Let me introduce myself; my name is Jennifer Nicol and I am Marketing Manager for Tomatin Distillery, based near Inverness. I am delighted to have been asked to provide a guest blog on the back of our recent brand launch, so I hope you enjoy it!
A bit of background…my day to day life in the office is extremely varied and can see me working on various projects from new product development to social media management, from POS and marketing material production to event planning. I control the advertising and PR for our portfolio of whisky brands on a global scale – that’s 42 markets as at today’s date. So whether providing artwork for our customer in Taiwan, developing a market-specific product for Japan, providing shelf talkers for the USA or running an exposure-increasing social media campaign in the UK, it is down to me to ensure the brand in question is accurately represented in all aspects.
Our principal brand is Tomatin Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Alongside it we have a number of blended whisky brands (i.e. a mixture of malt and grain whisky from several distilleries as opposed to malt whisky from one distillery) including the Antiquary, Big T and Talisman, but these brands do not carry any reference to Tomatin on the packaging.
Our latest brand, Cù Bòcan, is a brand in its own right, but for the first time we have created it as an extension of the Tomatin brand. Why? Well, we have invested a lot in building up the Tomatin brand, taking it from its status as a ‘filler’ malt for the major blends (J&B, Johnnie Walker, etc.) to a high quality, multi-award-winning single malt worthy of note. Tomatin is known as an unpeated single malt, therefore when deciding to release our peated single malt that has been quietly maturing in our warehouses for some time, we needed a differentiator. And a differentiator is what we got – a modern, hipster brand appealing to new and experienced drinkers alike. But, and it’s an important but, we are proud of what the Tomatin logo represents and want people to judge this new brand on the merits of the quality of Tomatin.
Where did the brand name come from? Whisky is whisky; all distilleries use the same ingredients and more or less the exact same process, so how come there are thousands of whiskies out there, all of which completely different? The quick answer is down to the shape of the distillery’s own stills (each uses a unique design) and the wood the whisky is matured in. But sometimes this is not enough and one of the biggest selling points of a whisky is the story that goes with it.
In 2011, for example, we released an expression called “Decades”. This was to commemorate the golden anniversary of our Master Distiller, Douglas Campbell MBE, having worked at Tomatin for over 50 years. He selected one cask from each decade he had worked with us and these five casks were blended together to create a spectacular whisky. Douglas gained celebrity status overnight and the whisky was a sell out!
In the summer of 2012, we hired a History student from UHI to complete an undergraduate summer placement with HIE in order to investigate the history of the distillery. He spoke to staff, past and present, locals and ex-locals and gathered a range of ‘stories’ which we can utilise now and in the future.
And so, Cù Bòcan was born. Locals and distillery workers spoke of the legend of Cù Bòcan in various guises but the outcome was always the same; this hound-like creature would appear then disappear, and nobody knew who it belonged to. As nobody knows exactly what it is, we decided to choose a Gaelic name because, if you know anything about Gaelic, you know it can be translated in many ways! Despite an initial setback with a hilarious phone call to one of our sales manager’s mother in Stornoway who thought we were referring to the genitals of a dog, we had the local Gaelic primary school confirm “Cù Bòcan” was in fact the correct translation for what we were trying to express!
In terms of the packaging, we wanted to attract a younger market, but not detract from the quality of the whisky held within. We wanted it to not look like the existing Tomatin range, but carry the Tomatin logo. We wanted it to look edgier and more fashionable than the core range. Essentially, we wanted to have a bit of fun! Our designers, Pocket Rocket Creative, delivered the brief to a tee.
So, we have the whisky, the name and the packaging. Now all we need is a launch. Normally, when launching a new expression we send samples out to industry bloggers and hope that they write a review on it. This though, I felt needed more impact. In a light bulb moment I expanded on this and sent out some blank samples as part of a teaser campaign. They were delivered in smart little black velvet pouches, with a tag attached. On one side, the iconic image of Cù Bòcan was displayed (without the brand name) and on the other there were instructions to log onto the Tomatin Twitter account at a certain time and date. This created excitement, confusion (what is this demonic image?!) and speculation – exactly what I wanted!
The launch night was phenomenal. At 7pm, as instructed, the bloggers logged on for the exclusive unveiling. The link to the Cù Bòcan website was posted and all was revealed, including a short video (filmed by the talented Wee Epics) explaining the story. We were joined by over 30 whisky bloggers and tweeters who were all simultaneously posting their tasting notes, asking questions, spreading the word and one fan even posted his review complete with brand information 10 minutes after the grand unveiling. The hashtag for the launch, unsurprisingly, was #CuBocan. This hashtag had 257,249 impacts with a reach of 41,839 – pretty impressive for the cost of a few samples.
What next? Our General Export and UK stock is as good as sold out and the US stock is still en route. We are looking to produce Batch 2 sooner rather than later in order to satisfy the demand. This brand has so much potential to grow (subject to supply of course) with different variations – we have vintages and cask finishes in mind – and we look forward to seeing this happen over the coming years.
Now all we need to work out is how to go one better next time…the joys of marketing!
- @jenmnicol – My own personal Twitter account with various ramblings about whisky, wine, food, Inverness bars & restaurants, travelling and my ‘attempts’ at running.
- @Tomatin1897 – Group brand Twitter account, predominantly for Tomatin.
- www.tomatin.com - Info on the whole Tomatin range.
- www.cu-bocan.com - Brand website for Cù Bòcan.
- www.facebook.com/Tomatin1897 - Facebook for Tomatin.
- www.facebook.com/CuBocan - Facebook for Cù Bòcan.