The Brand Catwalk – Hendrick’s

Hendrick's bottle  290107.JPG
Hendrick’s Gin in its signature apothecaries bottle.

Hurtling down the Brand Catwalk this week is that small but perfectly formed premium gin, Hendrick’s and its one-brand assualt on, what Malcolm Gluck famously called, the Daily Telegraph Obituaries column image of gin and gin drinkers.

So heres what we know.
Gin is big but its not exactly the flavour of the moment. Sources disagree as to whether gin is in absolute decline or holding its own. But lets face facts, in the growth stakes vodka is kicking seven types of shit out of gin.
Undaunted, decade after decade the big boys of the Gin world try to revitalise the drink’s image, in the blind hope that one more throw of the creative dice will see gin back on the path to growth. After all gin is a white spirit which is precisely what younger consumers want to drink.
Then along comes Hendrick’s (admittedly in the company of one or two other premium gins like Tanqueray Ten) and shows them how to do it properly.
Start with the distilling expertise and heritage of William Grant (one of the few family owned independent distillers in Scotland) and wonderfully pure Scottish water. This will ensure that the resulting product has bags of prized authenticity, important to any successful brand and essential to spirits.
And then turn everything else you belive to be right and proper about gin on its head.
Don’t bother joining the whittering match about juniper berries (every Tom, Dick and Gordon has those) but bung in cucumber and rose petals. Bonkers ingredients they may be but they are also highly evocative of English summer afternoons spent reading slim volumes of poetry and playing croquet in the grounds of your uncle’s drafty country pile. This will reinforce refreshment cues and give you a distinctive way to serve the drink – over ice with tonic and slice of cucumber rather than lemon.
Stop brushing the ‘mother’s ruin’ heritage under the shag pile but embrace it with the ferocity of a dog on heat. Wallow in the debauched world of 18th century London whose 17,000 gin houses were rapidly sending the capital to the dogs. In particular design your bottle to look like something straight out of Hogarth’s Gin Lane. This will give you stand out on the back bar, curiosity value and a way in to a wonderfully rich visual language.
Wrap this counter category approach up in a personality that revels in the unusualness of the product – maybe publishing your own newspaper, holding an annual Chap Olympiad, encouraging bartenders to play croquet or providing rushed commuters with momentary relief.
And your away to the races.
Well this is exactly what William Grant have done with their Hendrick’s gin brand abetted by Gyro, their Philadelphia based creative agency, and Propeller their digital agency.
Hendrick’s distinctive visual language
It is almost a faultless case study in the way to create and launch a brand these days.
Authenticity is king (not delivered by longevity but expertise) and product performance is absolutely paramount. But then the brand idea (the idea behind the brand) comes into play, guiding and driving evey facet of the brand from packaging to sampling and the online presence to sampling.
Hendrick’s is now in its seventh year having launched in the US in 2000 and the UK in 2003. It is also in distribution in 21 other countries.
And it is succesful, hugely successful, delivering growth rates (65% year on year) that make even vodka look sluggish.
Sure this brand is never going challenge Gordons but that is not the point. It provides William Grant with a potent white spirits brand and delivers up a small but fanatical and fanatically engaged audience prepared to pay for a better drink and a better idea.
Anyone joining me at the Chap Olympiad?

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8 Replies to “The Brand Catwalk – Hendrick’s”

  1. I met the marketing director a few months ago.
    Yes the business stats/success look great.
    Not sure authenticity is the right word. It’s very mockney/dick van dyke/tourists in covent garden or baker street friendly. I saw him demonstrate one of their steam powered cocktail shakers. They also do fake writing quills with biros inside.
    A great fun little brand though.
    Let me try to track him down anyway. We need more clients on here, now you are in the brand advice business :J

  2. This analysis is spot on.
    When I think of gin I IMMEDIATELY think of mother’s ruin (kudos to Richard for his customer insight). What this campaign needs to play on is what happens BEFORE the ruin, ie the PLEASURE.
    I would suggest pictures of young mothers (the younger the better) surreptitiously swigging gin behind hankies while pushing prams; having a wee nip while waiting in the car (not an SUV) outside the school gates etc.
    Focus on pleasure; detract from ruin = great planning.
    Richard – I also answered your query about the history of the internet and put together some key insights concerning the future of the medium:

  3. MMM you’re a bit out of date on your gin facts and figures. Recent stats show that whilst the domestic standard segment (Tescos Finest for example) is either static or in gentle decline the premium brands (Beefeater, Tanqueray for example) grew 8% in 2006 whilst the super premium category (Hendricks, Tanqueray 10 for example) grew an astonishing 26%. It’s all happening for gin right now.

  4. I though that I was the last gin drinker in the land – clearly not! I shall certainly look for the brand at the ‘dutyfree’ at Heathrow tomorrow morning in order to keep the Australian relos supplied
    Francis H

  5. I haven’t tried gin in ages. But this is something that I’d like to try, just for the hell of it. Oliver Reid springs to mind when I see this: serious pleasure/debauchery. Why not?

  6. Classic case of great brand but poor product. It tastes weak and nsipid compared to lovely Plymouth or proper Export (40plus-strength) Gordons.
    I briefly worked in a Planning and Strategy Agency where there was intense pressure and snobbery to like this gin. I, having strong opinions on gin, said I was disappointed and didn’t like was immediately labelled as someone who was not in the elite minority who could appreciate it. That is their genius positioning and hats off to Hendricks for carrying it off.

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