Winding up our management briefing for March, Richard Woodard gets the inside track on Pernod Ricard's Plymouth Gin brand, a product that recently underwent a considerable rebrand.

Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers whisky and gin business has owned Plymouth Gin since 2008, but only now is the brand’s radical new look being launched around the world. We spoke to Paco Recuero, international brand director for gins, about the move.

just-drinks: The relaunch/repackaging of Plymouth Gin is a pretty radical change. What was the thinking behind this?

Paco Recuero: The changes are dramatic, but a positive evolution for the brand, clearly inspired by elements of its heritage and immediately identifiable as Plymouth through and through. Plymouth has a loyal following, albeit from a relatively small base, and so far the new pack has been embraced.

We believe the old pack really missed out communicating some key elements of the brand, and in particular its heritage, which is a major part of its story and its DNA. We felt we needed to put this back in and, in addition, be confident we were matching the quality of what was inside the bottle with the quality of the outside. 

j-d: What are the main aspects of the brand that you’re trying to communicate to the trade and consumers through the new look? 

PR: Really, the story of Plymouth Gin and its distillery and, in the first instance, these are all communicated through the bottle: the copper still and copper cap reflects our single Victorian copper still that we still use today for every batch; the Mayflower underlines Plymouth Gin’s intrinsic link to the “city of discovery”; the oval label returns to the look with which Plymouth was made famous; Protected Status wording indicates only gin distilled within the city walls can carry the Plymouth name; the Black Friar icon reminds us of the former inhabitants of the “Black Friars” distillery; and the rounded, antique-style bottle and flint glass reflect Plymouth’s heritage dating back to 1793 and again is a familiar signal back to bottle shapes that were known throughout the world as Plymouth. 

j-d: Why now? Pernod Ricard has owned the brand for a good few years, so why didn’t you make the change earlier?

PR: Many factors went into the new look from both a brand analysis and looking at how our stable of premium gins would sit together. There is a pipeline of innovation at Chivas Brothers and such a wholesale change always takes a little time compared to a subtle label change or similar in order to get the process right in look and execution. 

j-d: The relaunch has been accompanied by a price increase. Are you concerned that this will deter existing Plymouth consumers?

PR: The new positioning and recommended pricing reflects better the cachet of a truly artisanal gin and matches both the award-winning contents and the unique heritage the brand represents when compared to its competitors. It’s worth it. 

j-d: How does also owning Beefeater influence your thinking with Plymouth? Is there a need to clearly position them differently in order to prevent possible cannibalisation of sales, or are the brands sufficiently different for that not to be a concern?

PR: Whilst both brands benefit from having a unique heritage in the story of gin and retaining a real credibility via their distilleries and master blenders, they are clearly differentiated in taste, in origin, in process and their own unique stories.

They actually complement each other well in a portfolio of Beefeater Dry, Beefeater 24 and Plymouth, which we have already demonstrated with the ginandtales.com website.

In terms of market spread, both are reaching out to new markets and new consumers where there is more than enough room for both to grow, especially in super-premium and above.

j-d: When relaunching and repackaging Plymouth, what part did the demands of different markets play in the process? Were you consciously trying to construct something that would work in all markets around the world, or was it aimed at particular, key markets?

PR: Plymouth has a handful of significant markets, but it has potential to gain more, so the job was to demonstrate its own personality as it is still being introduced to new consumers.

Within Pernod Ricard, there was a unanimous view that certain elements needed to be revived in the brand, so an accord was quickly achieved.

The call was for Plymouth to set out its stall in the best possible way, and as its intrinsic values of artisanal production, unquestionable heritage and award-winning taste and mixability are already what consumers are looking for, it was a case of “be yourself”.

j-d: What has been the response to date? How confident are you from the early reaction that the exercise will be successful?

PR: Very positive – whilst too early to talk about sales and bearing in mind the transition will be gradual with Plymouth launched in Spain in October 2010 and the UK receiving the new pack in 2012, the reaction from media, the trade and consumers we have met has been tremendous. Plymouth Gin has a special place in many people’s hearts and it was particularly pleasing that the most positive reaction has been from people who value the brand the most.

To go back to part three of this management briefing, click here.