-reliance on “wordmark-only” logos and logo-centric packaging in the beer industry, and nobody is taking a stand any putting it out there with a strong brand platform in a relevant and compelling way. We knew that we had to break through the clutter and make it happen.”


The revitalized positioning is best expressed by the new tagline, “Know Your Beer”. Okanagan Spring is the craft leader for a reason: pure ingredients, no preservatives, no additives, all-natural beer that is brewed with the highest attention to detail, knowledge and craftsmanship. They possess a wealth of knowledge about what makes great beer, and about why they brew the beers that they do.


“We asked for a new logo and package”, says Okanagan Spring’s VP Western Region, Bryce Zurowski. “ What we got from Subplot was so much more: they gave us an entire way of thinking and talking about the brand. They gave us a platform that informs everything we do, and has already become the lynchpin to brief advertising creatives, outside suppliers and internal staff on what this great brand stands for. That alone far exceeded our expectations.”


Okanagan Spring can’t help but share this craft excellence and expertise with their drinkers. The new Logomark captures “Handcrafted Beer” in a single icon, while the strong, bold, modern shield reinforces the brand’s confidence and masculinity.


The new Packaging platform shows “Know Your Beer” in all its glory, from the first-ever “Beer Colour Scale”, to ideal serving temperatures, first brew dates, and the Brewmaster’s certification, to diagrams and writing that tell the story behind every beer that they make. Functionally, the branding is stronger and more prominent and the flavour differentiation through colour and type is unmistakable. All these elements add up to a brand that not only expresses itself well, but one that considers the needs of its users by helping them choose and enjoy new beers with more information at hand.


Subplot was also responsible for the entire Brand Platform design, including all on-premise items like taphandles, pint glasses, coasters and signage, and all point-of-sale materials, including sales and brand collateral, posters, shelf talkers and cooler decals. Add to this a corporate stationery system, wearables and a comprehensive Brand Standards Manual, and the scope of the project is clear: this is a complete Brand Identity redesign project.


“We came to Subplot with a challenge to revive this brand and to help guide us through a diligent process”, adds Glen Jessup, Okanagan Spring’s Brand Manager and lead client. “Their process was different than any we had done in the past, and relied much more on positioning and strategy than just on creating “a look”. There are few firms who would lead us down this path and challenge us to think beyond category norms and false boundaries. The result is strategic design that is totally unique in the market and is totally aligned with our research and strategic thinking. And what’s more, it all looks outstanding.”


New packaging hits the stores and on-premise in mid-August, with the launch of the unique Black Lager to the trade and consumers in mid-September, showing that new products are at the forefront of this brand revival. The new 12-bottle Craft Variety Pack will also be introduced in November, containing a mix of favourites Pale Ale, 1516, Original Lager alongside the newest addition, Black Lager.

Radio spots by Me&Lewis of Vancouver began to promote the new positioning and tagline, “Know Your Beer” at the beginning of the summer, with the packaging and new logomark being unveiled in outdoor billboard and transit shelters in early August.


About Subplot Design Inc.

Subplot Design Inc. is a leading brand design firm with international experience in creating category-defining corporate and consumer brands. We specialize in powerful ideas that build intelligent, relevant, stand-out brands and communications in what has become an increasingly competitive marketplace. From our Vancouver, BC owned and operated offices, we do this with breakthrough creative brand design including Logomarks + Identity, Brand Packaging, Product Design, Print Communications, Annual Reports, and Retail Identities + Environments.