CONTEXT: How do you use design to reinvigorate your brand’s origins and define an entirely new category?
Global spirits company Campari envisioned creating a new premium end in the growing rum space. The company’s world-famous Appleton Estate brand, located deep in the heart of Jamaica’s Nassau Valley, began perfecting complex rum-making over 250 years ago. Surrounded by densely forested limestone hills, the region’s unique topography and terroir make for a rum unlike any other.
PROBLEM: Despite its storied Jamaican history and renowned inventory, the beloved Appleton Estate brand had fallen stale. It had no premium cues to bolster its ambitions of defining a new high-end category. The line’s visual hierarchy had grown messy, its design had become dated, and its execution lacked fit and finish.
Campari asked us to recraft Appleton Estate into its flagship rum line to commemorate the Estate’s 250th Anniversary, elevate the brand to a premium level, and reimagine its presence in the global marketplace.
APPROACH: After visiting the Estate itself — the historic birthplace and location of the brand’s manufacturing operations — we learned that creating Appleton Estate rum is a true art and a labor of love. The team settles for nothing but the best, taking great pride in its golden, jewel-like liquid, crafting it with joy, and pursuing each detail of distillation with determination and perseverance. Jamaica has a pulse unlike anywhere else, and that vibrant energy gets channeled into everything Appleton Estate does. We wanted to celebrate this spirit, this joy, and this pursuit of excellence.
We also wanted to evoke a sense of place through the design. Appleton Estate’s origins, distillation processes, and flavors are all uniquely Jamaican with a signature orange peel note. We wanted the new design to embody a proud expression of Jamaica’s singular heritage in a thoroughly modern way.
SOLUTION: Our approach to repositioning the Appleton Estate brand centers around the concept of “joyful excellence.” We started by redesigning the glass bottles themselves throughout the line to employ a sleek, contemporary shape featuring sensuous, elegant curves like the hills and valleys of Jamaica. The embossed “1749” imprint in the bottles signifies the date of the Estate’s establishment.
We crafted the label design to tell the rich story of each rum blend and carry details on the single estate production process, including Appleton Estate’s strict adherence to its centuries-old rum-making tradition of utilizing Jamaican limestone-filtered water during pot still distillation while ensuring that no flavors are added to its rums. We looked at every aspect of the label design, from overall visual composition to minute production details. We refined the brand mark itself, simplifying its form and improving legibility on shelf at a distance. We introduced an understated, sophisticated approach to typography — strong and attention-getting yet delicate — and repurposed precision details to establish a premium feel. The centerpiece of the label is a new Appleton Estate Jamaica Insignia — a convergence of five iconic Jamaican emblems that together narrate a fascinating story drawn from the inspiring source of Jamaica itself.
We seized an opportunity to embody the spirit of joy and a sense of place through new neck label designs. We commissioned hand-drawn illustrations of the Estate itself nestled inland between the verdant hills of Cockpit Country in Jamaica's rolling plains of the Nassau Valley, framed by the Blue Mountains in the distance. Wrapping the entire neck, this intricate illustration grabs the eye with lush flora and suggests the vibrancy of the rum’s origins.
In production we specified a toothy, uncoated paper for a handcrafted feel and introduced embossed elements and satin metallic inks to differentiate the upscale 8-Year-Old Reserve and 12-Year-Old Rare Casks. We also designed sophisticated wood cork closures across the line to replace the previous screw-top, featuring copper and gold details at the high end to help the consumer navigate the line. Finally, we had the signature of Joy Spence — Appleton Estate’s Master Blender and the rum industry’s first female master — emblazoned on the bottle’s glass in ceramic ink to exhibit the definitive badge of quality, credibility and authenticity, as well as to signify the personalized attention she puts into every drop.
RESULTS: Launching in the spring of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this comprehensive global rebrand of the Appleton Estate portfolio is a bold declaration of the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity and creativity over adversity and challenges. Reflecting a more impactful, sophisticated design and an upgrade of its production values, the new line of Appleton Estate rums truly establishes and defines the emerging category of high-end rums, further cementing Appleton Estate’s position as a premium preference for rum connoisseurs and adult consumers all over the world.
Even amid a pandemic, the rebrand has helped the brand’s overall popularity soar in 2020, with year-to-date rum sales increasing by +34% versus the same period the previous year. In fact, the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association crowned rum the “drink of lockdown.” The new portfolio presents a cohesive product range with carefully crafted premium cues, resulting in a hierarchy easily understood by consumers and clearer visual direction in the aisle. The reimagined packaging is an era-defining statement that reflects the indomitable spirit of the Jamaican people. It builds Appleton Estate’s unique equity and differentiates it from the competition, all while elevating the brand to a new echelon as rum’s gold standard.
This rebrand serves as a celebration of Appleton Estate’s commitment to the highest standards of rum production, and as a beautiful expression of its relentless pursuit of joyful excellence, born in Jamaica and spread globally.