I recently re-joined The Ardbeg Committee, while scoping out competitor activity for a new Single Malt Whisky client, The Clydeside Distillery. Two weeks later, something very familiar thumped onto my doormat. Almost word for word, it’s the same welcome pack I wrote 18 years ago. The first pack was posted in July 2000 when The Ardbeg Committee was launched.
Since its launch, the number of Ardbeg aficianados who joined The Ardbeg Committee (the relationship marketing programme) has bloomed to more than 120,000 in over 140 countries. These disparate members have a voracious appetite for Ardbeg, over the years buying over two dozen very expensive Limited Edition bottlings. And counting.
In the Ardbeg portfolio piece over on my old website, lizholt.co.uk, you can read how I stumbled across the idea to give Islay another committee whilst chatting to the Editor of the Ileach in his dusty office in Bowmore. Dave Mullen and I were tootling around the island, thinking of ideas for the pitch. Creatively, we found it was a gift of a brand. Ardbeg is a fantastic product with a rich heritage. Our creative work went on to win numerous awards, first at One Agency and then at Story UK.
You can see the Committee mission statement printed in red on the letters above. In essence, it talks about making sure the doors of Ardbeg never close again. This is their brand promise, meeting their customers at their point of need. The pack builds on this with tongue-in-cheek ‘Rules & Regulations’ and a ‘Follow your nose’ leaflet.
Story UK continue to re-energise the brand with ingenious creative work. But it’s nice to see my copy from so long ago enduring down the years.
The continued use of the welcome pack demonstrates the real £ value of clients investing in strong copy and art direction. Seeing the Ardbeg welcome pack again after many years shows the power of teamwork and a (lovely) client that trusts its agency to be its brand advocate. And it shows the enduring potency of a true brand promise.
It reminds me of the ‘Piggles’ pack for Scottish Friendly, (the flying Biggles-like savings pig), which Garrett McKeagney and I developed at Rapp. Thanks to a continued strong response rate, the client used it as their control pack for years.