Glenfiddich started with an exploration of the limitations of a cold, aesthetic approach to communication. Semiotics showed that the claimed creative impulse was largely absent and that time was being expressed in a too-rigid, too-linear manner. We then explored long-term historical brand equity and delineated connections between Scottish culture, myth and geography, male aspiration, the creative impulse, the intrinsic poetry of the product, and the brand’s signature colour. The stag was explored as a metaphor and internalised as a set of values: time was expressed in cylical form. This analysis was the basis of a new brand DNA. The resulting creative work has put the brand back into double-digit growth
Mum & Me began with an intuition that the dominant player in the baby care market – Johnsons – needed to be challenged. Semiotics found that the brand had represented motherhood in a very rose-tinted way, all pastels pink and blue: this however did not match up to the realities of motherhood. We also found a kind of category denial – baby care did not seem to acknowledge conception, nor even pregnancy. It was as if the stork was delivering baby at day 1: deeper, there was a kind of body denial. This created a schism – brands either played in pregnancy (stretch mark creams etc) or baby (shampoo, lotions etc). There was an opportunity for a new brand to recognise that pregnancy and birth were part of the same story, and to create a language which was a little more frank about the body. By way of an example, if you watch the launch ad you will see a new mum struggling to sit down because her ‘bits’ are sore. Semiotics also found a kind of synthesis of dated pink and blue coding in emergent spaces like mums’ websites, who were opting for a more unisex magenta or purple. The resulting design balances more modern colours with established emotional / sentimental coding and a universal symbol of maternal love, offset to avoid cliche.
Grant’s Whisky is the fourth largest whisky brand in the world with annual sales in excess of 4 million cases. However, at the point we became involved with the brand, it seemed tired and rather unloved.
Relying almost uniquely on the shape of its bottle, and with the campaign message of ‘try a different angle’ Grant’s seemed unsure how it should present itself to the world. So much so that it preferred to show consumers its bottom, rather than project a powerful brand story.
Its premium packaging had evolved peculiarly, from a series of too-masculine expressions to a bottom-heavy decanter-like bottle, recalling an early Gary Larson cartoon in which man evolves from chimp to mighty warrior, then suddenly deflates into a plump functionary waiting at a bus stop.
Like the rest of the category, this blend was indeed bland. Yet this was the opposite of the product truth – there is in fact much greater skill involved in perfecting a blend than in producing a single malt, due to the need to achieve the perfect balance of up to 50 different tastes.
The first piece of work that was carried out was a piece of category semiotics, which explored why blended whiskies behaved as if they were the poor relations of the whisky category, and almost uniformly chose magnolia or ‘cream’ as their signifying colour. The blends all seemed to be relating a kind of ‘received’ idea about Scotland, all tartan and parchment. But ever since devolution and Braveheart, Scotland had been changing quietly around this idea. Could it be that the category was out of step with this changing ‘mentality’ or ‘way of looking’?
In order to re-cast the brand, it was important to explore how and why Grant’s was different to other blended whiskies, and what unique values could be attributed to the brand. Grant’s had also enjoyed a real purple patch in the 1950s and 1960s and it was critical to understand why.
Up to this point, the methodology was a reasonably straightforward cultural history. Digging deeper, however, it became apparent that Grant’s – the brand – had quite literally ‘forgotten who it was’, and that there was a generalized loss of confidence about the brand throughout the organization. This went back a long way, and was due in no small part to the launch of Glenfiddich, the first mass-market single malt.
To get this point across we wrote an extended sketch in which a doctor psycho-analyzed the Grant’s brand. In the sketch, the brand faces up to losing interest in life as he is eclipsed by his younger brother (‘Glen’) and recaptures the spark he had when William Grant was still alive, through to his jet-setting days in the 60’s. The brand team participated and ‘interviewed’ the brand about how it felt at various points in its history.
As well as this we ‘thought with’ an archetype (the self made man) and worked with a symbol capable of carrying brand meaning (the tree). Cultural geography was deployed to create the right language for Speyside (which is a much flatter, more subtle landscape than that of Highland cliché) and to give voice to the quality of what was in the bottle – which previous designs and advertising were not articulating.
The influence of this exercise can be seen in the relaunched brand. Still positioned firmly in the mainstream, Grant’s has restored its sense of pride. The new bottle structures subtly echo the tree: solidly rooted but reaching upwards. The brand honours tradition, but there are modern touches in the colours and the bottle shapes. The new design has been a massive international success. Though William Grant himself has been removed from the front label, the brand is now truer to his values. In its new advertising the brand presents its face (not its rear end) to the world, enjoys the luxury of unused space, and invites you to ‘discover a richer whisky experience’.