Wine & Spirits

Brown-Forman Plays Up Youthful Lifestyle Cues in Southern Comfort Holiday Gift Boxes

Posted: April 1, 2010

“SoCo!” and “SoCo and lime!” have become familiar bar calls now that the Southern Comfort brand has established itself with a more youthful customer base. A successful holiday packaging campaign by parent company Brown-Forman played up “SoCo” and amped up the youth culture aspects in promoting a premium, value-added proposition to the 21- to 29-year-old demographic.

Brown-Forman had introduced seasonal gift sets before, but the packages shown here dialed up the winter holiday season message more than ever before. The brand owner worked closely with The Standard Group, a full-service packaging company with headquarters in Jackson Heights, NY, and manufacturing in Louisville, KY, to add all the finishing touches that make this set of boxes express a livelier, more accessible Southern Comfort.

Stuffy no more
The party scenes on these holiday gift sets depict youthful imbibers enjoying an active, outdoor lifestyle contrary to many consumers’ impression of Southern Comfort as an old-fashioned, stuffy brand. Ironically, when Ireland-born Martin Wilkes Heron was concocting the Southern Comfort liqueur blend in New Orleans in the late 19th Century, he was trying to offer a “Cuffs and Buttons” alternative to the popular “White Tie and Tails” blended liqueur popular at the time, according to the Southern Comfort website.

The modern formula for Southern Comfort is a neutral grain liqueur with peach, orange, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon flavors. The brand strategy has evolved into a much more all-inclusive attitude, exemplified by the winter-scene group of friends on the boxes. The design also plays up the holiday cues, with snowflakes and a bright Christmas red, all accentuated with metalized effects, die cuts, and embossing.

Jeremy Wilcox, packaging consultant for The Standard Group, explains how the hierarchy of information on the boxes draws potential buyers in. The snowflakes create depth of field without violating the copy, and the Southern Comfort name is, in effect, bursting out of its traditional crest frame. “SoCo” also appears by itself on the top of the package and cut off from the original logo when the logo continues around a corner.

“If a customer spends time looking at this, there are rewards they get,” says Sam Gardner, art director at Brown-Forman Corporation. The metalized effect, to cite one aspect, was a switch from the white background of the previous year. “The metalized poly look really dialed it up and took it to a different plane as far as premium is concerned,” says Gardner.

Invited to the party
Liquor stores have come to expect decorative seasonal packages, because the packaging is often the store decoration, and the proprietors have to provide less of their own decoration. The most decorative packages earn the most prominent positions in the store. “Brown-Forman tends to lead the way in implementing more value-added packaging,” adds Gardner, such as the low-ball glasses and cocktail shaker featured here.

Intricately designed inserts help secure the components while still allowing for maximum window viewing for a high-end presentation. “We got to do everything we’re good at,” explains Wilcox.

Gardner also emphasized that deciding what colors were opaque was key in the execution of the design. The metalized base shows through the red, but the black is totally opaque. “We had to play a lot with the intensity of the snowflakes,” he adds, to be playful but subtle at the same time.

The success of this package gave Brown-Forman confidence to pursue similarly inventive seasonal packaging during other times of the year. “This definitely reinforced the position that we should get more irreverent and speak more to the target audience,” Gardner concludes.