Creepy Ads & Vintage Years

I’ve been delving more into the realm of a product I have little interest in. But to be fair a good designer could market an old shoe, so I guess I should show more optimisim. Look at all the tasty beverages!

Last time I talked a lot about the mysticism around whisky, as a product, and how it feels, from an outsider’s perspective, like a difficult product to approach. Additionally a main problem highlighted in the brief is finding the balance between contemporary and traditional. This is a new whisky brand but a brand like Smokehead (previously featured) has aimed to be so modern it’s lost its national identity and any sense of background story.

Courtesy of Glenrothes Whisky

I took a look at other whiskies, closer to the whisky I’m looking to brand. I looked around the Speyside area and found Glenrothes Whisky, and a subsequent case study on its latest promotional campaign published by Marketing Society Scotland. It continued their long-running theme of vintage, as they introduced the variable vintage year to the single malt market. It’s something that’s been adopted by all current whisky brands. They pushed a campaign asking consumers “What’s your vintage moment?” Overall I feel the campaign could have been handled with a little more finesse, the tagline didn’t need the word vintage and could just ask the consumer what their year was. Ask them to reminice. Yet the last word is something very important to the brand.

Whisky is a special occasions drink. It’s a luxury, upper-class item and is treated with the same respect as fine watches, perfumes and cigars (except for Jack Daniels which is… well, it’s different). Nevertheless, special occasions are all about moments to remember. About celebration. A great tagline might be “something worth celebrating.” The discovery of this new whisky, of new flavours – something worth celebrating. Great events throughout history- something worth celebrating. It’s just an idea.

I then went on to look at the biggest whisky brand in the world – Johnnie Walker. Their advertising runs the full gamot to say the least. Being such a global corporation requires different attitudes and approaches for different locales. But even within these areas the advertising can vary pretty wildly. For instance, over the past few years in the US they released both the Old Spice inspired “The Important Man” ad and shortly before released the surprisingly unsettling “Human” ad. Nevertheless, the ad which best describes their brand is below. The concept of the ad? Get Robert Carlisle to disect the brand completely. Thanks for that one!

Johnnie Walker see themselves as progressive and forward thinking, perfectly embodied by that tagline “Keep Walking.” Yet despite achieving a contemporary aesthetic, and consequently some flexibility in terms of marketing, they haven’t lost that traditional feel. The key? That little man. Johnnie Walker himself. He adds a relatable human element, and the fact his name adorns the bottle sums up the pride and heritage all whisky companies grasp for. And whilst making it look so effortless. Which is bloody annoying.

But effectively they’ve achieved the opposite of what I’m trying. They have made an older brand seem contemporary. My aim is to make a new brand have historic depth. A better example to look to is maybe cider company Bulmers and their last marketing campaign, “In the beginning there was Bulmers.” The creative team felt they were playing with a modern brand and wanted to showcase its 125 year history. They used imagery of the founders with traditional look type but with bright vibrant, modern colours to make them stand out from the competition. This might be a nice element to try and implement into the packaging, as it seems colours are all very sedate in whisky currently.

Courtesy of Bulmers/ Heineken Group

Courtesy of Bulmers/ Heineken Group

But the important thing is they gave their brand a face. Something people could look to. How can we combine this with the typical single-malt whisky love for location? Make the fact they are based there into a story unto itself. Explain why the whisky is made in Speyside, the whisky capital of Scotland. Take the best of whisky and develop it, progress it and produce something amazing – “the new tradition“.

This is another concept I have. Base the story around the founders, around their journey to research the next step in whisky production. It would run almost like the Channel 4 programme Jamie & Jimmy’s Food Fight Club, where the hosts scour the nation searching for the best ingredients and recipes for the featured food. I feel a similar story, if applied to whisky, would be pretty compelling!

The final idea is borne simpyl from the nation’s attitude to whisky. Whisky is the water of life (water of death in my opinion, but that ain’t how the saying goes). If whisky is the water of life then why not focus on the water than goes into it? Mythologise the area from which the whisky is born and set the River Spey up as something spectacular, something almost mystical. It might sound farfetched but the  same approach worked wonderfully for Jura.

Courtesy of Jura Whisky

Each blend is linked either to the people of the island or (more interestingly and Hollywood friendly) it is linked to a local myth. Prophecy is based on a seer, who was banished from the island long ago, and who told the Campbell family the last of their family would leave the island half blind pulling a white steed behind them. In 1938 the last Campbell, half-blinded from the great war, did just that. It’s an amazing little story, however ridiculously out-there it might be! But it’d sell it to a younger audience I feel. On top of this the packaging almost conducts itself like a fashion item. Overall Jura takes tradition and implements it in a very conceptual way, instead of aesthetically. This final idea, linked to the water, and the river, has this same quality.

But I have three concepts I can run with now, and present to Gary tomorrow. If the first works out fine then, hey, feel free to nick them if you like. Before I go slapping copyright logos over all my blog.

Listening to: Angels by The XX

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