Clachan a Choin

Clachan a choin - image for article by Greg Alder

I will start by telling you what Clachan a Choin means. The dog’s bollocks. It’s Gaelic.

Now that you know that the post’s title means dog’s bollocks, you might be expecting an article on bravery. Or anarchy. And in a way, it is both.

This is a post about branding. Bravery & anarchy in branding.

So back to the dog’s bollocks. The phrase is the motto of a whisky distillery on Islay. Bruichladdich (pronounced Brewickladdie) was established in 1881. That doesn’t it make it old by distillery standards, but it’s no startup.

It is built on the rocky foreshore, like most of the island’s distilleries. Its buildings are the same low-slung whitewashed style common amongst the island’s distilleries.

In many ways the distillery design and production processes are quite traditional.

So it looks like other distilleries. It produces whisky in much the same way as other distilleries. But the choice of Clachan a Coin as the distillery’s motto gives us a clue that there’s a bit of a renegade spirit at Bruichladdie.

Where other distilleries might have selected a Latin phrase as their motto, Bruichladdie chose Gaelic. Where other distilleries might have chosen a cliché like Quality with Passion or The Heart of the Sea or The Pride of Islay as their motto, Bruichladdie chose The Dog’s Bollocks.

Is that the only evidence of Bruichladdie’s rebellious streak? No.

Scottish whisky packaging is rich with stories of colourful histories, purity of ingredients, unique and rugged locations, Celtic symbolism and mythical monsters.

Bruichladdie’s packaging celebrates cellar hands, distillery workers, crofters and coopers.

Scottish whisky packaging is dominated by earthy tones, blacks, moss greens and greys. Muted, classic colour palettes.

Bruichladdie’s corporate colour is aquamarine.

Whisky bottles are generally clear or green or brown to show off the whisky inside.

Bruichladdie has some clear bottles. But they also have opaque aquamarine bottles. Others in their range are matt black.

Scottish whiskies generally use classic serif typefaces to give a sense of heritage.

Bruichladdie’s typeface is DIN 1451 Mittelschrift. This is a functional sans-serif typeface created by the Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization) in 1931. It was designed for street signs and car number plates.

Whiskies are generally named after their place of origin, a local legend or defining character.

Bruichladdie’s whiskies bear names such as PC7, X4 and Octomore 6.1.

When creating a brand, there are elements to be considered and decisions to be made that few brand owners consider or make.

Do you follow tradition? Do you adopt the industry standard design cues? Or do you shun them?

Do you write in the hushed reverential language that is the norm for your sector? Or do you say ‘dog’s bollocks’ to that?

It’s clear which route Bruichladdie has taken. In doing so, they have set themselves apart. Even if their product were identical to their competitors’ whiskies, their personality, language, colour, typeface and packaging are distinctive.

Another whisky distillery, BenRiach, uses humour as part of its brand. Its whiskies are named Arumaticus Fumosus, Importanticus Fumosus and Authenticus.

The most important thing is that your core product or service is good, the price is right and the distribution model is right. Too many business owners stop there.

When these core attributes are similar (and they often are), people choose the brand they like.

The things that make a brand likable, identifiable and memorable can be its tone of voice, personality and history.

We can be influenced by a brand’s sound (MGM’s lion, NYSE’s bell).

We can be influenced by a brand’s colour (Tiffany, Cadbury).

We can be influenced by a brand’s typeface (Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s).

We can be influenced by a brand’s aroma (Chanel No.5, Subway).

We can be influenced by texture, packaging material, embossing and dozens of other elements, even including the owner’s reputation or personality.

These are things so often forgotten when people set about to turn an idea into a brand with market value.

Brands deserve time and care. There’s a strong and direct correlation between brand reputation and company value.

When building your brand, the easy way is the wrong way. The easy way is to mimic established brands and copy the stylistic cues expected in your business sector. You end up with a karaoke brand.

It takes dog’s bollocks to break with tradition. Do you have the clachan?

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