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Conveying Scottishness without the clichés

How do you convey the spirit of Scotland without resorting to tartan and thistles? How do you convey the authenticity of a three centuries old brand while also appealing to a new, younger audience?

These were the challenges the Belhaven brewery presented to agency Ziggurat Brands for the rebranding of its craft beer range,  launched January 1st.

“Belhaven is a proudly Scottish brewery,” says Gordon Muir, marketing manager at Belhaven. “In fact, we are Scotland’s oldest brewery. We needed our rebrand to reflect this. Yet the rise of craft beer is an opportunity for breweries like us – who have been in business since 1719 – to reach a new, younger drinker. So, it was essential that this brand had a contemporary feel, and avoided the easy clichés of Scottishness.”

For a Clerkenwell-based branding and design agency to capture the essence of this gritty, proud brand from Dunbar on the salt-sprayed, wind-whipped East Coast of Scotland was never going to be straightforward. ”It’s a long way from our studio in central London,” admits Dan Kimmins, design director at Ziggurat. “We had to listen carefully to our client and try to think from a fresh perspective.”

The key insight was to introduce the brewery’s iconic maltings chimneys into the label design. “That was the touch of genius that sparked the process to life,” says Muir. “It creates a distinctive, crest-shaped image that we can use across the range. Not everyone will know the story behind this, but it invites drinkers to read more about the heritage of the brewery on the label, building a story and mythology around it which is still proudly Belhaven.”

The names of the beers such as Twisted Thistle, play to the Scottish no-nonsense, caustic sense of humour and this is accentuated by the hand-drawn illustrations, the three-word descriptions of flavour on each bottle, and the vivid colours used to distinguish each variant.

“The overall sense is of something hardy, something robust, something typically Scottish,” says Kimmins. Finally, the saltire on the neck label confirms the pride the brewery feels in its heritage.

This is a brand which works not only on label but across the full range of point of sale materials from pump clips to beer mats and towels, and even T-shirts.

The new brand initially encompasses five beers, but there are plans to extend the range further.

10 January 2014 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor