What to do when ‘brand’ is stripped away? When traditional brand elements are removed what do we rely on to make decisions?

On a recent visit to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society we were given a rare experience in having our brand loyalties challenged. The society has a cute little members club in Greville Street EC1 and it’s here we spent an evening falling in love with this fantastic brand. All the malt whiskies the society sells are casks from distilleries so they do not mention the name or show any other brand elements from the distillery of origin.

So to whisky lovers, your usual Lagavulins or Spingbanks and Dalwhinnies are all hidden and masked behind some of the society extremely neat and clever branding. On arrival you are faced with, what seems at first like, rows of exactly the same bottle design. But on closer inspection there are very well designed subtle differences.

Each bottle has rich heritage in the society’s logo from the original Vaults in Leith, with emphasis in the logo design to the iconic bottle in the middle as a nod to the history of the building as a warehouse – nice touch of hidden graphic design! The bottle is a kind of code you have to break down including cask number, bottling, flavour notes and age.

Now, for the truly exceptional malt whisky aficionados who can tell the brand by a sniff at a thousand yards the challenge is small, however, to the rest of us this is a rich and exciting experience. The code gives you clues to where the malt whisky comes from but in reality the challenge of brand loyalty is whether you truly like one enough to leave the society at the end of the evening with a bottle in your bag.

The history and loyalty to malt whisky you have grown to love over the years, the brand associations with the names, labels, logos and bottle designs are each removed. It’s all down to nose and taste – you are simply experiencing the naked product and it’s down to a more limited brand sensory experience. One could say the less tried and tested brand senses, taste and smell, the ones that often get left out on ‘branding’ exercises.

We loved the whole experience and believe this is a great example of a different brand angle. In a world of brand competitors and challengers here lies a little secret to success: Explore and exploit all the brand senses when creating your brand experience.

PS thanks to our good friend Mark Spencer for the invitation 🙂

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Photos thanks to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society