Terms like heritage, authenticity and personality can be seen as the building-blocks of brand image, but to establish an instant connection with consumers these attributes have to be captured visually. Michael Peters, chairman and executive creative director of brand consultancy Identica and one of the UK's foremost packaging designers, sheds light on how those qualities are translated into a look.

To be successful, drinks brands need an engaging personality that allows consumers to build an emotional relationship. With the multitude of new drinks brands launched every year, setting a brand apart is vital. Heritage, authenticity and having a 'story' to tell bring a strong brand to life, and making a connection with authenticity and integrity are vital in brand communication and design.

Harnessing a brand's heritage means crystallising and communicating the elements of its history and heritage that stand out in people's minds. Brand developers and designers select visual cues that capture and communicate the essence of a brand identity and highlight associations that already exist amongst consumers.

For example, the idea that sells Baileys Original Irish Cream across the globe is its Irish provenance, and the packaging design firmly roots the product in this heritage. The imagery includes Celtic motifs that link to heritage elements of place and past. Also, to add authority and credibility the label includes a handwritten signature of RA Bailey. Does anyone know who he is? The truth is that it really doesn't matter - the brand's personality adds value for consumers.

Captain Morgan rum uses place too, but it also taps into the element of personality in its heritage, without freezing the brand in stone. The attributes of Captain Morgan the buccaneer are well known. His legendary passion for fun and adventure are still a major part of the brand with the Captain himself symbolising this on the label of each bottle. Although it elicits fond memories and has a rich heritage built over the last 100 years, the illustration of the Captain used to look rather battered and dated the product, limiting its appeal.

When Identica re-branded Captain Morgan, a contemporised figure of the Captain was used to add a modern edge, effectively using the legend of its founder to create a successful and recognisable modern drinks brand.

The Captain's representation has been emphasised, his figure has been made larger and he has been positioned so he breaks out of the label. The buccaneer heritage was also reinforced with related iconography by including embossed crossed cutlasses. To complement this, a brand story has also been added on the back label so people can read about Captain Morgan the character.

While the Captain is an important iconic reference for the brand in the US, when Diageo launched Morgan's Spiced in the UK some years ago, research showed that he wasn't really integral to the brand in the eyes of UK consumers. It was more relevant and effective therefore to emphasise the spirit of the Caribbean, in other words heritage of place.

The packaging in the UK features modern Caribbean design cues including a radiating sunburst coming out from the bottom of the lid, linking strongly with the tropical, sun-drenched beauty of the West Indies. The compass-style image is also a reference to sailing and the Caribbean.

Russia's premium vodka Russian Standard also has a design that epitomises authenticity by using the place element of heritage. The bottle has a number of symbols and elements that cohesively identify the product as premium. The bottle is made from frosted glass which signifies premium quality, while its shape reflects both the Grand Bell in the Kremlin and the onion domes familiar to Russian architecture, linking strongly with recognised Russian iconography.

Looking at the visual design cues, the symbol of the bear and eagle intertwined are strong motifs that represent Russia. In essence, the design draws on Russian Imperial heritage, on what is quintessentially Russian.

Capitalising on heritage may be useful to some brands but others, like Johnnie Walker, have chosen to modernise design elements. The traditional packaging design firmly placed Johnnie Walker in a fireside chair in a Scottish gentleman's club with someone over 70 holding it. In this case referring to heritage was hindering its expansion into new markets. To remedy this, the brand was refreshed; the Johnnie Walker character was developed to have a much more modern, agile and fresh image. This enables the brand to move into areas that were previously out of reach. A brand's heritage should not stop it from having contemporary appeal.

So there are numerous design cues that designers can bring into play to show a brand's heritage. These are used to create a degree of association around a brand to allow the consumer to make links with special places, people and events in time.

Designers don't simply put a Pirate and a Caribbean landscape on a bottle and then expect it immediately to transport the drinker to the West Indies. They distil images of our time into visual shorthand. Instant connections with the consumer's emotions are what great brand designers can achieve.

Michael Peters OBE is the chairman and executive creative director of Identica, the brand consultancy he formed in 1990, which has worked on many major drinks brands including Captain Morgan, Chivas Regal, Smirnoff, Baltika and Russian Standard.