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Brand design: Youth murders giant

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his latest book, 'David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants', our mistake is to assume this is a story about the weak beating the powerful

Mary Lewis Lewis Moberly

Actually Goliath was the vulnerable one. He was a giant making him likely to be slow, clumsy and perhaps half blind (double vision is a common side-effect of excess human growth hormone). Ancient armies had teams of slingers and like David, they could be deadly at 200 yards. Goliath was a large target!

With consumer thirst for authenticity, craftsmanship and provenance and the appeal of local over global, tiny brands can be surprisingly potent against large, monolithic, global brands. Starting in the States, in itself a vast country, we have seen a huge growth in craft beers. The 2530 craft breweries operating in the US show consumers' interest in beer 'Davids'. 98% of these are microbreweries, brewpubs and regional breweries - the highest total since the 1880s according to the Brewers' Association. Craft beer production bucked the trend growing by nearly 10% in 2013 to capture 7% of the total beer market. Recession has probably played a part - the core consumers of major beer brands are amongst those hardest hit by recession and have changed their purchasing behaviour. If they are going to indulge and have a beer, they want it to be full of flavour and feel they are paying for a carefully crafted product.

This trend now spreads into craft bourbons and other spirits. And back in the UK, London has spawned so many craft gin brands, Hogarth must be turning in his grave!

One way in which these craft brands can outshine the established brands is through design.

Inevitably there is someone with passion, courage and flair behind a crafted product. Design doesn’t do committee, and it doesn't have to appeal to a wide consumer profile in different countries and cross cultures. 'Davids' can zig when ‘Goliaths’ zag. ‘Davids’ don't feel the need to conform to category norms. Their labels can be quirky and unexpected.

Sipsmith, a Hammersmith based distillery producing both gin and vodka in small, hand crafted batches is the first new copper distillery to open in London in almost 200 years. Its website is a repository of the history of London gin, the bottle shape is quite conventional and its label resolutely quirky. The

copper stills Prudence and Patience lend their warm rich colour to the labels and the swan image references the elegant swan neck shape of the stills.

The brand name suggests the product is well worth savouring with 'smith' reminding us of those other craftsmen, the blacksmith and the wordsmith ... Underneath the brand logo is a proud statement and double entendre ' Independent Spirits'. And their claim is truly ‘David’; 'We're small, we're independent and we craft truly artisanal spirits of uncompromising quality.'

‘Davids' can also take unfair advantage to cut through. Responsible marketing of alcohol has given rise to very specific regulations and industry guidelines. These are open to interpretation. Founders Brewing Company, a craft brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan sports a label proclaiming 'All day IPA, Session Ale' surely a name that encourages overconsumption while Dogfish Head Brewery tucked away in Milton, Delaware has a teddy bear character that would be equally at home in a children’s' book.

The next stage in the David versus Goliath battle is already unfolding with Pernod Ricard’s backing for local distilleries, with Our Berlin being first in on the act. And Diageo has a new entrepreneurial fund and an interest in small batch bourbon releases. A space to watch.


24 March 2014