Whist Japanese whiskies represent less than 5% of total world whisky sales, their international sales have been marked by a strong growth of Super-Premium brands in Western markets and received considerable attention from various media. In this article we detail how Brand Reveal worked with Marussia Beverages company to develop the positioning of Hatozaki, its newly Japanese whisky.
Gathering the evidence : the brand takes its name from the Hatozaki lighthouse, situated in Akashi’s old port. This is Japan’s oldest stone lighthouse and a destination for visitors to enjoy the beautiful view of the Kaykyo bridge. Furthermore, lighthouses in Japan – like in other coastal nations – are essential for maritime traffic and symbolize safety and welcoming.
The Hatozaki lighthouse was built in 1657 during the Edo Era, a period of economic growth and blossoming of arts and culture. The label shows the lighthouse in the soft colours, reminiscent of this era, and the Hatozaki name is hand painted in a classic kanji style. The bottle, inspired from classic Scotch bottles, symbolises opening towards others, away from “50 cl lab bottle” or “soft power” style found in other offers.
To make sure Hatozaki would have a welcoming flavour profile, it was produced to please Kimio Yonesawa, Akashi-Tai sake Toji, who loves exploring new flavours and is particularly sensitive to fine aromas. As such, Hatozaki’s style is sweet and light with a rich backbone of malt character which make this whisky easy to enjoy with ice or straight.
Expressing the Brand Promise : with a product which is a real delight, presented in a pack which suggests comfort and trust, Hatozaki proposition can only naturally be about “assuring a warm welcome”. This benefit makes sense as the comfort of home is necessary to overcome the difficulties to make a living. And fits perfectly with the relaxing occasions of coming back home or the beginning of an evening after work.
This is a unique emotional offering in the world of Japanese whiskies, who often play on complexity for experts or soft power for status seekers. And it anticipates a proximity motivation from consumers, who after a lot of show-off or geekery, can also opt for more approachable and straightforward propositions.
The benefits of a “Dual Brand Workshop” : the approach we use to build brand positioning includes a thorough brand review and a workshop with the company teams who will be involved in the strategy implementation. This allows for fresh ideas, to build engagement and ownership. Far from being an exercise in collective democracy, these workshops are the space for intelligent "challenges and builds" on specific brand platform topics (e.g. Brand Essence, Consumer Motivations, Core Values…).
For Hatozaki, we ran a workshop in Paris. The session was dedicated to Hatozaki AND also the Akashi-Tai sake to match timings and resources. We adopted a “Dual Brand Workshop” approach where participants were split in two groups - one for Hatozaki and the other for Akashi. During the sessions, both groups worked in parallel on their respective brand on a given topic (e.g. desired consumer profile, etc...) and then presented their output to the other group for an open discussion. Once the group was finished, the other would present their findings for their brands. And so on.
Whilst demanding on yours (try to switch from brand A & B, non stop, in a snap, for 2 days in a row!), this approach is useful as it allows to expose ideas to external viewpoints and take in suggestions. We should point out that this takes the form of constructive remarks, as the group who makes suggestions knows that it will also receive remarks. The Brand Reveal task in this process is to facilitate the exchanges, act as a sting and capture key ideas.
In the next article about Marussia Beverages Japanese brands, we will have a closer look at the Akashi-Tai sake and reveal (a bit) how we developed a unique positioning and tackled the brand portfolio (apparent) complexity. Brand Reveal is a network of senior marketeers with a serious love for brands and drinks. We even go to Japan for them !