TD 60 Icon - Bavaria

Go South young man

It’s not just a rebranding that Bavaria implemented. The Swinkels family, which has run the brewery from Lieshout in Brabant for more than 300 years, wanted to go back to the basics. Result: the ‘heritage’ is visibly back, with new, 21st-century √©lan.

Total Design, in collaboration with the agency More Vaelue, was assigned by Bavaria to bring the operation to a successful conclusion. Reconstruction of a successful collaboration between top creatives and a courageous Bavaria board in which chain direction and support from the entire board proved necessary.

Own course

The new visual identity of crates, bottles, cans and barrels was now a reality in the Netherlands. Tap columns, glasses, and billboards were rolled out in the on-trade. The brand color blue was redefined. The crate, labels, cans, and packaging were all shaded blue on the Bavaria shelf, clearly claiming its position. An equally important part of the new branding proved to be the new icon pointing south in the form of a compass. “This compass symbolizes the family company’s independence and its own course. A triangle with rounded sides served as the basis for the design of all materials.

Beauty is secondary to relevance

Mentality versus identity

The new corporate identity also works out more environmentally friendly and efficient for the company. Bavaria says it will use less glass, fewer labels and achieve a higher production rate. The updated products are also available in the other 129 countries where Bavaria operates.

Bavaria is the Netherlands’ second largest brewer after Heineken and produces 6.5 million hectoliters of beer per year*.

Does the question arise: what was Bavaria missing that required such a fundamental rebranding? During one of the first meetings, Marketing director Peer Swinkels put a prototype beer bottle on the table. It differed from the existing beer bottle because it had a very proud angular appearance. He said, “We are a beer brand for men with guts, we want to put that in the spotlight better.” Bavaria’s bottle experiment up to that point was still about mentality rather than identity. Fortunately, Bavaria turned out to be well aware of that. “To me, beauty is always secondary to relevance, after all, with merely restyling a bottle you are engaging in form lust rather than serious brand rebranding that makes a difference.”

High visibility

It was clear: Bavaria, the brand was being re-branded from scratch. Bavaria already thought hard about the need for a new look, new impetus. There was an abundance of ideas, but still a lack of direction.

In order to shape Bavaria’s new look, extensive internal research was first conducted into how people really looked at Bavaria and what they thought of the brand and its look.
Bavaria’s premium pilsner is brewed with mineral water from its own source and carefully selected malt and hops. In fact, the taste of Bavaria beer has long been rated as very high quality by experts at the University of Leuven. That high quality was not reflected in the brand image; indeed, Bavaria suffered from a corny and dated image.

Advertising campaigns were created in which guts and courage played the leading role. In the genes of the company, these qualities are also abundantly present, only consumers did not yet identify them in the products and packaging on the shelf.

Freedom, fertility and safety

Trichoid as an archetypal form

Total Design was invited to help design a new identity. TD was a good fit for this assignment because of its idiosyncratic mentality, high quality, and with distinctive sense of what the agency itself calls ‘identity & change’. At the time, this was necessary in order to create a visual language with a distinctive character.

This was preceded by a briefing inspired by a three-axis archetype system using image, sound, and form. A basic design was created to fill in the triangle with rounded corners – a so-called trichoid. Originally designed by the English firm Seymour Powell and Brandnew, it is full of hidden symbols. It refers to the three Swinkels brothers who made the brewery great, to the triangular new headquarters located in Lieshout, and more philosophical in nature: to three v’s that stand for three basic needs: freedom, fertility, and safety. Also important for the development of the language of form is the discovery of a felt with a red triangle on it that appeared on the first Bavaria coasters in the early 1900s. The fact that an apparently ordinary triangle eventually acquired meaning by forging a compass from it is to Total Design’s credit. That is where the relevance lies and where identity and mentality come together in an image.

Shaping a brand personality

Deviant icon

The triangle proved to be the prelude to a – by beer brand standards – revolutionary shape and imagery. Bavaria wanted an evolution of the brand, but they got a revolution. Praise was given for the courage of the board members. They did not call in a compliant project manager, but a creative ‘chain director’ who was allowed to build together with Bavaria through all layers of the organization on a relevant and efficient new image. That required great trust. Retrospectively, it is also true. Bavaria has always behaved like a pioneer in many ways. After all, they made alcohol-free beer big and were the first on the market with a 12-pack crate.

When Total Design’s designers laid the first compass sketches on the table, it was a true Eureka moment. It reflected Bavaria’s own path that it has been on for centuries. The final compass also very nicely hides the family values, including the needle that points not north but south. Normally a compass is round, but the Bavaria compass is triangular. This has given it not only legal but also practical distinctive value. The new icon has everything to grow into a worldwide recognizable beer icon.

Brand follows form

All in all, shapes and visuals reinforce each other. In addition to the compass, Bavaria’s triangle was also the starting point for the glass, the tap column, and the coaster. A salient detail is that the tap column stands out from every direction of view because of its special interplay of lines. It is a kind of pioneer flag placed on the bar.

The Bavaria family business is run by the seventh generation of Swinkels. Marketing director Peer Swinkels stated in an interview that the Bavaria brand should be recognizable by its shapes and lines. Swinkels liked to make the comparison with a distinct car brand like BMW. A BMW without a logo is still recognizable as BMW. In other words: a good three-dimensional design makes the brand virtually redundant.

The assignment involved a new label, a new bottle, a new crate, a new on-trade look, a new fleet of vehicles, and new packaging. It starts with a powerful shape and image in a distinctive own color blue, that 360-degree approach is extended into the bar, where the Bavaria glass in your hand feels just that little bit different.

It is extraordinary that a change on this scale has been so successful. This is because the changes were supported by all departments throughout the company.

Support and trust are key essentials. All departments were involved early on in the whole process, which resulted in a fruitful working climate.

The integrated approach produced a compelling brand personality. With a sensuous form and relevant imagery as important pillars.