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  • Writer's pictureRichard Gendron

What Makes a Great Tap Handle?

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

I have been in the marketing and signage industry for over 21 years. Now, Tap Handles are my absolute passion. I've learned that trends come and go, but there are a few things that stay the same. Brand recognition and ingenuity are two of those things that always trump big and expensive.

Here’s an example of marketing strategy from my experience years ago: When car wrapping came to Canada, we were one of the first to take a shot at it. Considering our Canadian weather, they were a tough sell. My pitch was this: You spend $10,000 a month on 8 billboards, that’s $120,000 a year. What if I told you I could not only get you MORE impressions, but I could also get you BETTER QUALITY impressions at 1/10th the price. (And, the wraps won’t wreck your car, they will actually protect it).

I had done my research. Car wraps had already been around California for some time and studies had shown that this was, by far, the most economical cost per impression of all advertising. On top of that, the quality of the impressions were incredible. Could you imagine literally parking your car in front of the competition and they couldn’t do anything about it? Or lend one of the cars, along with hockey tickets, to your employee every week. Have them go an hour early and park as close to the entrance as possible. This equalled to impressions for every person that walked by, and then some.

We eventually did five cars at $3000.00 a piece, which continued for three years before the next rebrand. The cost, with lease payments, were a little under $3000.00 a month for all the cars. That’s $36,000 a year, compared to the $120,000 a year billboards. His business exploded. What a great investment!

Tap Handles for beer advertisement.

Big rock brewery, great tap handles, tap handles advertising, brewery advertising, beer marketing

Advertising decisions are made quickly and emotionally. Tap handles are no different than billboards or signs. They are advertising plain and simple. Some think that the weird and strange is going to attract more attention than a Bud Light handle. Weird and strange does attract attention, but it can also have the opposite effect. Does that weird handle instil confidence that the beer was going to be good? It is worthy of my $6? Did the tap handle make the sale? Did it pass on the right information? Did it say who made the beer and what type of beer it is? The patron who prefers a pilsner over a stout will not choose the stout just because of the tap handle. They need to be informed about what you are asking them to put in their body.

Art is not advertising.

When a museum advertises an art exhibit, they do not just throw up a big painting on the outside of the building and expect people to come. They use engaging text, colour and composition. The art is in the background, if there at all. 

When we design handles we are advertising, not just creating art.

Where is this tap handle going?

A beer tap usually sits in a poorly lit pub, surrounded by other tap handles. The tap handle needs to be bright and have contrast. We also need to be wary of size. It can’t be too wide because it will get turned sideways. You don't want it too heavy because no one wants an unintentional tap opening. You might have problems as well if it is too tall because some pub owners don’t want the 12” "unicorn" taking away from the millions they spent on the decor.

Read our article: The Perfect Tap Handle Size

Big Rock brewery, tap Handle, great tap handle
Our Production for: Big Rock Brewery. Not too big, not too wide

Who is your customer?

Your customer is possibly a patron who has had a few already, probably looking for something new, and doesn’t want to waste money on a $8 pint that he/she is going to hate. Make the beer tap easy to read and have all the information to make that decision. Throw that Brewery Logo around over and over.

Does the tap handle follow your existing branding?

Frog Leg with Dead Frog Brewery
Dead Frog Brewery

Example: I go to the store and purchase a six pack of Jim’s Lager because I want to try something new on a Friday night. I love them, polish them off, and I’m off to the local pub. Now, can I make a connection between the packaging, cans and the tap handle? Not if Jim’s Lager decided to use a unicorn rather than a design that directly relates to his branding (only because Jim has no unicorn anywhere in his branding - nothing against unicorns).

What do the people want?

Humans normally gravitate towards something more aesthetically pleasing as well as familiar. They purposely avoid the obnoxious. Maybe it’s the age of social media where too many “LOOK AT ME’S” are flouting their you-know-whats and no one wants to give obnoxious the time of day.

When dealing with a product that people drink (or eat), consider the emotion your brand portrays. Consumption decisions are influenced by presentation and safety. Most people looking for a place to eat or drink make that decision based on what the place looks like on the outside because it often directly relates to what is inside.

Beer Tap Handles are a face to your company.

Tap handles not only represent you and your company; they also represent the quality and type of beer that is coming out of that tap.

I love talking about tap handles. Please feel free to give me a call if you disagree with my logic or if you want to hear more.

Richard Gendron


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