When Bold City Brewery’s owner Brian Miller lost his beloved dog Duke, he made the decision to pay homage to one of the brewery’s earliest crewmembers by formulating a beer label in his likeness. Duke, as pictured on the label of Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale, lives on through beer cans and tap handles all across Northeast Florida, with his portrait telling a story that can be sipped instead of read.
“It was just kind of a match made in heaven, and I never really thought that beer would become what it has,” Miller says about the unfortunate situation, which he turned into a positive milestone for his growing company. “We typically now won’t brew a beer without first having it branded or a reason behind it.”
Whether or not Duke was the most loyal canine in the greater Jacksonville area and sacrificed his short (but full) life for the better of the business is up for discussion, but the fact remains that his drooling headshot on the front of the can is damn compelling, and the beer doesn’t taste too bad, either. And that’s a good combination for a family-run business that has to compete with a phalanx of other craft beers taking up space on the shelf at your local Publix.
The world of craft beer is constantly growing and with it, the competition among corporate beer giants and local breweries for loyal patrons. While most of the larger brands know their target audience and are not overly concerned with changing brand image, craft breweries are remodeling their entire approach to marketing in an effort to captivate and capitalize on the average beer-drinking consumer.
Marketing often entails humanizing a product, and finding the perfect balance of heady and accessible can be a tall order.
“All of our artwork is stuff that means something to us, like Duke,” Miller explained when asked about what separates his brand of brew from the others out on the shelves. “There may be another brewery that had a boxer named Duke, but he wasn’t like the Duke we had. All of our labels are about us or about the city that we love and the brewery that we love.”
Miller acknowledges and appreciates the results of the work that local graphic artist Kendrick Kidd has been able to deliver for Bold City over the years.
“I don’t know if all relationships between a business and whoever is creating their graphics are like this, but we feel very fortunate to have him,” Miller says of Kidd, who originally approached Bold City about creating a logo for them seven years ago. “We definitely wouldn’t be where we are today without the work he has done for us.”
High up on the 11th floor of the Riverplace Tower, Kidd sits in his office at the Shepherd Agency, glancing over a new logo he’s drawing up for a Texas-based brewery that wants to encapsulate the essence of California while paying its respects to the city of Austin.
Kidd, a Florida native and University of North Florida alumnus, traces his professional career as a graphic artist all the way back to his high school days living in Merritt Island, where he would draw skateboard logos in class to pass the time. Though married now and working for a major advertising boutique based here in Jacksonville, Kidd never lost that passion for the skateboard culture, to which he claims he owes his creative style.
Before Bold City, Kidd says, he’d never dealt in can and tap art, but being the self-proclaimed craft beer enthusiast that he is and having a life-long fascination with product packaging and logos, when he found out that a brewery was opening here in Jacksonville, he had an epiphany: He would be the one to create the look.
Today, Kidd no longer has to chase clientele. Craft breweries have definitely embraced the benefits of having a unique can or bottle for each of their products. According to Kidd, the can art movement or trend started on the West Coast a long time ago, and is just now really catching on here.
“I feel like craft beer drinkers are grazers,” says Kidd. “They are constantly looking around for something new to try and, unless you’ve gotten a referral from somebody else, the shelf is where people are making their decisions. Having something that stands out and is memorable, I think, is very important.”
For Kidd, the process of homing in on the exact image or logo the brand wants to present is all about listening to the story of the brewery and its owners and figuring out a style that connects all of the dots.
“Craft breweries are very hyper-local,” says Kidd. “They like to tell their story of how they got to where they’re at and they like to kind of weave in little bits about themselves in the can art. It’s a treasure trove of ideas and places to draw from.”
According to Kendrick Kidd, the process of getting the graphic exactly right can be difficult at times, because the many stories behind the breweries and their products can get rather involved. In his personal experience, though, he finds that the clientele has been fairly trusting to let him run with his creativity.
This is especially true for the relationship he has cultivated with Bold City Brewery, where every beer brewed has a story behind it that they’re more than willing to share with their patrons. For Miller, it’s about making good beer first and foremost, but he understands the importance of building a good brand image that people can trust and remember and seek out.
“You have to stand out on the shelf; you have to look good,” Brian Miller says. “We want it to look good because it’s our family’s reputation that’s out there, really.”