This 200-year-old premium Scotch never had to advertise and so never defined its voice or brand. However, new business imperatives and the need to behave as a modern brand required a more proactive presence for activating in trade, events, social, paid advertising and on its website. Instead of selling an aspirational fantasy, a strategic and creative platform that warmly invited in new drinkers while also respecting the knowledge of aficionados by reinforcing the whisky’s worth with 200 years of truth and fact was created. Two years’ worth of visual and copy assets and an activation playbook were also developed in the process.

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Giving Voice to a 200-Year-Old Product

Understanding a Product’s Legacy

Born in the seaside town of Oban on the western shores of Scotland over 200 years ago, Oban was a known and respected brand that had never defined its voice or personality in the world. As the category grew worldwide, Oban was faced with a business and brand dilemma. Worldwide product supply was capped due to production constraints, so US business owners had to make a case for increasing share in their market evidenced by increased demand. Combo’s job was to create this demand and solidify Oban as one of the market leaders in premium single malt Scotch.

The distillery pre-dates the town.
Ronald Whiteford, Distillery Operations Manager

Identifying an Audience and Defining Their Mindset

Gen X was often America’s neglected middle child, sandwiched between the heroic and wealthy Baby Boomers and the exciting Millennials. Mocked as “slackers” and personified through grunge music and movies such as Reality Bites, Gen Xers had also reached the peak of their careers ©. However, the reality of Gen X was quite different from the characterization. Savvy but skeptical, practical and sincere, this was a generation who valued knowledge with a tuned decision-making process that gave them confidence in their choices, and were drawn to authenticity over hype.

© In the US, Generation X households have picked up the reins with robust consumer spending—despite a much smaller population size. The below graph reflects average household income by generation. Figures represented in USD, thousands.

Creating Style with Substance

Oban is a very simple proposition: one distillery that has made the same whisky in the same two stills for over 200 years, never changing the recipe and crafted by a small group of people with generations of association to the liquid. Combo strategists’ approach was to embrace this simplicity and recognize the brand role was not to create some fabricated mythology but rather help the consumer build a more trusted relationship with the brand by respecting their stage of life and ensuring that when they interacted with Oban, they would be a little wiser for the experience.

It’s Pronounced OH-bin

With a strategy of information and knowledge over standard category tropes, the first task was to ensure people who engaged with the brand were more confident in their decisions for doing so. Starting with a communications platform that helped ensure accurate pronunciation of the Oban name, Combo strategists and designers developed a library of core product facts married with proprietary imagery and video content captured in and around the distillery. This formed the basis for the brand’s first content library. In this way, Combo ensured a shelf life of assets beyond the typical campaign and provided the flexibility for all the channels—from trade to events and social—that Oban would be present in.

The 227-year-old single malt is transporting you to this picturesque whisky wonderland through immersive experiences at home and abroad.

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