Surrey Talks Business – Silent Pool Gin & Brand Value
11th January 2022
Branding is about the heart, not the head
Silent Pool Distillers founder, Ian McCulloch, previously worked in the TV and media industry where he developed expertise about brand development. Here, he learned the difference between what engages the heart and what engages the head for advertising strategies.
People pay huge premiums for football jerseys of a home team but are more price sensitive about buying a generic jersey. To create brand value, Ian points to the role of media to create a human story fostering emotions such as the tribal screams of a sports team. In turn, storytelling must balance art, style, and passion.
Based on his background, Ian looked for a business opportunity market-driven and brand-driven as opposed to a niche focus. He identified it in the booze market where premium brands command large profit margins for comparatively smaller differences in quality. Like media, booze engages the heart instead of the head.
Other factors in Ian’s start-up decision included alcohol de-regulation and the role of UK tax breaks for investors. Finally, The Silent Pool Gin Distillery was born in 2013 when farmland on the Duke of Northumberland’s Albury estate became available.
Building the brand
From the beginning, Ian focused on the brand. For Silent Pool Gin, this meant being truthful and authentic so that visitors can see the original gin still being used on site while aromatic smells from actual distilling operations waft through the air. This idyllic setting creates a unique experience which helps convert customers into fans.
Art was important too to create the brand vision. Ian engaged award-winning British branding agency Seymour Powell to create the iconic logo including the gin botanicals as well as the Silent Pool colour (teal) and story spun into an intricate design connecting past with present. This helps shelf reach-out appeal so important to engage the premium market segment.
Finally, Silent Pool walks the talk with sustainability. They source honey from local beekeepers and convert organic waste into methane and fertiliser. They have even launched Green Man Woodland Gin, the first commercially available gin in a cardboard.
Scaling the brand
After local pubs and bars readily bought out their initial production capacity, they expanded by building production capacity in a second building onsite with automated-bottling technology for 3 different bottle types and by focusing on export markets. Now, they ship around 350,000 plus 80,000 white-label bottles per annum.
Export markets pose unique challenges, though, for the brand. Authenticity in the UK is not the same as a foreign market. A Japanese salesperson cannot relate to the Silent Pool story in same way as a UK salesperson onsite. In this case, Ian acknowledges that leveraging the brand needs to balance what is authentic for the UK market with what is authentic in an international context.
Silent Pool Gin creates common copy content but allows leeway by trusted local partners to localise messaging for different markets. They also carefully reviewed distributor partners for the premium gin sector before deciding on partners that not only understood the brand but also had a footprint at the high end of their local markets. The validation and onboarding process is detailed and takes time.
To learn more about the Silent Pool Gin story, please visit our website www.InnoMatters.co.uk. We would like for you to get in touch too if your company has an interesting business story to share about your growth strategy.
Jim Sears CEO, InnoMatters Ltd, www.InnoMatters.co.uk
Deputy Department Head- Digital Economy, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Surrey Business School https://www.surrey.ac.uk/business-school