Squad Ink is an Australian branding and design agency based in Sydney, led by brothers Matthew and Terry Squadrito. Working with Archie Rose Distilling Co, they’ve created a world first by giving consumers the ability to customise their own bottle of spirit, from flavour to design, with their smartphone. We spoke to creative director Matthew Squadrito about their projects, how to create a strong brand identity and how tech-savvy consumers are influencing pack design.
What are the steps to creating a strong brand identity? Is it all about the packaging?
Put simply, a strong brand identity is about delivering a unique and compelling story with the right tone and personality that is true to the business. It creates a bond between the brand and the audience that is authentic and enduring.
Packaging is a vehicle that talks to one part of the story so we rely on creating touch points in all areas of a business to complete the picture.
It all starts with the right client relationship – the passionate people behind the businesses we brand can be the source of all great inspiration. It’s our job to uncover those golden nuggets that can bring boundless opportunity and that comes with a mutually respectful client relationship.
Strategic planning is paramount – in the end it’s all about the consumer so thorough research and planning about all aspects that can and will affect how people interact with the brand is crucial. It’s a process of discovery that can open up many doors for the business beyond just the identity and packaging. The Tailored Spirits range was conceived as a result of this step.
Creative exploration and a measured execution – we try not to limit the initial idea exploration too much. We look at all the possible areas where the brand can live and grow. It requires not only an open mind to challenge what is expected by the client but a practical one to refine and deliver an idea that will actually come to fruition.
A brand identity that seamlessly exists across packaging, digital and on site is a great achievement however the strongest brands are those that are flexible and can adapt as the business grows and releases new products.
Tell us about your design brief for Archie Rose Distilling Co. How did you achieve it?
Archie Rose Distilling Co. is the first independent distillery of craft spirits in the city of Sydney since 1853. Archie Rose honours this rich history while offering Sydney-siders the chance to experience genuine grain-to-glass spirit production on site.
We’d been working with Archie Rose Distilling Co. for almost two years leading up to its launch in Rosebery, Sydney, so we knew everything there was to know about their incredible operation. Our original brief was to brand, package and launch the distillery and range of spirits, which included a vodka, dry gin and white rye. With a dream client like Archie Rose you’re always wondering what’s next and your imagination goes into overdrive. During a workshop we floated the idea, “what if you could customise your own spirit online?” Will, the founder, pretty much said “yep, we can make this happen”. Now that the idea was out of the bag we needed to put our head down and make it a reality.
The ambition of any craft spirit brand is to offer something identifiably unique whilst maintaining the integrity and quality of their product. The Archie Rose distillery and its products are unique in their own right but the Tailored Spirits offering really exceeds this key objective, offering spirit lovers a world first where they can create their own single bottle of vodka or gin or cask of whisky from their phone. There was also a clear objective from day one to engage an international customer base and Tailored Spirits has facilitated that, acting as a launch pad to showcase their full spirit range.
A product offering this bespoke requires packaging worthy of the title. We were given the green light to go all out, so we produced stunning foiled stamped labels, personalised with the custom spirit profile and the person’s name on the bottle. We found that customers were dying to create spirits for friends and clients so now they can finally gift a lucky mate with a personalised bottle.
Squad Ink started working with Sydney-based Archie Rose almost two years ago.
Archie Rose allows its customers to customise their own spirit, from flavour to design, with their smartphone. How does this affect the consumer experience?
If you ever get the chance to take a distillery tour at Archie Rose you’ll really appreciate how knowledgeable and hands-on the team are with their customers. There is an acute attention to detail and sensitivity in everything they touch. We were very mindful of this personalised customer experience that Sydney-siders have come to love about the distillery, so when it came to translating into a step-by-step online process we knew we had our work cut out for us. We created an intuitive journey guided by simple yet informative language, rich photography and video, and neat illustrations that make for a user experience as smooth as their spirits.
Are tech-savvy consumers expecting more from packaging?
Most definitely so. Consumers are becoming increasingly more tech- and design-savvy these days, which makes our job so much more challenging and exciting. We expect so much from the technology that rules our daily life that it’s hard for this expectation not to trickle down to all the other design-considered products in our life.
It’s an exciting time where the growing appreciation for craft products is giving way to a new breed of craftsmen that both respect the traditional and embrace new technologies. Innovation is a necessity to compete in this new market and so is the expectation of innovative packaging that truthfully represents these products and integrates seamlessly with the digital world.
Some researchers claim that a product’s packaging ‘can subliminally affect the perception and taste of the product’. Do you agree?
I think it’s tough not to. We’re living in an age of visual indulgence and it’s hard not to be seduced by beautiful design. I remember having an espresso in the breathtaking Piazza Navona in Rome and thinking this was the most exceptional coffee I’d ever had. Hmm, I’m sure it wasn’t but for that moment it was. In the spirits world, customers are constantly being seduced by packaging. Most wouldn’t notice, but premium whisky brands tend to add a darker tint to the glass of their bottles to create a heightened perception of the flavour being rich and smooth.
What’s next for Squad Ink? Are there any particular projects you’d like to be involved in?
We constantly find ourselves dreaming up creative collaborations that bridge the gap between branding design and product development so it’s a natural step for us to create our own self-commissioned projects. We’re currently in the final stages of creating our very own vodka with an unusual flavour profile that is inspired by the Australian seaside. Native Australian botanicals of saltbush (which tastes a bit like a grassy oyster), pepperleaf, lemon myrtle and coriander seed are carefully blended by Archie Rose to create a smooth vodka perfectly suited for the ultimate bloody mary cocktail. Apart from satisfying our thirst for more alcohol we’d love to sink our teeth into an adventurous chocolate brand. There are just so many parallels with the customer appreciation of alcohol, coffee and chocolate that it feels like a welcomed fit for us.
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