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The Art of Packaging Premium - The Story Behind Casa Sauza XA’s New Look

Released: 13/05/2013 12:23:00
Author: Libby White
Read 3869 times

Osborne Pike shares with Packaging Europe the process behind developing Casa Sauza XA's new design.

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A quick glance at the packaging of the world's top spirits brands shows a remarkable level of consistency in the stories being told. Eight out of the top ten are named after their founder, and nearly all make a feature of where and when they were first distilled. That covers the 'who' 'when' and 'where', so just add a sprinkle of the ‘how’ and ‘what’ (a process and maybe an exotic ingredient or two, or ten if you're Bombay Sapphire gin), and there you have it, the perfect blend of storytelling content to mull over as you savour your favourite tipple.

Naturally different spirits have different tales to tell. Vodka is pure, cool and sexy, whereas Whisky is rich, warm and substantial, and comes mainly with a Scotch, Irish or American accent. Gin is complex, class-obsessed and quintessentially English, whereas Rum is romantic, exotic, and likes to party hard.

Often with hundreds of years of history behind them, famous spirits brands are true assets and as such need to be exploited by their owners, which in some cases still include descendants of the founder himself (it’s nearly always a ‘he’, now there’s an opportunity…)


Extending a famous brand requires the story to take on new chapters, preferably based on a truth from the past, because believability requires consistency. As consumers we are ever more sensitive to marketing ‘BS’, but it only takes a grain of truth for us to go with the flow and enjoy our part in the story: "I drink Brand X because it says the right things about me, don't you agree?"

Perhaps the easiest story to tell is the one about a Special Reserve, with extra care and time taken by the founder or his modern day equivalent the Master Distiller, to produce a more premium version. The design language is easy to recognise: a classier, often more showy bottle and label(s), clearly 'reserved' for something, and someone special. In some categories such as Whisky and cognac, brands manage a wide portfolio of premium extensions, each requiring its unique role in the overall brand story.

When Osborne Pike (and our 3D partners Studio Davis) started work on just such a project for the tequila brand Sauza, the story was a little more complex.   Sauza itself is a well-known, mainstream brand with the usual ‘classic’ variants of Gold and Silver (and more recently a ‘Blue’ extension). The brief was to create a limited edition, extra-aged, super-premium ‘sipping’ tequila, not exactly for the Sauza brand but for its new ‘house of brands’ corporate entity ‘Casa Sauza’. This new sub-brand needed to fit within a diverse portfolio – Sauza itself, but also more premium stablemates such as Hornitos and Tres Generaciones.

With no specific brand language to build on, we immersed ourselves in the history of the Sauza family and brand, with a trip to the beautiful Jalisco region of Mexico, the town of Tequila, and finally to ‘La Perseverancia’, the distillery. We discovered a place where the streets are paved with glossy black obsidian, and the blue agave, the unusual plant at the heart of tequila production, thrives in an unexpectedly lush landscape.

Within the walls of the distillery itself inspiration was everywhere: The old cross that once adorned the tavern bought by founder Don Cenobio Sauza to start his production of tequila in 1873; a magnificent mural painting of the legendary origins of the tequila spirit; the ageing room ‘La Constancia’, and the family hacienda La Quinta, facing the walls of rival distillery José Cuervo. And not least the delicate 3 years old (‘extra anejo’) spirit itself, crafted by today’s master distiller to demonstrate the quality and subtlety that tequila can bring to a new breed of consumer.

This consumer is part of ‘a diverse global community with a shared desire for human connectivity’, and tequila offers this eclectic group a more provocative image than many traditional European spirits. In order to distinguish this premium ‘sipping tequila’ from the party spirit that is consumed freely in shots or Margaritas, we sought to create a design language that combined an authentically Mexican feel with the status of connoisseurship.

We developed three inspirational design territories that captured different aspects of Sauza extra anejo: tradition and leadership, vision and innovation, and the power of simple truths. Despite the appeal of calling the spirit after ‘La Constancia’, we invented a name with instant prestige and a nod to premium cognacs: Casa Sauza XA.

In our design journey we inevitably had to leave behind many inspiring ideas, from black glass to reflect the obsidian to an intricate and mysterious outer box that became known as ‘the Confessional’. But the client team gravitated quickly to a more direct expression of the Casa Sauza story – founder Don Cenobio Sauza’s horseback ride to the US border, signalling the first recorded export of his unique tequila.

The outstanding feature of our bottle is the leather strap that stretches from the shoulder-mounted metal clips to seal the robust stopper. The tapered form with its weighty glass base exudes quality, whilst the saddle-like front panel with screen-printed graphics provides a window through the delicately amber-coloured spirit to the agave image on the back label. A premium gift box lined with the new Casa Sauza corporate stripes and a storytelling booklet complete the package.

According to Eileen Bravmann, Beam’s Senior Manager Marketing Innovation: ‘Osborne Pike showed the ability to balance brand understanding with standout innovation’. For our part we loved the process from start to finish: absorbing the history and heritage of the Sauza family, brand and distillery; understanding the market segmentation and consumer attitudes; and best of all sharing a glass or two of this fabulous new spirit in the beautifully-named ageing room, ‘La Constancia’. Cheers!

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