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 good to see my copy from so long ago still engaging customers today.
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.
1 thought on “18 years later: enduring copy for Ardbeg Whisky”
[…] How do you revive a mothballed brand worldwide on a tiny budget? For the pitch research, way back in 1999 before Ardbeg bottles re-appeared in shops, Dave Mullen and I went to Islay. There, talking to the man behind the Ileach, I stumbled across the curious fact that this tiny windy island with more sheep than people had over 140 committees. I thought we should give them another one: The Ardbeg Committee. Back at Oneagency, Dave and I devised a consumer direct marketing campaign. I invented a tone of voice that was as distinctive and downright quirky as Islay and the brand; Dave’s art direction was probably the best I’ve ever seen. Each Committee mailing built the relationship with a unique creative solution. Within just two years of launch, Ardbeg had become established as a measurable global brand. Committee members now inundate the Distillery with emails, phone calls and visits – and are happy to pay a premium for this niche brand. Our first mailings went on to win 7 Gold awards, nationally and internationally, and more besides. I was thrilled to win Gold for Copy. See more about my copy for Ardbeg in another blog. […]