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Hired Guns Beer Cans
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Hired Guns Bottles
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Hired Guns Bonamici
A posse of Hired Guns is hitting the target in BC's wine country with some edgy marketing campaigns that combine high art with very targeted messaging.
Hired Gun Creative was launched in 2008 primarily as a web design company, until partners Richard Hatter and Leif Miltenberger decided to focus entirely on the beer, wine and spirits industry.
Their success brings some telling lessons for the industry in attracting new buyers, and keeping a loyal clientele. The partners say, it's all about the story.
“We bring a younger, fresher, weirder perspective to the industry,” says Business Director Leif Miltenberger. “But it's not enough to just bring the 'weird'. We also bring solid industry experience. We've had the successes to know what's going to work and what's not.
“People want to buy what's cool, and in this rapidly changing market you always have to stay ahead of the curve. People don't want to buy their grandpa's wine.”
One of Hired Gun's recent successes was the branding and packaging design of the new Bonamici Cellars winery. The winery's label features a graphic of two 'explorers' sailing in the sky in a Steampunk-styled ship made of a wine barrel and two balloons. It quickly turned heads, helping Bonamici gain market share quickly with both consumers and with restaurant buyers.
Well-known wine writer John Schreiner was among those who bought a bottle, saying, “The label is so refreshing that I smiled spontaneously in joy when I saw it. It has been a while since I have seen such an effective label.”
'Telling the story' of a product is the key element behind the Hired Guns' method.
“You need to take a few steps back when looking at your products, and make sure they have a personality,” says Creative Director Richard Hatter. “What makes a package designer rise to the top is having the package tell a story in a split second of looking at it on the shelf.
“I'm a professional artist, and the liquor store is my art show. It's how I chose to get my art out there.”
Longwood Brewery is another happy client whose award-winning packaging helped them grow from 'brew pub' status to a real contender in the BC beer market. Miltenberger says that success came because Longwood was willing to start from scratch, and build a solid marketing campaign from the ground up.
“When it's done right, it can have a huge impact,” Miltenberger says. “Longwood Brewery went from a market of 30,000 people a little over a year ago, and now after working with us they are all over Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland with a market of over a million.”
That rapid success helped convince Rob Smith, director of sales at the venerable Hester Creek winery on Oliver's Golden Mile. Their new website launches in December. Smith says Hester Creek loves what Hired Gun is doing and is entering into a long-term relationship with them for everything from web design to marketing campaigns.
“Hired Guns is bringing some fresh ideas to our industry, and from what I've seen they are definitely firing on all cylinders, Smith says. “The consumer we wanted is the competent 30-year-old female professional, who makes wine decisions for friends and family. The work done by Hired Guns introduced new consumers to the brand, consumers that we really didn't have before, but now they're curious about us because of the marketing campaign these guys created.” ■