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CASE STUDY: Glenfiddich global identity

UK design agency Purple Creative based in Clerkenwell, London, has just finished creating a new global visual identity for William Grant & Son’s Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whisky.

Purple was involved in every area of the development of the design, including a new iteration of the famous stag icon, along with new colour palettes, bespoke fonts, graphic embellishments and imagery.

The agency has worked with Glenfiddich for over eight years, creating the world’s first virtual distillery tour, the visitor centre in Scotland, multiple launches of single malts (including the Glenfiddich 50 Year Old, 18 Year Old) and the previous visual identity in 2008.

Sarah Macaulay, Glenfiddich global marketing manager, says there were several key objectives for the new identity: “To premiumise Glenfiddich, embedding it into the world of luxury; to ensure a strong global consistency at all consumer touch-points; and to harness the strength of the brand equities of ‘pioneering spirit’ and ‘family run’ to make the brand truly distinctive.”

Gary Westlake, Purple founder and creative director, adds: “The luxury drinks sector has always been image-led, with the competition constantly raising the bar. That’s why we wanted to reappraise and equip Glenfiddich with a brand world for the future. Understanding the brand and its history has allowed us to add real depth and rationale for our creative solutions. It has also helped having a brave client, who is looking to the future, while having a rich and authentic 125 year heritage. My personal highlight was having the chance to perfect the stag icon, one of the most famous brand logos in the world.”

Macaulay explains the objectives: “Because the drinks sector is so image-led, Glenfiddich needed top-class imagery to compete, reflect our brand credentials and achieve premiumisation. Another key objective was to create imagery that will be globally consistent.”

“Glenfiddich had a somewhat inconsistent signature style, having amassed a huge library of imagery over the years, all shot by different teams, in different markets, in different style and with different budgets, and it’s surprising what the life span of an image can be,” says Westlake. “We did an in-depth ‘imagery audit’ and then created a new signature style that would capture their pioneering spirit brand essence, and reflect the new luxury brand both now and in the future.”

“Using the new Glenfiddich colour palette, we created a recognisable, memorable and premium image style that was fit for a modern brand. We created a harmony of copper across all our imagery, which instantly gave consistency, by either using a richer, warmer palette e.g. in a warehouse with the warmth of oak coming through, or a whiter, cleaner and more modern palette, balanced by copper, as you can see from the new bottle beauty images for the Glenfiddich 18 and 26 Year Old variants.” 

The stag first appeared on Glenfiddich bottles in 1968, where it has remained unchanged until 2007, when the current simplified version was created. Macaulay wanted to see the stag icon evolve, strengthen and look more premium.

The stag represents Glenfiddich’s provenance and the pioneering location in the Glen of Fiddich, Gaelic for ‘Valley of the Deer’, where the distillery has stood since 1887. It is also a key emblem of Scotland itself – representing pride and strength.

The designers looked at Glenfiddich’s use of the stag throughout history, the use of stags in the Gordon clan crest, and at the overall symbolism of the stag in art and literature.

The icon was introduced originally by Charles Gordon, Glenfiddich’s Life President, who based it on the 19th century oil painting ‘Monarch of the Glen’ by Sir Edwin Landseer (who also designed the lions of London’s Trafalgar Square and was Queen Victoria’s favourite painter), which is now on permanent display in the National Museum of Scotland.

The stag first appeared as a stylised version on bottles in the US, and proved so popular that a UK version was created. This UK version was based on the Monarch of the Glen painting – a true representation of the original -complete with 12 points on the antlers.

Based on his antler points, the current stag is eight years old, a young male within a herd. Westlake wanted to turn him back into a royal stag – a majestic 12 pointer, which denotes the alpha male, masculinity, power, confidence and maturity.

“We re-drew the stag’s face to make him more anatomically correct – the antlers were too small for his body and the face looked slightly feminine. We also wanted to elevate the icon’s status – to ensure it wasn’t recessive within the overall brand logo.

“We created two versions of the stag icon, one for light and one for dark backgrounds. We strengthened its jaw-line, and gave it a broader nose and raised profile.”

“We then created two bespoke fonts, for future use on all creative communications. One will only be used for headlines (and is clean and modern) while the other has more personality, and will be used for body copy. Both are uniquely ownable – and available to all markets for free.

“Inspired by the Glenfiddich logotype, which has over 50 years of heritage, we crafted a modern interpretation of its fine and sharp serifs and embodied it into a unique Sans Serif font. It is confident, clean, unique, premium and crafted.

“Like William Grant, the founder, this serif typeface is completely individual. Inspired by analysis of his handwriting, it captures and embodies his unique script characteristics and personality traits, like dynamism, imagination, innovation and confidence. We added unique letterforms to make the font more expressive and to bring out the character of the founder more. We also created a large range of ligatures to help add a handwritten script feel.

“We’ve called it Founder’s Script. It is friendly, human, storytelling, timeless, adds vitality and has a unique penmanship quality.”

Macaulay comments: “A tone of voice should express a brand’s personality and set of values in all channels and touch points, whether online, on packaging, in advertising, scripts or through social. Being family run is the unique point of difference for Glenfiddich, and is at the heart of our brand – and we wanted this to be better embodied into the tone of voice.

“The Glenfiddich tone of voice should be distinctive, recognisable and unique. Luxury brands ruthlessly express their personality in every aspect of their brand, including tonally. Up until now, different touch points have told Glenfiddich stories in different ways and in different styles. By writing in one style, what we say can become more engaging, more convincing and more trusted.”

“The new Glenfiddich brand tone of voice is based on William Grant’s key character traits, that of warmth, pride and authenticity, which have been determined through scientific analysis of his handwriting using graphology.”

Colour identity

The key objective was to create global design consistency and to differentiate the brand – so that Glenfiddich can be instantly recognised wherever it is seen, online, in a bar, global travel retail or in a supermarket.

Up until now, Glenfiddich has used individual variant colours, green for the 12 Year Old, red for the 15 Year Old, etc., around the world. But with more and more variants being created  - and with different global markets focusing on different variants - the overall Glenfiddich colour palette was at risk of becoming fragmented and eroded.

Colour is one of the single most identifiable elements that aids brand recognition. Purple Creative therefore wanted to create colours that were authentic, relevant and story-telling, but most of all, differentiated the brand.

“We looked back through 125 years of Glenfiddich’s history, to see which colours William Grant, the founder, and the subsequent five generations of his family, have used most consistently. We also engaged the Glenfiddich archivist, Paul Kendall and trawled through the company archives in huge detail. This included looking at all of the bottle designs, bottle labels, early advertising and distillery signage since 1887. We had the opportunity to be pioneering and move away from category conventions. Most of our competitors use black or white as the colours that best show off their ranges - it’s the conventional ‘language’ of luxury

“We chose a copper colour palette, which we called Pagoda Copper, inspired by the second-hand copper stills that William Grant bought in 1886, when he founded The Glenfiddich Distillery. We were also inspired by the constant care of their on-site coppersmiths, and the copper stag on the distillery’s pagoda roof. Copper is ownable, distinctive and contemporary within the competitive set.

“We also chose secondary colours of New Make White, which adds a fresh and contemporary feel, and Fiddich Stone, inspired by the slate and granite that was used on all of William Grant’s original warehouses.”

Macaulay concludes: “This authentic and evocative colour palette represents Glenfiddich’s luxury credentials, and will play a vital role in shaping consumers’ perception of the brand. It will be a defined brand colour palette, used for all core range communications, whether 12 Year Old or 18 Year Old, that will differentiate Glenfiddich from its competitors.”

5 November 2014 - Felicity Murray The Drinks Report, editor