Imagination at the Core of Branding
Having worked with Bombay Sapphire for a number of years on a variety of product innovations, strategic brand design agency Webb deVlam was ready for the company’s next business challenge. While Webb deVlam’s previous work with the gin brand had included hallmark branding and the luminescent Electro pack, this time the Bacardi team representing Bombay Sapphire came bearing an exciting new opportunity for the agency.
The brand was in the process of unveiling a newly redesigned and restored Bombay Sapphire distillery at Laverstoke Mill in Hampshire, England and opening the location to the public. To coincide with this historic moment for both Bombay Sapphire and Laverstoke Mill, Webb deVlam was asked to create a unique experience that could tie together elements of the mill but retain the heritage of the classic Bombay Sapphire brand. The deliverable would be a premium limited-edition bottle and gift pack that would be sold only to visitors of Laverstoke Mill when it opened its doors to the public on October 1.
The strategic design exploration helped uncover a big idea that worked to leverage all of Bombay Sapphire’s equities. This idea formed the foundation for an engaging consumer experience that not only extended beyond the initial project scope but also moved into the rest of Bombay Sapphire’s product line, supporting even the marketing and promotion efforts around the opening of Laverstoke Mill.
IMAGINATION AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING
Dominic Burke, creative director at Webb deVlam, knew from his prior experience with the brand that imagination was the core trait of Bombay Sapphire.
“The real challenge for this project was finding a way to capture all of the deeply rich narrative of Laverstoke Mill and Bombay Sapphire’s genuine heritage story and then convey it in an alluring way that demonstrates how they are entwined,” says Burke.
“Shaping the core creative thought of ‘imagine what you can discover’ allowed us to make a connection to the journey that visitors will experience. It also brings to life this idea through intriguing packaging that compels people to delve into the legacy and ingenuity of the past, yet executed in a contemporary and relevant expression,” says Burke.
Unique to Bombay Sapphire is its rich history, with the original gin recipe dating back to 1761. Then, there are the special traits of the gin production itself: the hand-selected botanicals, the distinctive vapor infusion processes and the dedicated craftsmanship in creating the product. These elements became the starting point for Webb deVlam’s design palette to retain and elevate the brand’s luxury sensibility.
Layered on top of this was the heritage of Laverstoke Mill, which dates as far back to 1086, in the Doomsday Book. Located in the deep countryside of Hampshire alongside the River Test, Laverstoke Mill at one point in time manufactured bank notes for the British Empire all the way up until the latter part of the 20th century, when the door opened up for a skillful restoration by Bombay Sapphire to incorporate the mill into the brand’s legacy.
FINDING THE KEY TO A MEANINGFUL BRAND CONNECTION
What could capture the essence of the distillery more than an actual visit to Laverstoke Mill? That’s exactly what Webb deVlam’s London team did upon the project kickoff in April 2012 to align with Bombay Sapphire’s brand team. This onsite collaboration helped bring to life the heritage of the mill and the future vision designed by London architectural firm, Heatherwick Studio.
The focal points for visitors are the beautiful glasshouses, which serve as the centerpiece of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery. These two intertwining glass structures house the botanicals used as part of the Bombay Sapphire gin itself. One glasshouse contains the tropical botanicals, and the second house holds the Mediterranean botanicals. Heatherwick Studio’s mission was to make the distillery space representative of this imaginative state, allowing visitors to walk freely and embrace the brand’s philosophy of discovery.
After this visit and numerous interviews with key stakeholders, Webb deVlam’s insight and strategy team uncovered a difference of vision within Bombay Sapphire’s marketing team. There were divergent opinions about what the Bombay Sapphire Distillery could and should stand for. Webb deVlam’s team facilitated multiple workshops to align both internal and external teams around one vision based on carefully crafted positioning statements and early loose sketches blended with vision boards created by the agency’s design team.
STRATEGIC EXECUTION VIA VISUAL LANGUAGE
From there, Webb deVlam’s teams synthesized their research into several design platforms, keeping in mind that each had to tap into a person’s imagination in a way that felt true to the Bombay Sapphire brand, without becoming too fantastical or contrived.
As the design team began to bring possibilities to light, a big idea emerged about using an illustration to thematically pull all the disparate elements together in a clever, exciting and mysterious way. Webb deVlam felt strongly that the metaphor in the illustration should create an inviting and compelling moment for a person to explore the brand. The agency commissioned illustrator Si Scott, who has worked with brands such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, Matthew Williamson, Tiffany & Co. and Vogue, to create a hand-drawn illustration that would provide a more personal and imaginative embodiment of some of the brand’s iconography and history. It would also serve as the anchor point to weave that brand legacy into the story of Laverstoke Mill and pull the experience of visiting the mill through to the limited-edition bottle and pack.
The team at Webb deVlam believed that the illustration should capture the simplicity and beauty of Laverstoke Mill’s architecture, and specifically the distillery’s glasshouses.
“We are excited to see our agency partners embrace the spirit of the Laverstoke Mill and use it as inspiration to create imaginative assets that bring the brand’s home to life,” says Bombay Sapphire’s Global Marketing Executive Sarah Lyons.
LIMITED-EDITION PREMIUM BOTTLE AND PACKAGING
The first expression of this new visual language, including the illustration, was seen in the designs for the new limited-edition bottle and stopper, enclosed in its own bespoke gift pack.
The limited-edition bottle structure echoes the footprint and many other elements of Bombay Sapphire’s primary bottle. However, the new bottle is taller and slimmer, reinforcing the product’s premium and refined nature. The shoulder detailing of the bottle takes inspiration from the distillery’s glasshouses, creating beautiful light refractions in the faceted glass.
The stopper shape also echoes the shape of the glasshouse structure and blends into the faceted shoulders of the bottle, while the metal details are an exact color match to the metal trimming featured on the glasshouses. In addition, the metal band references the bank note production history of Laverstoke Mill, with intricate bank note-style detailing printed on it.
Similar to the primary bottle, the botanicals are featured on either side of the metal band and are tactile varnished to give them a raised profile. The illustration is 360-degree etched around the back and sides of the bottle, so when you look through the front, beyond the visage of Queen Victoria, you can see the glasshouses. Finally, the glasshouses are referenced one more time on the punt, creating an interesting feature at the bottom of the bottle to once again surprise and delight the consumer when discovered.
To proudly hold the beautiful bottle, the limited-edition gift pack echoes the design cues seen on the brand’s 250th Limited Edition bottle gift pack, so that when displayed together, they retain a family feel. These uniform elements include the distillery logo in gold foil and dark blue gift box coloring with soft-touch finish. Additionally, a UV spot varnish on the front of the pack picks up light refractions that highlight subtle details, providing an eye-catching and curiosity-piquing feature.
“The Laverstoke Mill limited-edition bottle that Webb deVlam designed is sure to evoke the same tradition, quality, craftsmanship and imagination infused within Bombay Sapphire gin, and we eagerly anticipate unveiling it to consumers globally,” says Lyons.
VALUE-ADD PACKAGING FOR CURIOUS CONSUMERS
Pleased with how well the limited-edition bottle turned out, Bombay Sapphire asked for a value-add pack to extend this design idea through to existing Bombay Sapphire bottles in store. Webb deVlam came up with the imaginative idea to incorporate a magnifying glass into the structure of the package itself, which served to bring in the exploratory feeling of visiting Laverstoke Mill but also helped Bombay Sapphire create a unique marketing campaign to generate interest around the limited-edition bottle and the distillery.
Upon opening the VAP, the Bombay Sapphire bottle is concealed by Scott’s illustration on the right, while the magnifying glass is displayed on the left-hand side. People can further open up a hidden booklet which folds out to reveal the full Si Scott illustration as well as the recipe for the signature Mill Cocktail. As part of its marketing campaign, Bombay Sapphire asked users to locate five hidden dates within the illustration. Participants could enter these online to win the limited-edition bottle and gift pack.
Throughout the year-long collaboration, Webb deVlam was able to wow Bombay Sapphire’s team by finding the big idea that helped tie the brand, the packaging and the distillery itself together into one cohesive visual language and consumer experience.