In a few short weeks, millions of people will descend upon Munich, Germany to celebrate the 187th annual Oktoberfest. As the world’s largest “Volksfest”, Oktoberfest combines a beer festival with all the excitement of a traveling funfair — including parades, amusement rides, food stalls, and games.
This year’s festivities are especially exciting, as the event was canceled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the global pandemic. But during this time, Oktoberfest took the opportunity to focus on its branding. In 2020, the city of Munich managed to get the “Oktoberfest” brand protected internationally.
Additionally, in an effort to “strengthen the brand”, the Oktoberfest team rolled out a new, uniform design — a “curved letter ‘O’ in a modern fracture font”, which “symbolizes the Munich Oktoberfest as a concise logo”.
This new logo will grace the festival’s decor, promotional materials, merchandise, and more — and, in many ways, symbolizes a new era for the Oktoberfest brand. So, what’s the origin of this globally-recognized festival? And in what ways will its recent rebranding strengthen its brand awareness and identity?
Let’s find out.
A Brief History of Oktoberfest
The origins of Oktoberfest can be traced back to the wedding celebrations of King Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1810. To honor their recent marriage, the couple hosted festivities on fields in front of the city gates, an area named Theresienwiese after the Crown Princess.
Citizens of Munich were invited to attend the celebrations, which included horse races, wine and beer tastings, and performances by local children. In 1811, a show promoting Bavarian agriculture was added to the festival — and in the following years, it expanded to include tree climbing, bowling alleys, swings, and carnival booths.
In 1819, the city fathers took over responsibility for managing the festival and it was officially decided that Oktoberfest would become an annual event. As technology evolved in the late 19th century, the festival kept up with the times — adding electric lights in 1880. And it was in 1892 that the first beer was served in the festival’s iconic glass mug.
At the end of the 19th century, the festival underwent a reorganization to make more room for guests and musicians — after all, a bulk of the money made from the event came from beer sales. Therefore, the booths transformed into the much larger beer halls we know today.
In the 20th century, Oktoberfest contented to grow — but due to the unrest in Europe at the time, did not occur reliably every year. During World War I, the event was temporarily suspended. And post-war, the event was canceled for a few years due to hyperinflation.
In the 1930s, Oktoberfest was unfortunately used as a propaganda tool by the National Socialist regime, and the event was temporarily renamed the Großdeutches Volksfest (Greater German folk festival) and used as a way to show the regime’s power.
Like during the First World War, Oktoberfest was again put on hold during World War II — and even after the war ended, the official Oktoberfest wasn’t celebrated for a while. However, in 1950, the festival started back up again and in the 1970s, local German gay organizations arranged for “Gay Days” at Oktoberfest — which are still happening today, known as Rosa Wiesn.
In 1980, the festival dealt with its first instance of terrorism when a pipe bomb was set off near the main entrance — killing 13 people and injuring 225 more. The State Police still haven't officially solved the case in 2022, though numerous theories have been pursued.
Today, Oktoberfest is celebrated by millions of people who come from all over the world to enjoy the festival’s libations, traditional costumes and music, and fairgrounds.
The festival’s organizers keep a tight leash on what’s allowed to happen within the event’s grounds — from what kind of beer can be sold (there are only six breweries permitted to sell beer at Oktoberfest) to who can advertise in the space.
While the festival is meant to celebrate the culture and history of the Bavarian people, it’s also a money-making enterprise — which means its organizers are always looking for ways to improve the festival year on year.
This year, we’ll witness the official Oktoberfest rebranding — with a new logo, design, and branding experience. But how will this rebrand benefit the Oktoberfest brand? Let’s take a look.
3 Potential Benefits of Oktoberfest’s 2022 Rebrand
On a landing page dedicated to the event’s fresh, new brand look, the Oktoberfest team explains the rebrand as follows:
“The motif has a traditional Bavarian look, is modern at the same time and can be understood worldwide. The logo's creators from the brand agency RED even designed their own new font for it. Selected colors and a uniform visual language complement the design and make it a recognizable appearance.”
It’s clear that a good amount of thought and research went into this rebrand. And while the Oktoberfest team was surely disappointed that the festival was canceled two years in a row, it gave them the time and space they needed to execute a successful rebrand.
Let’s discuss three potential benefits this rebrand could provide Oktoberfest with.
1. Better International Brand Recognition
Oktoberfest is a distinctly German — specifically Bavarian — event. It’s rooted in a deep cultural history and means a great deal to the people of the area. That being said, it’s also an event that draws an enormous international crowd — and to do that successfully, the Oktoberfest brand needs to be easily understandable on a multi-cultural, multilingual level.
Previous Oktoberfest logos have leaned into the blue and yellow color scheme, using imagery unique to the festival — such as the glass beer mug, the Ferris wheel, giant pretzels, and the traditional Bavarian hat, known as the Tirolerhut. It’s had many iterations over the years, simultaneously trying to keep up with the times while retaining its Bavarian roots.
What these previous logos lacked in durability, they made up for in festiveness. However, they fell short when it came to increasing brand recognition on a global scale. That’s where the brand’s new logo and visual identity excel.
The goal of the new logo, seen above, is to blend the traditional with the modern to create a visual identity that is uniquely associated with Oktoberfest and recognizable on a global scale.
In their own word, the Oktoberfest team explains:
“The lively appearance with its colorful and different color gradients is just as varied and colorful as the Oktoberfest and the typical Oktoberfest moments themselves. The dynamic shape of the letter 'O' reflects the swing and the 'spirit' of the Oktoberfest.
“The entire design thus matches the emotional character of the Oktoberfest: it captures the typical Oktoberfest mood in terms of color and visualizes it as if in a kaleidoscope. Thus, a varied and free corporate design has been created, which enables the long-term development of the brand 'Oktoberfest'".
The team even went as far as to create a new font, aptly named "Wiesn", which is “based on a traditional broken Fraktur typeface” but “geared towards internationality and optimum legibility.”
This new logo and visual identity represent the evolution of Oktoberfest — something that has traditional roots but has grown into an international brand. But working to make its logo, font, and visual identity more understandable on an international scale, Oktoberfest will likely increase its brand recognition over the next few years.
2. More Opportunities For Merchandising
To be fair, Oktoberfest has been selling merchandise for decades. Poster, shirts, glass mugs — you could buy it all to commemorate your time at Oktoberfest. But with the logo and visual identity changing over the years, there wasn’t much of a common thread to connect it all and make it recognizably “Oktoberfest”.
That’s where the new logo will really shine. But choosing something simple yet immediately identifiable, the new Oktoberfest logo will allow the event to create (and hopefully sell) more merchandise in the future.
According to Michael Mazanec, the Managing Director and Creative Director at the brand agency RED, the thought process behind the rebrand was as follows:
“As an agency, we asked ourselves the question: Which symbol is the right one that can stand for Oktoberfest. We came to the conclusion that the Oktoberfest is so colorful and multi-layered that no single pictorial sign could do justice to these different facets - be it the beer mug, the heart, or the Ferris wheel.
“Rather, it should be abstract, open to interpretation, and atmospheric. The initial 'O' of the word Oktoberfest meets all these requirements."
This unified visual framework and recognizable new logo will make it possible for Oktoberfest to sell a wide range of merchandise going forward. What might have before looked like a fan-made tote bag to celebrate the event can now be replaced by an official, professional-looking option that’s clearly on-brand — as seen in the below image from the official Oktoberfest website.
3. Attract New Consumer Attention
Oktoberfest attracts millions of people from all over the world every year — but that doesn’t mean it has any plans to plateau. An event like Oktoberfest is always looking for novel ways to attract new customers — and rebranding is a surefire way to get some attention.
Of course, you should never rebrand just for the sake of rebranding — that can definitely backfire. However, that’s not the case here. Oktoberfest clearly put a lot of time and effort into this rebrand, and it shows.
As Benedikt Brandmeier, the head of tourism, events, and hospitality at the Department of Labor and Economic Affairs, explained on Oktoberfest.de:
"The demand we placed on the new branding: of course, it has to be perceived as typically Bavarian, but it also has to combine the tradition of the festival with modernity. And it must be open to interpretation in such a way that it can be understood internationally and works for all target groups. In short: you shouldn't have to explain it, but be able to see it directly: This is the Oktoberfest!"
We can see that the Oktoberfest team had a clear goal when carrying out this rebrand — which allowed them to create a distinctive, recognizable new visual identity that will serve them well for years to come.
While not technically a music festival, Oktoberfest’s journey from a local event to an international brand is similar to the likes of Coachella or Glastonbury. All three evolved from much smaller, individual events to tried and true brands with global recognition.
They understand that, in 2022, to host a successful event like Oktoberfest, it needs to be about more than just serving great beer or playing fantastic music — they need to create a brand and an experience that consumers care about and want to revisit in the future.
Oktoberfest’s 2022 rebrand signals the latest stage in its evolution — polished and traditional, yet open to interpretation at the same time. We’re looking forward to seeing how the brand’s new visual identity is received by consumers in a few weeks' time.