No Logo

The blackboard at the Drapers.

One of the many interesting things about our local, The Drapers Arms micropub in Bristol, is the lack of branding for beers at the point of sale.

Instead of the cus­tom­ary row of hand-pumps with dec­o­ra­tive pump-clips (which have grown big­ger and fanci­er over the course of the past few decades) the Drap­ers has a rack of casks with beer names chalked on their black jack­ets, and a black­board declar­ing the name, brew­ery, ori­gin, style and ABV of each beer.

The pump-clips are there, actu­al­ly, tacked on the wall behind the bar, along with those for beers com­ing soon, but a deter­mined squint and spec­ta­cle push is required to dis­cern any details. Most peo­ple, we sus­pect, think they’re just part of the decor.

The black­board approach encour­ages cer­tain unusu­al, quite pleas­ing behav­iour. For one thing, peo­ple often ask each oth­er for advice: “Excuse me – what’s that you’re on? It looks bloody good.” And we’ve nev­er known a pub where tasters are so freely offered and  as glad­ly tak­en, and where such gen­er­ous time is giv­en to con­ver­sa­tions about taste and pref­er­ence.

Which brings us to our main point: the lack of obvi­ous brand­ing seems to push peo­ple – and cer­tain­ly forces us – to focus on the beer.

We’ve always been quite open about the fact that, being human beings with a full suite of emo­tions, nur­tured in late 20th cen­tu­ry cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety, we are eas­i­ly swayed by pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing. Of course we chal­lenge our­selves and attempt to over­come this instinct to super­fi­cial­i­ty but if we’d seen this pump-clip, for exam­ple, we might have let our gaze pass over it in favour of some­thing else:

Ramsbury Belapur pump-clip
SOURCE: Rams­bury Web­site.

It’s not bad but it doesn’t sug­gest that this beer is any­thing spe­cial. It’s a bit cheap and a bit staid. But at The Drap­ers, a lev­el play­ing field for the graph­i­cal­ly chal­lenged brew­ery, we went for it, and were real­ly glad we did. It’s a thor­ough­ly decent beer we’ve had sev­er­al times since, and Rams­bury have been added to our men­tal list of brew­eries always worth a go.

On the flip­side, there are beers that, divorced from very smart graph­ic design and win­ning blurb, are eas­i­er to assess objec­tive­ly. In plain brown wrap­pers it’s eas­i­er to dis­cern that a slight­ly bland pale ale from a hip brew­ery taste much like a slight­ly bland pale ale from a micro-brew­ery found­ed in 1983.

We gen­er­al­ly argue for more infor­ma­tion rather than less (see tomorrow’s blog post) but some­how the omis­sion of this par­tic­u­lar type of infor­ma­tion – the visu­al – real­ly works for us.

9 thoughts on “No Logo”

  1. Once upon a time there was no clip on the pump.’

    But those gen­er­al­ly pubs (often tied) sold a lim­it­ed range from one brew­ery that nev­er changed (until it was tak­en over and/or closed down) so drinkers always knew what to ask for. Not a bad thing nec­es­sar­i­ly and if you lived in an area dom­i­nat­ed by one brew­ery I sup­pose that’s just what you drank.

    I’m a suck­er for clever mar­ket­ing and much more like­ly to go for a beer with a well-designed pump­clip and vice-ver­sa so I like this idea, and I’ve nev­er come across the beer miles on a beer list before which I think is also a great idea.

  2. This is com­mon in the US, per­haps even the stan­dard prac­tice among craft-cen­tric bars. While on bal­ance I think it’s pos­i­tive, it may not be great for less-known brew­eries. There’s a kind of com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion that appears to creep into the process when you’re just see­ing text. With­out the visu­al aid of the brand­ing, it’s a lot hard­er to remem­ber unfa­mil­iar beer.

  3. I think the art­work is all part and par­cel of the expe­ri­ence of beers/ try­ing new beers. That said I had nev­er thought of it in a neg­a­tive way as you explained above more in a pos­i­tive way. Per­son­al­ly I’d rather be pre­sent­ed with the full range (clips, %, name, style) before mak­ing my choice than have any­thing miss­ing.

  4. Per­son­al­ly I much pre­fer a promi­nent black­board, which (par­tic­u­lar­ly at busy times) saves peer­ing round peo­ple sit­ting or stand­ing at the bar to try and find out what is on, espe­cial­ly if there is more than one set of hand­pumps or the beer is dis­pensed in anoth­er bar (such as at the Great West­ern in Wolver­hamp­ton). The real issue is keep­ing boards up to date – it is not that unusu­al to find that your choice is unavail­able since no-one altered the board when the bar­rel ran out, and then you may have a hur­ried rush to change the order (very incon­ve­nient if buy­ing a round and your friends are sat on the oth­er side of the pub). Elec­tron­ic dis­plays to my mind are often clear­er and should be eas­i­er to update, but seem rare. I have seen them in a Wether­spoons in Der­by and pos­si­bly the Welling­ton in Birm­ing­ham, and also some­where in Cardiff. Logos do have a use, but more as an aide-mem­oire to jog the mem­o­ry if you can’t remem­ber whether you have tried the beer/brewery before and what it was like.

    I think that is still the case that, strict­ly speak­ing, it is ille­gal to offer goods for sale that are not avail­able, whether rely­ing on pump­clips or boards. Quite a few years ago I remem­ber that Trad­ing Stan­dards pros­e­cut­ed a pub in Beth­nal Green for per­sis­tent breach­es of this rule, but that is the only case that I can recall. Pos­si­bly the ‘com­ing soon’ signs that Wether­spoons dis­play have an eye to this.

    1. The Welling­ton def­i­nite­ly has an elec­tron­ic board. Think it was the first I came across.
      The Mad Squir­rel out­lets (cur­rent­ly four, plus their brew­ery tap) installed elec­tron­ic dis­plays recent­ly. Theirs are tied in to Untap­pd. Should ask next time am in whether there’s a cost; or whether Untap­pd allows free use of the soft­ware, as it gives their web­site visu­al pro­mo­tion?
      Lack of the pro­mo­tion­al brand­ing seems to have become increas­ing­ly com­mon­place in ‘craft’ bars; many fol­low­ing (I sus­pect) the trend set by Brew­Dog. Obvi­ous­ly there, most beers are their own; but guests get the same treat­ment, mere­ly added to the list on the wall and usu­al­ly served from a bare tap.
      Some­thing brew­ers may need to con­sid­er, if this trend increas­es: how much is it worth spend­ing on design and brand­ing through point-of-sale clips at the bar if few­er cus­tomers ever get to see them?

      1. Lack of pro­mo­tion­al brand­ing comes from Amer­i­can craft bars. Those that have reg­u­lar beers have brand­ed taps, but those who change them fre­quent­ly have unbrand­ed taps and just a black­board.
        The black­board, though, has been in use in this coun­try in ale hous­es for at least 35 years to my cer­tain knowl­edge – The Duck and Drake in Leeds had one from the start. I’m not one who takes a lot of notice of brand­ing (our old fam­i­ly busi­ness claimed to be “the orig­i­na­tors of The­atri­cal Adver­tis­ing”, which I always found amus­ing and hubris­tic, but also gave me the back­ground to take adver­tis­ing of any kind with a pinch of salt) and I often find it dif­fi­cult to get a lot of info from pump­clips these days (although I love either clas­sic or inter­est­ing ones); a board gen­er­al­ly gives me the info I need to try a new beer.

    2. It’s inter­est­ing how a side-effect of the rise of the “wall of keg taps” (as seen at eg the Euston Tap) has been to down­play the role of brand­ing in draught envi­ron­ments, even as it’s become ever more impor­tant in small­pack. There’s an inter­est­ing wider ques­tion of how that trend meets the one from eg Cloud­wa­ter of mak­ing the brew­ery the brand and not the beer (Doom Bar being the clas­sic exam­ple of the lat­ter).

      The Red Wil­low Tap had a home-made elec­tron­ic board from (I think) when it opened 5 years ago; about 18 months ago it got hooked up to the inter­net, and then about 6 months ago they replaced it with an Untap­pd cor­po­rate mem­ber­ship (which is not free, Untap­pd need mon­ey and they con­sid­er that you’re adver­tis­ing to their cap­tive audi­ence of beer geeks) – and after about 3 months they fixed the bugs so that the Untap­pd ver­sion now works as well as their old ver­sion! But as more places sign up to Untap­pd, it becomes pret­ty easy to put up a TV in the bar with the Untap­pd feed on – there’s a sig­nif­i­cant hid­den work­load in data entry for these things, but at least you can grab ABV etc from Untap­pd.

      Don’t think it is ille­gal to offer for sale stuff that isn’t avail­able, or at least it’s easy enough to dis­claim it away in T&Cs. It is fraud to take mon­ey for stuff that isn’t avail­able, or to charge high­er prices than adver­tised. But there has to be some rea­son­able slack in the sys­tem – oth­er­wise you could argue that a bar­rel emp­ty­ing before a full pint has been poured is a breach of an implic­it offer of a full pint.

  5. Coun­ter­point: here’s some­thing I wrote about Cafe Beer­moth in Man­ches­ter a while back (the sys­tem hasn’t changed since).

    [quote]
    Cafe Beer­moth have an infu­ri­at­ing sys­tem of list­ing all their beers in a stan­dard for­mat in a row of plain signs above the taps on the back wall – a stan­dard for­mat which includes a.b.v., brew­ery and town of ori­gin, but not style. Giv­en that they tend to stock beers that are off the beat­en track this inevitably results (for me at least) in an extend­ed con­ver­sa­tion with the bar staff, some­thing like this:

    What can I get you?”
    – Er… what kind of a beer is Drummond’s Deplorabil­i­ty?
    “That’s an IPA.”
    – Oh, OK. What’s the, er, Flint­lock Don’t Come The Raw Prune?
    “That’s a plum porter. Would you like a taster?”
    Thinks: damn, plum, I could have guessed that…
    – No, I’m fine. What’s the JSD Chas­mat­ic?
    [sigh] “…And that’s a stout. Is it a dark beer you’re after?”

    It’s a lose-lose sit­u­a­tion – the per­son behind the bar obvi­ous­ly thinks I’m a time­waster, and I end up giv­ing in and get­ting a pint of the sec­ond or third thing they men­tion, what­ev­er it is, just so as not to pro­long the embar­rass­ment.
    [endquote]

    Mind you, you also say that you’ve nev­er known a pub where tasters are so freely offered … and where such gen­er­ous time is giv­en to con­ver­sa­tions about taste and pref­er­ence, which is very much not the case of Cafe B. in my expe­ri­ence. Tasters, yes, but offered very much as part of the process of help­ing the punter damn well make up his mind and order some­thing.

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