Don’t judge a bottle by its label.

Don’t judge a bottle by its label.

In previous brand stories I’ve told, there have been a few where brothers who started working together fell out and ended up going their own ways.

The most famous of these was the one about the Dassler brothers, Adolf and Rudolf, who founded the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers’ Shoe Factory).

They fell out and went on to form two separate and competitive brands – Adidas and Puma.

This story, however, tells of an incident over which the two brothers could easily have fallen out but instead together they made the most of their mistake which has in the end turned out to be part of their success.

The story starts in 1824, with their father, Dr. Johann Siegert who was Surgeon General for the Venezuelan military leader Simón Bolívar. Using a blend of herbs and spices, he created a medicinal tonic designed to be a cure for upset stomachs for the soldiers. Originally called Dr. Siegert’s Aromatic Bitters, it would later be renamed after the Venezuelan city of Angostura.

The bitters were first exported to the UK in 1830, and then in 1862 one of Siegert’s sons exhibited the bitters in England where they were mixed with gin – and the Pink Gin was born.

When Dr. Johann died in 1870, his two sons took over the business. They decided that to help them expand the business they should try and build greater awareness and so started competing in the many ‘drinks’ competitions throughout the world. Their aim was to showcase their product’s quality. 

However, when getting their samples ready for one of these competitions, there was a mix-up, the sort of thing that could have ended their partnership. Due to limited time available, the brothers agreed a division of labour; one brother was assigned the task of sourcing the bottles, while the other would oversee the designing and printing of the labels.

Both set to work, but when they came to get everything ready, there was a problem; the labels were too big for the bottles or looking at it the other way the bottles were too small for their labels.

With the competition rapidly approaching there wasn’t sufficient time to alter anything and the brothers had to go with what they had and luckily both were big enough not to just blame the other.

Angostura in its new ‘packaging’ unfortunately didn’t win the competition but all was not lost.

A friendly judge suggested the brothers keep the over-sized label (under-sized bottle) and make a feature out of it. He pointed out that it made the packaging distinctive and memorable.

The brothers agreed and kept the new look, and it has proved to be a powerful communication equity that has served the brand well over the years.

The brothers, I’m glad to say kept on running the business together but did try and make sure they aligned on things a bit better going forward.

And the moral is packaging is your ‘silent salesman’ and making it interesting, distinctive and memorable helps the silent salesman shout out from the shelf. Have you got a distinctive feature in your brand identity (and if not, why not?) 

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