Kona Makes Waves with
Spiked Island Seltzer

A Full Case Study

In 1994, father-and-son Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa established Hawaii’s first ever craft brewery. They wanted to bring their favorite kinds of beer to the Islands, and before long, everyone in Hawaii and beyond wanted to crack one open. Fast forward 26 years, and a new beverage was sweeping the nation. Kona Brewing Co. was still riding the craft brew wave even as US beer sales declined, but the shadow of a maverick loomed overhead. The team knew if they didn’t unveil their own take on the increasingly popular hard seltzer, they’d miss out on a huge trend that, by the looks of it, was here to stay.

CLIENT

Kona Brewing Co.

WHAT WE DID

Brand System
Brand Strategy
Copywriting
Naming
Package Design
Illustration

COLLABORATORS

Jill DeHaan, Hand Lettering

Collage of photos marketing Kona Brewing Co

Refrigerators across grocery and liquor stores were flooded with hard seltzers as the category quadrupled to $900 million in a year (Nielson, 2020). This tasty, fizzy, drinkable bevvy was on track to be a $2.5 billion business (Markets Insider, 2019). For the team at Kona, ideas had already started brewing. But they couldn’t be just another brand shilling seltzer and risk getting lost in the mix. Open any fridge and one thing was abundantly clear: every seltzer can looked, well, pretty much identical.

We showed the team that doing things the Kona way would actually work in their favor, as it did all those years ago with the first bottle of Fire Rock Pale Ale.

For Kona to lean into the clean, white, minimal design trend would have been a departure from their idyllic island brand. While drinkers far and wide were asking to pass them a Claw, Kona would hand them an island escape.

Collage of photos representing Hawaii and mood boarding brand design

THE INSIGHT

Kona’s beer success story was in its ability to bring people to Hawaii, from anywhere. The vibrant, tropical vistas adorning their bottles were a world away from the blank white void of your typical White Claw or Truly. Therein lay the way forward. Through a vast competitive audit, we showed Kona the blasé design landscape, as well as the current and future of the market’s demographics.

As much as hard seltzer itself was a category disruptor, Kona had the opportunity to break the mold with their own offering.

We positioned Kona Spiked Island Seltzer as a sensory experience spanning Hawaii’s lush islands—highlighting a culture and environment that’s beloved by locals and visitors alike. The values of the average seltzer drinker—health-minded, active, social, curious—were already aligned with Kona’s brand. We just needed to show them.

Hawaii shore

Our team studied mid-century cocktail graphics, aloha shirt patterns, travel posters and album covers. We carefully evoked a “Vintage Hawaii” feeling while avoiding over-the-top cultural caricatures and introduced an extension of the Kona brand with a refreshing new flavor.

Mood boarding brand design for Kona Spiked Island Seltzer

Our team studied mid-century cocktail graphics, aloha shirt patterns, travel posters and album covers. We carefully evoked a “Vintage Hawaii” feeling while avoiding over-the-top cultural caricatures and introduced an extension of the Kona brand with a refreshing new flavor.

Kona Island Seltzer illustrations
Kona Spiked Island Seltzer logo

Flint’s design work has truly differentiated Kona Spiked Island Seltzer in a crowded space. Consumers see it as uniquely tropical in a sea of sameness–which also has retail buyers excited.

– CINDY WANG, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF MARKETING
Kona Spiked Island Seltzer cans on ice
Box and can of Kona Spiked Island Seltzer

Upon the launch of the new seltzer, Kona partnered with a leading customer insights agency to conduct in-store samples along the west coast. When asked what about the new product appealed to them most, customers replied overwhelmingly about the variety of unique flavors (78% appeal) and the product packaging (58% appeal). “I really appreciate how Kona has distinguished itself from other seltzers through its bright color and Hawaiian vibe,” said a satisfied taster. Back on the Big Island, Kona was pleased as (tropical) punch, too. “Flint’s design work has truly differentiated Kona Spiked Island Seltzer in a crowded space,” said Senior Director of Marketing Cindy Wang. “Consumers see it as uniquely tropical in a sea of sameness–which also has retail buyers excited.” That’s why we do what we do.

Field Study 2021 Consumer Research:

I appreciate the curations of the can design, and the creative take on the flavors. I feel Kona really stepped up to the seltzer game in flying island colors.

— Research Respondent

REPURCHASE INTENT

79%

likely to repurchase

I really love the island theme for the cans as well as the box. I also really enjoy that the flavor of the drink stays with you even after you finish drinking. You still can taste this sweet soft flavor!

— Research Respondent

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