White Claw Summer Forever

by Shawn Binder on 10/14/2019 | 5 Minute Read

This summer might have been Hot Girl Summer, or so says Megan Thee Stallion, but it was also undoubtedly the sweltering season of White Claw, that crystal-clear marvel of a hard seltzer that took the world by storm. Everyone loves a little carbonation in their beverage, but it's almost shocking how quickly White Claw became the brand du jour, one with an almost cult-like following.

And when it comes to building a cult brand, few people do it better than the folks at Bulletproof.

From humble beginnings, they introduced the beverage to the world as a light, gender-neutral alternative to beer and wine for the health and style-conscious millennial, a clear, malt-based seltzer with 100 calories, 2 grams of sugar, and 5% ABV, which, whoa, what a time to be alive. The seltzer is owned by Mark Anthony Brands, who also owns Mike's Hard Lemonade and launched in 2016. For those unfamiliar, White Claw's goal seemed lofty at the time; establish a legacy in the hard-seltzer space that would provide people a new twist on the malt beverage crave. 

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“Made Pure,” is White Claw’s official slogan, as stated on their website, but consumers had something else in mind. When you crack open a White Claw now, it means taking a sip of meme culture, the internet, and hell, pop-culture itself, the mark of a genuine cult brand, one that even gets referred to as “a Four Loko that went to private school.” 

The team at Bulletproof received the brief from White Claw, and they were told to create the first legacy hard seltzer brand. In the past, the term hard seltzer was more used as a general term to describe some malt beverage alternatives — a descriptor, not an identifier. There had yet to be a company that produced an entire brand and visual world, before the Claw. When it came to the inspiration, unsurprisingly, the branding took its cues from soft seltzer brands as a way to naturally have the public gravitate towards it’s partying cousin; think La Croix but on spring break with a pre-90s Robert Downey Jr.

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"Soft seltzer had a lot of interesting equities it brought to the table," said Executive Creative Director of Bulletproof Tony Connor. "When you think of seltzer, you think of clear, or the color of a vibrant white. So we brought in white, silver, and minimal color. When you get into the world of alcoholic beverages, when you see a lot of colors, you think sugar, calories, and heavy. That’s sort of the opposite of what you want when you’re thinking about seltzer."

"White Claw has a naive design aesthetic," Tony adds. "The tall bullet can is indicative of other soft-seltzer brands. We saw the opportunity to create a story and a real POV you can build a brand around."

White Claw itself has launched other hard seltzer companies who are looking to catch the wave (pun very much intended). Now just a quick Google search will show trend-forecasters asking the hard questions like “is hard kombucha the next hard seltzer?” And that's a fair question for companies that need to keep up with the overall wellness trend we more and more of - consumers are not only drinking less, but they're moving away from beer.

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“You don’t want to feel like you’re bloated, or that what you’re drinking is too heavy, or you’re taking in too many calories. People are moving away from this sort of drinking, they’re much more health-conscious and body-conscious now,” said Tony. “The market is asking for diversification of what gets offered. Rose & Wine were filling that gap for a while. The market that traditionally had men drinking beer and women who drank white wine were looking for something else."

Bulletproof approaches the process of building a cult-like brand by making sure it is for everyone in the millennial demographic, then allowing it to expand to be for everyone, in every age-group. 

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“We’re really proud of White Claw," said Nicole Nechvoglod, Head of Strategy at Bulletproof New York.  "It's 100% gender-fluid. What is Nirvana for these companies is when you create a brand experience that when you bring a pack of White Claws to the beach, BBQ, or picnic, everyone will be gravitating towards them. There is a flavor and a visual appeal for everyone." Capturing a product that people can not only joke about, but feel happy to post across social media is a sweet spot that can be difficult to reach, but one that White Claw does seamlessly. By building a design for everyone, White Claw allowed their consumers to feel a kinship with the product, in a way that more gendered options like Truly, have yet to experience. 

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Of course, those memes and tweets have contributed to the shortage we experienced this summer of everyone’s favorite poolside drink. 

Countless friends on my Instagram feed post selfies with their bullet cans, whether it's at parties, Fire Island, or at home on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I can’t even scroll through without seeing multiple cans a day, and it's now October. The cult-like mentality of White Claw is that consumers perceive the brand as a blank canvas, ours, and ours alone to paint. 

After speaking with the Bulletproof team, I learned that the iconic “there ain’t no law when you’re drinking the claw” was not a clever marketing technique, but a phrase coined by comedian Trevor Wallace that helped spawn a sensation. “Whenever you see a tattoo on someone’s arm or memes, you know you’ve done your job. We are very proud of White Claw,” added Tony. 

So while the summer is now finally in the rearview mirror, it looks like the Claw is here to stay. Thank you for the endless summer, and bountiful memes, White Claw and Bulletproof. May your legacy live on for Summer 2019 forever. 

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