Branding, From The Inside Out

I’ve been looking into my whisky brand again. I’ve been pretty stumped in terms of how to name the entire thing and even more importantly sum up the brand values, what this brand really means and what beliefs it should rule by. The name should come organically from the beliefs and central themes of the company. In fact that’s the way that the brand should work, the core beliefs or ‘brand values’ should generate the smaller details, the meaning should flow outward, from the core of the brand to its products and its advertising and service. If you work from the product, advertising and service in the way they tend to drift apart from one another, develop independently and tug the brand values in such differing directions that it breaks.

In this way the core values of a brand should be the root of this whisky. I was revisiting the fantastic talk by Simon Sinek, where he explains what motivates people to do things. He explains the secret to how Apple conduct themselves, and why The Wright Brothers were the first men to fly, despite the odds.

So why have I been thinking of primarily names for this product? Why have I been thinking of bottle shapes and advertising campaigns? Or even of aims in terms of marketing? Start with the core values and ask why. Why should people believe in this product? They should not be convinced to buy this brand – they should be motivated. It isn’t a logical argument, not entirely.

Additionally this solves the main issue with why so many people are lost with whisky. They lose themselves in the ‘what’ of whisky, the flavours, the locales, the back-stories, the bottle shapes, the culture, and are left by the wayside. I needed to ask questions and find core ideas that were universal, that would leave almost nobody alienated. So getting to the core product itself I asked three valuable questions to help me treat the product I already had.

Why do people drink whisky? To celebrate, because it is a special occasion.

Why do people celebrate? Because they have achieved something, because they are successful in some way and feel they need to commemorate that.

Why are people drinking this whisky? Because they earned it.

Couple this with asking why I got a gut feeling about this particular location for my brand. It spoke to my why sense, to my emotions, but how can I translate that into a brand. It felt dramatic, but it felt amazing. Building a castle and building the island it sits on is an achievement. It’s something remarkable, and something worth celebrating in and of itself. I can still keep the idea of hands, as it’s what makes the backstory so impressive, but keep the core theme of celebration, more importantly.

Courtesy of

I felt it was best to stick to this idea of achievement, keeping it in mind and trying, from this central theme, to grow a name for the product itself. I have a few Gaelic words that could be applied nicely:

clàr curaidh. [‘clar-kuree’] best achievement

buaidh. success, victory

coilean. accomplish, achieve

buadhmhor. successful, triumphant

This all ties in nicely with the backstory, of a castle built on a man-made island. If that isn’t an achievement I’m not sure what is. People won’t buy this whisky for the flavours. They won’t buy it for it’s cool backstory. They buy it to celebrate. To share and relax with others. This is the real thing we’re selling – that almost intangible ‘experience’ us advertising folk are only just cottoning onto.

I revisited the few hundred words I wrote the other day and approached it from the reverse direction. Instead of looking at the backstory, the location and the flavours (the product) and building the brand from it I looked at why people buy whisky (the core values) and worked my way out. Assuming I went with the name Bhuadhmhor, here’s my new long brand synopsis. 179 words, so a bit over half the limit.

Buadhmhor is Gaelic for triumph. We named our whisky for what it stands for. For why we made it. Centuries ago our people built nearby Lochindorb Castle. They also built the island it sits on. And if that’s not an achievement worth celebrating then we don’t know what is. Buadhmhor is how we celebrate.

Lochindorb is derived from the Gaelic for difficult, yet the castle stands as a defiance of that name, to this day. Despite that our people’s proudest achievement isn’t the castle – it’s what we made after that’s the real achievement. Now we hand this, a whisky we’ve celebrated many a golden age with, on to you. With a flavour smooth and fruity enough for newcomers yet rich and complex enough that it’s been our drink of choice since the start of our story. From us to you, this is our biggest achievement. We got our hands dirty so you could put yours together with applause. We got our hands dirty so you could raise them, glass in hand, and find something of your own worth celebrating.

Courtesy of Dan Anderson []

Courtesy of Dan Anderson []

I then looked to shorten this below the 30 word limit. A lot of clipping and trimming later I got this:

Buadhmhor is Gaelic for success. Making it is our real success. Celebrating this success is why we drink it.

18 words. I was thinking of posing more of a question to the audience, though I haven’t thought of an elegant way to phrase it. I wanted to say ‘so find something worth celebrating’, but that feels snooty, looking down on the customer as lesser by not having something already to celebrate. I thought maybe something like finishing with ‘celebrating itself is why you drink it.’ But then I guess I don’t need to point directly to the customer, or confront them. If they believe in the motivations of the company they won’t need to be prompted or confronted by the marketing. And finally – my three words?

Buadhmhor – something worth celebrating.

I dunno if it’s there yet. I think it’s a bit generic. It’s not exactly clever, or sexy. But the core themes are there. I’ll see what I can do with a break from the project. Nevertheless, I’ve made some solid progress here. I feel like over the course of this project I’ve realised a lot about how to approach a brand. Hopefully I’ll keep it in mind.

Listening to: Ceilings by Local Natives


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