Last night (Tuesday December 3), I attended a tasting of Balblair vintages. We tasted five whiskies, 2003, 1997, 1990, 1983 and 1969, prefaced by a glass of Balblair’s base spirit.
THE ROLLS ROYCE. It’s a design icon and a euphemism for luxury quality – “It’s the Rolls Royce of (insert just about any word here).” Many believe it’s more than just a car, although when you look at it, with its four wheels, steering wheel, engine, seats… it appears it is, well, a car. The BMW-owned Rolls Royce company says it sold 3,538 cars last year, 31% up on 2010 and a new annual sales record for the 107-year-old brand.
And you thought there was a recession? Granted there are some markets that aren’t in recession and the company goes on to say that sales in the Asia Pacific region were crucial to its success – rising by 47% on the year before. A familiar tale. Let’s face it, a Roller isn’t just for popping to the shops in – it sends a message to observers about the driver, in much the same way that a luxury bottle of spirits on a table in a club or given as a gift says something about the drinker.
So luxury isn’t just driving sales for Rolls Royce. If you flick back to page seven of this magazine, you’ll see that Diageo is investing in a luxury bottling line.
David Rogers, owner and creative partner of UK-based brand and packaging design consultancy We Are Pure, says: “Even through the recession, people have still invested in the odd bit of luxury as a treat and, with home entertaining taking priority over nights out, there’s still been a constant need for luxury spirits.
“Obviously there are cheaper alternatives, but the luxury brands have never let their appearance drop for the sake of saving a few pence on packaging and labelling. Packaging plays an important part in the status of a product, and no brand will want to look like it has become a victim of the recession by changing its packaging dramatically. Brands want to feel consistent and dependable.”
Claessens International creative director James Boulton takes this idea a step further and suggests the recession has actually been good for some.
He says: “The global downturn was quite a good time for established brands. People turned to them because they wanted to buy the best quality products and make the most of their limited resources. They found the familiarity of established brands reassuring, equating them with reliability, value and quality.”
Do any of those words really sound too promising in innovation terms? “Reassuring, reliability, value…”
But Boulton goes on to say that brand innovation is still important. “You cannot simply recreate old bottle and label designs, as it’s vital for brands to be seen to be moving forward and reflecting the times. The difficulty degree is in allowing the consumer to understand the roots of authentic values, while being relevant to today’s lifestyle.”