Millennials—driven by a need for experiences and self-discovery. They love analog culture, music, and real, tangible experiences. So what happens when you combine this audience insight, Cream Ale, and the inspirational creative work surrounding zine culture? You get a 16-page publication called Mash’d.
Zines are a great vehicle for exploring subcultures, discovering new ways of thinking, and creating communities centered on similar interests. In Our Band Could Be Your Life, author Michael Azerrad highlights how zines were catalysts for building bridges between underground music scenes in major U.S. cities during the 1980s. Since the initiative was about creating a new Cream Ale community similar to this American DIY punk scene, a zine was a natural fit. Plus, the zine format really speaks the language of the target market in terms of medium and message. Most importantly, it lets people who are unaware of the brand discover it for themselves—in turn creating a stronger bond with Cream Ale because THEY found it.
The American underground in the Eighties embraced the radical notion that maybe, just maybe, the stuff that was being shoved in our faces by the all-pervasive mainstream media wasn’t necessarily the best stuff.”
Zines are so Eighties, right? Nope, they are still super relevant. Festivals are held across the country dedicated solely to independent publishing—even larger cultural institutions are recognizing the format. Zines have fully blossomed into an expressive medium for makers of all kinds who fill them with rich, original content like comics, photography, art, poetry, op-eds, and interviews. With zines, anything is possible.
As the zine was part of a larger content campaign called AleBlazers, the team initially explored variations on that theme. Names like “Green State,”, “Summer Survival Guide,” and “Carbonated” were all tossed around, but they weren’t nailing the vibe or the attitude embodied by this zine.
More digging and brainstorming led the team to “Mashed.” It had it all: wordplay, relevance, and edge. “Mash” is an integral part of the beer-making process, and the content of the zine was an amalgam of eclectic stories squeezed through this compact l’il 9”x7” booklet.
Once the name was nailed, it was time to explore making it more ownable and distinctive. Dropping the “e” and replacing it with an apostrophe—MASH’D—gave it that unique, authentic, and unapologetic vibe. It says, “Take it or leave it, Cream Ale doesn’t care either way.”
This zine’s pages needed to be filled with content that reflected the originality of the brand, core themes of the AleBlazers program (music, beer, and food), and lots of brewing culture about what Cream Ale is. Content also needed to reflect the new markets Cream Ale was expanding into by featuring food, musicians, and artists unique to those locales. As with design and production, content creation also needed to be resourceful. For example, extra video content that did not make the final edits was repurposed into editorial articles. Other articles were completely original for Mash’d and devoted to that sense of discovery we knew the audience was seeking—including a crossword puzzle and a custom illustration.
The team had this idea for a Where’s Waldo-esque centerfold combined with one of those old Mad Magazine-style illustrations filled with characters. The twist was that the one in Mash’d would have hidden cans of Cream Ale peppered throughout the scene. This would invite viewer participation and exploration to actively find the brand. Pete Lazarski was perfect for this as he does a lot of his own work in the zine realm (check out Hope Mountain Newsor Imaginary Monstersif you get a chance). He obviously knocked this assignment out of the park.
A Flexi Record is an almost forgotten audio format that is very inexpensive to produce. It’s a small square of plastic that can be cut with audio tracks just like its cousin—the vinyl record. It had a mainstream moment here in the 80’s and still boasts an underground appreciation.
It was a natural companion to the zine and gave us a chance to showcase some of the bands who were gracious enough to share their talent with Cream Ale. Plus, unlike a playlist, this was another way to give our audience the real, tangible experiences they crave. We were especially pumped that the vendor offered colored options—green, obviously.
The finished product was even cooler than the team imagined it would be. It was true to the spirit of the brand and worked as a legit zine, not just a piece of branded content. Hopefully readers enjoy it as much as the team enjoyed working on it.