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How experiential activity has built the Hendrick’s Gin brand

How experiential activity has built the Hendrick’s Gin brand

By Clark Turner

When so many premium alcohol spirit brands are desperately trying to position themselves as supercool and contemporary how do you compete? For Hendrick’s Gin, the answer is, you don’t.

Positioned as a quintessentially English brand (despite being brewed in Scotland), from the outset the brand has attempted to create a different offering to competition in the top end premium gin category though it’s humorous take on all things British and upper-crust.

Hendrick’s brand values are captured under the tagline, “A Most Unusual Gin.” The product recipe – containing cucumber and rose petals – creates a clear differentiation with other key premium players including Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire.

“As much as we taste different, it was as important for us to look different,” explained Hendrick's Gin Global Brand Manager, Nick Williamson (pictured). “Some super premium brands are very serious about their packaging and sexy bottles, so we deliberately have a dumpy, old-fashioned medicinal style bottle that stands out on the shelf.

“We look differently and that translates into us behaving differently as a brand. We’re not cool, stylish and sexy. Rather, we’re happy to have a bit of fun and put a smile on people’s faces.”

That behaviour has translated into events such as croquet days with the participants dressing in Victorian outfits, their playing accompanied by the sound of gramophones.

Williamson admitted, “We don’t have the big bucks that Diageo have so we need to be more clever with our marketing and punch above our weight, doing things differently from the rest.”

Advertising has involved a presence in key international titles such as the New Yorker, but it is events which have played the major role in quickly building the stature of this small brand.

A new PR agency is set to be appointed following the parting of ways with MM Consultancy after five year, with hopes for new ideas in engaging with consumers.

“For us, it’s important for us to build on simply advertising by giving consumers the opportunity to try and experience the product and experience the brand in a fun way,” Williamson added. “It’s also about creating new and different ways of drinking gin.

“Other brands might look at hosting an event in the hottest bar in town with sexy girls, but that’s just not us.”

Instead, activities to date have included sponsoring the annual Chap Olympiad – an event held in central London to celebrate some of the unique eccentricities of Britishness including the Umbrella Hockey, the The Pipe Smokers’ Relay and Hendrick’s Steeplechase.

Of 700 people sampled after the event, 70 per cent said they had never tried Hendrick’s before, but would again and recommend it to their friends.

Meanwhile the Fantastic and Ridiculous Monday of The Unusual Rose and Cucumber Society – involves a series of flamboyant Victorian events – in cities across the world where drinkers are entertained by the likes of the Bearded Lady, Mr Teds the Gentleman Pig and The Horse Midget.

Every Valentine’s the Hendrick’s Kissing Booth – an experiential Victorian photo booth – has been creating a buzz in London. Customers are invited to have their picture taken, with their loved-one, in a sumptuous red-velvet kissing booth decorated with cupids, hearts and flowers.

Couples then receive a black and white picture mounted in a Valentine’s Day card, sample a complimentary Hendrick’s Gin and Tonic and receive the free gift of a single red rose with every purchase of a 70cl bottle of Hendrick’s Gin

But that was then…

“It’s all about evolving the brand and keeping it fresh,” revealed Williamson. “We’ve also had a presence at Henley Regatta for the past four years but we’re reassessing where we want to be and moving on from there.

“Experiential activity is fundamental for us to convey our positioning of being ‘delightfully peculiar’. That creates brand loyalty in itself but we also produce a newsletter. We distribute a printed version at events and make a digital version available online.”

He continued, “It’s not the ‘Hendrick’s Gazette’ as such. It’s primarily there to entertain but it’s clear from the nature of the content that it’s from us.”

Digital development is a currently a major area of growth and will play  a key role in delivering a consistency of positioning across the brand’s three key markets – UK, US and Spain.

“Our research has shown that there are more similarities in our audience across international territories than differences,” said Williamson. “They are leading-edge, the vanguard and the avant-garde. And marketing to them just takes a little imagination.

“For, example a launch was being planned for us in Moscow, the usual affair - sexy promo girls in the hot club of the moment. However, with a bit of research, we discovered Tolstoy was a croquet fan and as a result we’re hosting a party in the grounds of his house, now a museum. Much more us, don’t you think?”


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