Why I’ll Hate Whisky

Today we finally got our other brief, a branding brief set by Glasgow and London based agency Good Creative. We got a talk from one of the founders, Keith Forbes. He was a fantastic speaker, so it was fantastic to have him come and talk to us about their procedure to projects, Effectively he set about showing us a rebrand they had done for Scottish whisky company Glengoyne.

Jan 24th - Glengyone

Their approach looked at the advantages the brand already had, mainly that the process of production was so much slower than their competitors. They ran with the arresting tagline – “Glengoyne. Worth the wait.” They also played on the localised nature of whisky production, looking at the area’s wildlife and using the goose as a consistent analogy throughout the brand.

Overall our brief is to invent a whisky brand from scratch. As far as I’m aware this, by the look of the brief, is a new whisky. So unlike Glengoyne, Glenrothes or even industry leaders Glenfiddich it can’t play on heritage, a common staple of whisky branding. Giving the brand a story is a common staple in the market, it authenticates the whisky, a verifies it to the whisky drinker.

However recently whiskies producers have tried to go against this. Thanks to economic downturn and a recent dip in the whisky market many distilleries looked to alternative audiences to stay stable amongst economic turmoil. The industry has stabilised since, but these alternative routes taken by many companies has nevertheless proven fruitful. After all, what isn’t good about introducing more potential consumers into your market. For example, Design Council published an article  on how Ian McLeod Distillers tried to introduce the younger generation to their market Looking at whisky festivals they saw younger visitors be more attracted to strong peaty whiskies and so took an Islay Single Malt, branding it Smokehead.

Courtesy of Navyblue and Ian Macleod Distilleries

Courtesy of Navyblue and Ian Macleod Distilleries

They ditched the classic roundel based designs of other whiskies to stand out on bar shelves. In an attempt to still link it in with tradition, however, they used old woodblock letter typography and used a copper foil block on the label to represent the rings on the barrels. However the bottle does make it look very much like an American “whisky”, like Jack Daniel’s. This is a particular disadvantage on the international market, where people buy Scottish whisky for the same reason they buy French wine or Belgian chocolate. On the international market whisky is a status symbol, having luxurious Scottish single malt is like driving a sports car. It’s sexy, effectively. Not quite the same story over here of course…

So this whisky is very much aimed locally. The drinks market is a rapidly evolving one, best proven by cider company Kopparberg.

Courtesy of Kopparberg

Courtesy of Kopparberg

The cider market was one which was in decline until flavoured ciders turned the whole market around. It made the market more accessible, particularly to a younger demographic. The addition of more relatable flavours took away the image of cider being an old man’s drink, and the whisky market, in some areas is starting to take a similar approach.

Business Week, back in 2005, published an article focused on Mark & Robbo’s Easy Drinking Whisky. They distilled in very unusual ways, using casks used for other liquids like Cognac to give unusual flavours to their whiskies. In this way more recognisable flavours entered the mix, like vanilla and strawberry, having a similar effect to Kopparberg’s easing of the conservative image of the market.

Courtesy of Easy Drink Whisky

Courtesy of Easy Drink Whisky

The packaging leaves a lot to be desired. The parent brand of “Mark and Robbo” gives an image of two rather shifty locals with a distillery in their back garden brewing unfathomable concoctions. Yet product titling like ‘The Rich Spicy One’ removes any elitism originally found in the whisky market. From the perspective of a non-whisky drinker it feels like a very hard area to approach. Either you know a lot about whisky or your lost in the technicalities and the subtle flavours go straight over your head. Therefor the aim to dispell any mysticism from such a market and kill that elitist feel is on a few people’s minds.

Last November DesignWeek posted an article on The Whisky Shop launching its flagship store.

Courtesy of GP Studio and The Whisky Shop

Courtesy of GP Studio and The Whisky Shop

They wanted a physical space that wasn’t daunting to enter. The initial sketches almost make me think it’s a got a wonderous sweet shop feel to it. Almost like the Willy Wonka of whisky. Maybe don’t take it too literally otherwise I’ll end up with a whisky directed at children, but adding some excitement and wonder at the process of distilling whisky could just add to the pride most whisky producers have for their product. Indeed, most have been in the industry for an incredibly long time and are incredibly enthused by their work. That’s something that could be a core value to the brand. But core values is something I’ll discuss later. In the meantime I’m off for a good ol’ dram!

Listening to: Treefingers by Radiohead



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