Most people in the public eye do it so why shouldn’t the most visible drinks brands? We’re talking about a little nip and tuck. Nothing too drastic mind and not too often as to blur the effect – it’s not about losing the essence of your identity – think of it as a nifty freshen up.
The recently remodelled BACARDÍ bottle is a case in point. In its first facelift in over a decade, the updated bottle still has the same DNA as its predecessors (see the evolution of the BACARDÍ bottle timeline below) but it’s been tweaked just enough to give it a look-at-me Supermodel-esque glow. Taller, leaner, sexier, bolder – in short there’s a confidence about it that has never been there before.
True, the BACARDÍ packaging has always been distinctive enough – who couldn’t identify the bottle in a line-up? The trouble was, although there’s no taking away from the fact it was an iconic product, it always felt a little apologetic about its presence.
Not any more.
The made-over BACARDÍ portfolio of rums is now ready for its close-up and my, oh my, is it looking hot. Gone are the sloping shoulders, in their place comes a prouder, stronger stance. Out go the English names ‘Superior’, ‘Gold’ and ‘Black’ as the brand embraces its original Spanish epithets – ‘Carta Blanca’, ‘Carta Oro’ and ‘Carta Negra’.
Those are the immediate changes. Look a little closer and you’ll notice other vital updates. Such as a distilled version of the 153 year history of the Bacardí family and its rum on paper labels made from recycled cane fibre, while taste descriptions and recommended serves are cleverly incorporated on the back. Another key feature of the facelift is the date the company was formed (1862), has been proudly embossed into the glass.
And as bartenders have always been key in the legacy of BACARDÍ, they’ve played a pivotal role in the redesign too. Guided by their comments on how the packaging could be improved to make the bottles easier to work with behind the bar, their feedback has resulted in improved weight distribution to allow for an easier pour.
There are familiar features though. With an archive dating back over 150 years it would have been madness not to be inspired by such a rich and incredible past. BACARDÍ wouldn’t be BACARDÍ without the familiar bat logo, representing good fortune, good health and family unity – here it’s inspired by hand-drawn Bacardi bat designs from the early 1900s. And of course, the liquid inside hasn’t changed a jot – it’s just been given a cooler new home to live in. See the video of the new packaging here.
That’s our view but what do those behind the new look think? We spoke to the Caroline Hipperson, Global Brand Director; Jacob Briars, Global Brand Advocacy Director and Steve Schneider, Principal Bartender at Employee’s Only for the inside track:
THE BACARDÍ GLOBAL BRAND DIRECTOR
What was the brief for designing the new bottle?
To create a timeless, classic bottle that manifests the BACARDÍ brand’s heritage and craftsmanship and the irrepressible spirit of the Bacardí family. That is the marketing speak so to say. The even more important piece was to design a bottle that would facilitate and inspire bartender’s work every day all over the world.
Re-launching the BACARDÍ bottle is part of a bigger program to re-launch the full brand. BACARDÍ has been lacking meaning for a long time. It is the funniest thing; one of the most popular spirits brand in the world but without a point of view, a Latin brand without a soul. Our new campaign of ‘Untameable since 1862’ and our new way of engaging with our consumers via music, has started to demonstrate the irrepressible spirit of the brand, the rum and the Bacardí family. But the bottles say very little. To re-launch the bottle with the same depth of meaning is an important piece of the puzzle for a full brand re-launch aiming to once again connect with bartenders and consumers all over the world.
How long did it take to perfect the new bottle design?
From sketches to reality a total of two years. The actual design work was more like 10 months. But since we are selling millions of bottles every year across all continents, we also needed to spend significant time to make sure this ultimate design could and would be replicated perfectly across all our nine bottling plants and with numerous different raw material suppliers. It has been a fantastic journey full of obstacles and barriers to overcome, but hey, that is the Bacardí family style. Give us an obstacle and we use it to learn and make it even better.
How much did you borrow from the past and look to the future with the new design?
There was significant research into the past, into our archive and into previous bottle design. Every single element on the new bottles has meaning and a clear link to the past, from the medals to the Spanish coat of armour to the picture of the legendary palm tree of our first distillery in Cuba ‘El Coco’. We want to give bartenders and consumers all over the world a view into our amazing history and craftsmanship. We are not just a rum mixed with Coke, we are a family-owned rum since 153 years back, with extraordinary craftsmanship and history who inspired and changed cocktail culture forever.
How do you describe the new look BACARDÍ bottle?
Timeless. Classic. Easy to work with.
Some of the new features such as the Spanish names and bottle shape are obvious but what other, more subtle changes have been made and why?
Every little detail has been thought of. From the angle of the neck, the pouring speed and the label quality. We even use recycled cane fibre paper now, produced from bi-products of our own industry. We have also paid a lot of attention to what gets embossed into the glass of the bottle; the year the company was founded, but also that we are still a family owned company; ‘Una Empresa Familiar’. For Gran Reserva 8 Anos, we have also embossed the word ‘Ocho’ on the shoulder of the bottle, as a little hint to the bartender community who love a shot of Ocho.
What excites you most about the new design?
That it is finally here out in the world for bartenders to work with and consumers to enjoy! And that we have finally put the brand back to where it rightfully belongs; in its past.
THE BACARDÍ GLOBAL ADVOCACY DIRECTOR
Why was it important to redesign the bottle?
BACARDÍ is one of the world’s most iconic products. It’s found in almost every good bar around the world, it’s called for by name in many of the world’s great cocktail books, and it has a drinks legacy that is unmatched by any other spirit.
The previous bottle did its job, but it didn’t really pay tribute to the history of BACARDÍ or to the craftsmanship that went into the liquid inside the bottle. We needed a bottle that reflected that heritage of the brand, that stood out on the shelf, and packaging that was the equal of the amazing rums inside the bottle.
Why not? We have a new campaign, some fun new rums in the pipeline, and when you have a story as good as the story of
BACARDÍ, why wait to tell it? These new bottles are the next phase of some great work that has been done over the last few years in the UK and globally, by people like Shervene Shahbazkhani, David Cordoba and many more of our talented ambassadors around the world, to remind people of BACARDÍ’s unique position in the world of rum, and a new, striking bottle design was the next exciting evolution.
What did you want to communicate with the new design?
We wanted to communicate many things, and the trick of great design is to try not to communicate too much. Obviously the ‘untameable’ story of the BACARDÍ family, a struggle against some incredible hardships and some wonderful triumphs, the story of Facundo Bacardí and the way in which he created a rum that in turn changed cocktail culture forever, and of course we wanted to make sure we told the story of the people who keep that legacy alive, the Maestros de Ron who craft each bottle of BACARDÍ today. And we wanted to do all this in a striking bottle design that paid tribute to the past, yet one that we could imagine walking into bars in 50 years’ time (probably less for me) and seeing this bottle looking at home on a back bar of the future.
Why did you and the team decide to enlist bartenders in the new design?
Firstly, BACARDÍ as a rum was made famous by bartenders around the world. Through drinks like the Mojito and Pina Colada, they made BACARDÍ what it is today. So it was obvious that we start with the bar trade. All over the world, every single day, tens of thousands of bartenders pick up a bottle of BACARDÍ to make everything from a Daiquiri to a Cuba Libre. It’s not just pretty packaging, to them it is a tool and it needs to meet their needs, so it was essential that bartenders felt the design worked for them. The only way to do this was to involve them in the design process, to get their input at an early stage and keep asking their opinions.
Which bartenders did we look to, and why?
BACARDÍ is a rum with a truly global reach, and gets used by many different bartenders in many different situations, so we tried to engage bartenders across every spectrum of geography, gender, bar type, and so on. BACARDÍ is not a rum that is designed to look pretty in an airport somewhere, bought only for Father’s Day. It’s a rum that gets poured every day in some of the world’s most popular drinks. We involved bartenders from all over the world, and from every bar type, from high volume night clubs to craft cocktail bartenders, from mixologists in Manhattan to flair bartenders in Mumbai. Every opinion was valuable to us. I even had bartenders staying at my house, passing through on their travels, and I’d say “The cost of your stay is that you need to pick this bottle up, and pour it and tell me how we can make it better.”
Which comes first, looks or functionality?
Form follows function, of course, but that doesn’t mean your bottle has to look drab. I think we were lucky enough to have a great team working on this design, who wanted it to be both a brilliant, efficient bottle, and a striking, timeless design. The two go hand in hand.
How many designs did you see before deciding on the ‘one’?
I have no idea! I was only a small cog in a much bigger operation, of course, but we must have looked at more than 100 designs. This doesn’t mean you make that many new designs, but you make a new bottle, and then you make small tweaks to each iteration. Once we had the broad shape, we then looked at many different ways to make the whole work more efficiently. Is there a better way to distribute the weight? Can we make the angle of the neck better so that the liquid pours more quickly? Is this the right height for the ‘average’ bartender’s hand. I once spent a vaguely tragic weekend in my flat with a stopwatch and digital scales, because we had a design that we thought was very sexy, but there was something not quite right about the pour, and it transpired it was taking 0.4 seconds longer to pour a standard measure. A smaller company might have let that pass, but because BACARDÍ is such a big brand, with such global reach, if you multiply those split seconds across thousands of bars and tens of thousands of bartenders each evening, you realised that’s a lot of wasted seconds! So we wanted to make a tool that made bartenders lives easier. I’m sure they will soon tell us one way or the other!
How do you describe the new look bottle?
Bold, timeless, exciting. It’s a bottle that I hope bartenders will be proud to pour every day.
What excites you most about the new design?
We have had lots of wonderful compliments from bartenders, customers, even our competitors, about the new packaging. Perhaps the most recurring compliment has been along the lines of “It’s so great to see you go back to the old bottle.” Of course, we haven’t – it’s a new bottle, a new logo, even the bat isn’t the same as we have used in the past. So the fact that industry experts think we have created a new bottle that feels both modern yet timeless, directly connected to the famous BACARDÍ bottles and logo of the golden age of Cuban cocktails, that’s an exciting feeling. Hopefully it means this bottle will be around for a long time, I can’t wait to see it in the hands of bartenders around the world very soon as they make me a BACARDÍ Daiquiri!
As a bartender, what are the key features you look for in the shape and functionality of a bottle?
A longer neck, easily recognisable labels for guests to see on the back bar, a solid base for putting in the speed rack if needed and most importantly for me, the ability to put a pour spout in it. At my bar, shelf space is key. We don’t have much shelf space so every inch matters. Often, more common with bourbon bottles, companies make these wide bottles that end up being tilted sideways and squeezed onto the back bar with the beautiful wide label being lost.
How do these things help you in your job?
Speed, accuracy and comfort are three key things that enable me to make more drinks, make better drinks, more money, etc. and a bottle can and does aid in that.
When did the BACARDÍ team approach you for your thoughts on the new design and how do you feel your input has helped in the end result?
They contacted me in spring 2014 and showed me a few samples and I think they delivered on all my feedback. Obviously, it was a team effort and I was just happy and proud to be a part of it in any capacity.
How do you describe the new look BACARDÍ bottle?
Speaking from the heart, I’d say it’s Art Deco-ish. It reminds me of one of those old, classic BACARDÍ posters from back in the day. The new block letters that spell out BACARDÍ are my favourite part of the change. Believe it or not, during my time in the marines, we were taught not to use curly letters in presentations as block letters are visible from further away. All in all, it’s got a retro look but a new feel and I feel it’s something the BACARDÍ family should be very proud of. I appreciate them talking to bartenders from all over the world for their input then following up on it.
What excites you most about the new design?
I think I covered everything but most of all, the new shape and new label hasn’t changed the liquid on the inside of the bottle. I’m excited to share some stories during my time working with the fine people from BACARDÍ on the project and throw out a few impressive knowledge points about the rum and the family behind it. Everyone loves a great story at a bar and I’ve got a ton to spare – thanks for the platform for many of us, BACARDÍ!
See the film of the new packaging, featuring Steve Schneider here: