A case study on the overnight success of Critters Distillery in Woolgoolga, NSW
Seems pretty obvious, right? In the case of Critters Distillery, the founders knew their product was strong and if sampled would lead to immediate sales.
Getting consumers to be aware of the product and in-turn, purchase it.
Nicola and Chris from Critters contacted us to design a label for their new artisan vodka. At the time they didn’t have a logo let alone branding guidelines so we advised that they may be putting the cart before the horse. Nicola and Chris commissioned a logo to set the overall tone for the new Distillery.
We went through a couple of logo versions with the Critters team, settling on their current logo featuring an Anglerfish (Nicola has a Marine science background so the symbolism of an Anglerfish appealed to her).
As part of the logo design process, we then developed a comprehensive set of branding guidelines which outlined how the logo was to be used in collateral and included alternative colour versions. This was then drilled down into conceptual apparel design, stationery, promotional materials and a variety of other items.
Logo – complete!
Ok, so the logo looked hot – now we needed to transfer the style to a label design using the French-sourced bottle Nicola had selected for their opening product line.
The brief from Critters included many angles we needed to cover but overall had to be unique and jump off the shelf when placed alongside every other Vodka bottle in the market. We took photos of the Vodka display at Dan Murphy’s, so we knew what we had to stand out from. The competitors in the premium Vodka space use a lot of natural colours and understated design. Whilst in our opinion this is great, there was really nothing to single out a Vodka as one that you would ‘have to pick up’.
Nicola had some inspiration pieces from the wine industry that she liked the look of. These were modern, abstract and definitely eye-catching. However, the design of the majority of them would require a specialist label and packaging plant, as the bottles featured all-over prints and custom shaped bottles not available ‘off-the-shelf’.
After kicking around a few ideas on canvas, the Outspoken Entourage design team started to develop an underwater ocean scene to be used as the backdrop of the label design. Painstakingly, colours were sourced, replaced and then replaced again until a vibrant design was developed.
Once we thought we had the background nailed, we turned to the logo, product name and other features that would finish the label design off.
Upon first presentation to the Critters team the first impression was on-point. We presented a few different options and Nicola and Chris from Critters selected their favourite.
Whilst the design of the label was stunning, it was very much going to come down to the print process to make the design work. Mark contacted a number of specialty label printers that worked in the artisan and high-end space and after some back and forth with samples and price estimates, the final printer was decided upon.
The Critters team really wanted to see a clear label used so the design would be semi-transparent. The difficulty we had with this was that the background would not appear as vibrant as initially intended as printing to a clear stock will inevitably wash-out the colour.
There was some back and forth between the OE team and Critters as the OE team felt that the design would best stand out on the shelf using a solid label stock or preferably a metallic foil-based stock to bring out the vibrancy of the design. Mark lost that discussion and the Critters team elected to go with the clear stock.
Now we had to focus on how we were going to make the logo, product name and other details stand out when printed on a clear stock, so after some proofs were sample printed by the label printer, it was decided to go with a full colour process on the transparent stock, overprinted with white ink (you have to print white ink when the stock isn’t white) and then overprinted with full colour for the logo after which the hot foil overprint was added for the product name and logo elements. That’s a total of 6 layers on a single label!
Now the final artwork was prepared for print (all 6 layers) and after a lot of checking and double checking, a couple of proof rejections, the labels were printed and delivered to the Critters team along with a back label with individually printed bottle numbers and batch numbers.
Wait – there’s another label needed! Close to launch the Critters team decided to also release a special limited-edition Distiller’s Release. This became a blacked-out version of the original label with the words ‘Distiller’s Release’ replacing the Anglerfish on the original vodka bottle. We used many of the same processes for this bottle to minimise unnecessary costs by sharing the gold hot-foil placement with the original bottle.
All the time that the label process was developing, we designed some apparel for the team using influences from the Branding Guidelines we developed earlier. These were printed by one of our local contacts to a high standard and these can be purchased from their online store.
Business cards were designed, a pull-up banner, posters printed, flyers and more. This is the part where businesses are often let down after they have their initial logo designed. They have the stationery printer and apparel printer use the branding and whilst they sometimes pull it off, in many cases the result is often a let down on what it could have been. All of these small items should really be handled by the same team, so the results are spectacular.
The team needed an e-commerce solution for online sales for not only their Vodka but also apparel, and during the Covid-19 outbreak a new product using waste from the alcohol still was also developed – hand sanitiser.
The e-commerce site needed to be able to handle inventory changes by the Critters team to products, price changes, discount codes and shipping. The best platform to accomplish this was Shopify which features millions of dollars of development by the Shopify team, giving you a robust platform with a huge amount of documentation out there should you need to do a tutorial on anything from uploading a product to creating a new category.
Using a platform like Shopify is great for e-commerce, but we have found the best way to showcase your product is through a custom designed website. This allows the flexibility in design and custom features that would be inhibited by using just the Shopify platform by itself. It also allows SEO to be written into the site giving technical scores in the high 95-99% range. This gives you an amazing looking site with killer SEO to get one-up on your competitors but also the flexibility and ease of use of the Shopify platform to sell your products.
Once the website and Shopify e-commerce platform were ready, the Critters team came in for 90 minutes of training on how to use the Shopify backend.
When the team were ready to launch the site, we did a non-advertised ‘soft-launch’ allowing us to work out any last-minute bugs in the system. A final SEO report was produced and the team were able to go out and confidently launch their exciting new product to a sell-out crowd in Woolgoolga.
After a few weeks, we heard that the limited edition ‘Distiller Release Vodka’ only has a few bottles remaining of their original allotment of 250. At the premium end of the market, we consider this to be a huge success.
The bottle design is the talk of the town and comments on how great the design is are across social media and the greater web (update - it also went on to win a Bronze Design Award at the World Drinks Awards in 2021).
It really goes to show, if you have something that you feel passionate about, having a professional team (us!) being involved in your project from the start will make a huge difference to the perception of the brand and products. The quality of the design of the bottle and all other collateral screams premium and allows Critters to place their artisan product at a price point nearly 3 times higher than a regular vodka.
We said this a few years ago on social media ‘Have you ever picked a bottle of wine because the label was amazeballs?’. This is a case (study) in point!