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Presenting the softer side of the Highlands

We talk to Jennifer Masson, marketing manager at Tomatin Distillery, about the development of the new core range packaging design for Tomatin whisky, which is to be rolled out worldwide in March 2016

Jennifer Masson Tomatin Distillery

The Tomatin Distillery has rebranded its core range of single malt whiskies, which includes a variety of different ages and wood styles. Following the development of a brand repositioning last year – ‘The softer side of the Highlands’ – Stirling-based Pocket Rocket Creative was appointed to design the new look and feel for the Tomatin brand, which is now being rolled out across all packaging.

What inspired the rebrand project?

"While our packaging changed a relatively short time ago in 2008, the brand has come a long way since then in terms of global growth and the resounding feedback from our customers was that the packaging didn't reflect the high quality of the whisky we were producing.

"We completed a brand positioning project in 2014 which identified and placed Tomatin as the 'softer side of the Highlands', based on in depth research with staff which highlighted the uncharacteristically soft style of our Highland whisky and also of the company itself; we pride ourselves on our transparent and relaxed style of working. This repositioning also showed how our cool, rigid branding was not accurately representing the true values of the brand."

What was the brief?

"The brief was to evolve our existing brand identity and apply the 'softer' repositioning to our entire range of Tomatin, from entry level to super premium. Just a wee bit of work then! We also briefed that while we wanted to premiumise the image of the brand, we didn't want to alienate our existing and loyal customer base by creating something so much more upmarket and we certainly didn't want to have to increase our end customer prices in order to pay for fancy packaging.

"We invited a few agencies to pitch for the project, and while all of them presented interesting and on-brief concepts, we ultimately decided to appoint Pocket Rocket Creative because of the shape of the bottle they had presented. Unusually, from concept to delivery the bottle has changed very little during this project."

Can you explain the rationale behind the chosen final look and feel?

"The final design is applied across three product levels of packaging; up to 19 years old, between 19 and 39 years old and over 40 years old. We use different materials ranging from carton to solid oak for the outer packaging at each level but importantly the brand feel is consistently maintained throughout.

"The colour palate used is far more natural and earthy in comparison to our existing packaging, and while darker than we originally intended, projects the premium quality image we were looking to achieve. Small bursts of colour give a modern appeal while the gold foil is warm and classic.

"The location of the distillery had been a key influence in the overall design. The smooth Monadhliath mountains have been moulded into the bottle shape and the mountains also form a scene when all the core range cartons are placed side by side.

"We also took the 'Hogs Head' from the crest in our original logo, and had it redrawn to modernise it and to allow us to use it as a brand stimulus. The crest is also built into the bottle mould on the back of the bottle.

"Finally, on all our packaging (including our bottle) we have included the tagline "The Softer Side of the Highlands". We are fully committed to this statement and it forms the heart of everything we do."

How has the rebrand been received

"We have been overwhelmed by the response we have had since we announced the rebrand in December. Our export customers, our fans and indeed our staff have all been extremely positive and can't wait to see the packs on the shelves. In December, we trialled the new design pack in Sweden with our 12 year old which was a 'new product' as it hadn't previously been listed. In just one month the first shipment (expected to last 3 months) has completely sold out. As a global brand it is of course difficult to produce an image which is appreciated in all corners of the world, but with the right research behind us we are confident we have been able to achieve this."

What’s next for Tomatin

"In support of our rebrand, we have been working with Genoa Black on a campaign called Tomatin Life. Focusing on the lives of those who work at Tomatin, the campaign has been raising the profile of the brand ahead of the rebrand launch. We hope to continue this raised profile throughout 2016 and beyond in line with expected brand growth as a result of the rebrand. Tomatin is a fantastic brand which until now has been in many ways undervalued. The forthcoming year will be very exciting and the brand's future is definitely bright!"

  • Jennifer Masson, along with Gary Dawson from Pocket Rocket Creative, will be talking about the redesign at the Drinks Symposium presented by at the Packaging Innovations exhibition (Birmingham NEC, February 25, 2016).


25 January 2016