Magazine article Marketing

Whisky Galore

Magazine article Marketing

Whisky Galore

Article excerpt

WHISKY GALORE

Distillers have designs on thier malts in a marketplace where packaging gives the brand its exclusivity, One of the best holidays I ever spent was up in the Kyle of Lokalsh, working my way through the 200 or so malt whiskies the hotel had behind the bar at the rate of seven a night. Some ten years on, I find I am in good company. Single malts are enjoying unprecedented growth in terms of brand development, investment and consumption.

Historically it has been a most profitable market sector, but badly fragmented with just a few brands commanding a sizeable following. Then came the threat of own label and more competitive pricing policies. The distillers met the challenge by repackaging existing brands and launching new ones.

Out went quaintly shaped bottles, and in came packaging that said "keep out" rather than "come buy me". For the strange thing about this market is that those who buy malts like to be thought of as cognoscenti. They don't want to be marketed to aggressively

This year it's not just the Scots who are launching new brands, the Welsh and even the Manx have got in on the act. From the Glen Kella Distillers in Sulby on the Isle of Man comes its Rare White Whisky, retailing at 16.29 [pounds]. It's a new departure for Glen Kella, which has in the past concentrated on other drinks including a gin and a blended scotch referred to as a "mixer".

The white malt has a stylish pedigree. The distillery is owned by the Norman Hartnell fashion house, and the packaging and labelling has been designed in-house. It is simple in concept, a round bottle with a label depicting the spring that supplies the water, and the building where it is distilled. The carton is plain white, with dark blue graphics displaying the distillery and the Isle of Mans three-legged emblem.

"Most of it will go to Japan, through Norman Hartnell outlets," says Christopher Cowley, general manager and a director of Glen Kella. The design is classical, he says, "because we have got something totally different in terms of product, It is enough on its own." The brand will be targeted at young professionals.

It is this section of the market that is currently attracting the most attention. The moral seems to be, catch them young and you've got them for life. This makes sense when it applies to the bigger distilleries, but maybe not for the smaller ones. For a company like Allied Distillers can produce a raft of brands for the malt drinkers to work their way through, but a smaller one like Glen Kella will only get one bite at the cherry.

Take The Tormore, for instance. The Tormore Glenlivet had been around for some 30 years, until its owners, James Burrough Distillers, decided to revitalise it; relaunching the brand in Cannes in October 1989. The new--look Tormore was in stark contrast to the old. Gone was the multi-faceted bottle of old, which many said reminded them of a perfume container, and in, came a classic round bottle and a white and pastel label.

It is, according to the company, a learner's brand which will be targeted at student doctors and lawyers, at young professionals, like the white malt. Its profile is destined to be trendy without being yuppy, and the packaging -- by Design Bridge -- recalls the malt's origins.

There was only one problem, at the time of the relaunch. It was viewed in some quarters as giving the brand female appeal. This could have been in the minds of the previous owners, but Allied disagreed with such targeting. With malts it appears that while women will drink malts targeted at men, men will reject one aimed at women. …

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