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by Adam Mergens | Dec 15, 2021

Summer is now long gone, and winter is upon us. Time to put away the mower, cover up the barbeque, and hunker down for the snowstorms to come.

Still, it’s nice to reminisce about the summer that was. Whether you miss outdoor birthday parties, 4th of July get-togethers, or days chilling at the beach, you probably also miss the cold adult beverages that can bring them to life: hard teas, seltzers, lemonades, margaritas—and of course, beer.

Which brings me to this observation: over the past year, it seems like every beer brand and their brother introduced a new product. With all these upstarts added to the old standbys, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sea of choices in the beer aisle and simply grab something recognizable. The question is, what kind of in-store display might get you to try a new brew, instead of sticking with the known crowd pleasers that command most of the shelf space?

The case against simply stacking cases.

While pyramids of case packs on the floor might make your product easily accessible, they don’t tell me why I should choose it over the other brands. And some beer displays are closer to parade floats than something that should be parked in a store. Many beers are simply displayed with what I call a lack of energy.

Sure, beer brands all have budgets, so they want solutions to be as inexpensive as possible. For some brands, products switch out too frequently to justify making longer lasting displays. But the unfortunate end result is a sea-of sameness in what is supposed to be a fun category.

Point of sale should be a point of engagement. In my humble opinion, beer’s indirect competitors—the bourbons, scotches, vodkas, and gins—do a much better job of attracting consumer attention. Maybe it’s because distillers tell such enticing stories to complement their products. Maybe it’s because their products are presented with such a dazzling array of bottle shapes and labels. But I have to admit, a lot of it has to do with their displays, many of which are quite impressive.

I know I spend much more time picking out a bourbon than I do a case of beer. I love reading the clever names, looking over the cool labels, and reading the tasting notes on the back. Truth be told, I’m often swayed by descriptions like “caramel tones” or “hints of vanilla.” Of course, the other obvious difference between beer and hard liquor is the price point. A $50 bottle of bourbon is much more of an investment than a $20 case of beer—and more of a gamble. It only makes sense that distillers put more money, and creativity, into their displays. Especially if it helps convince consumers that their product is “crafted,” takes a lot of time to produce, and is worth the price.

Beer brands should display like distillers. So here’s my thought: when it comes to creating impactful in-store displays, maybe brewers should borrow a little more from the hard liquor playbook. After all, like hard liquors, beer requires a certain amount of time to brew—something that could be played up more. Like hard liquors, many beers are brewed with unique ingredients, which could be featured more prominently in their displays and on their labels. And like distillers, brewers could use their displays to tell the enticing origin stories behind their beers.

In short, I think there’s a big opportunity for display designers in the beer aisle. If just one brand pushes the creative envelope, and invests a little more, they’re bound to stand out. And the competition will be forced to play is catch up. When that day comes, and one of those beer brands comes to Niven looking for a display, I’ll be ready with my response: “Hold my beer.”


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