Diageo looks to turn Gordon’s from a ‘default to a standout’ gin brand

Diageo is launching a £2m marketing campaign for Gordon’s that introduces brand ambassador “Gordon the Boar” for the first time as it looks to drive reappraisal of its market-leading gin brand.

The campaign, created by BBH, launches on Christmas Eve during the ITV showing of the James Bond film Skyfall. It features Gordon the Boar stylishly dancing around an urban apartment and preparing two glasses of Gordon’s gin and tonic.

The TV ad will be supported by a four-minute YouTube film designed to educate viewers about the heritage of Gordon’s Gin and the history of the boar symbol, which has appeared on its bottles since the brand’s launch in 1769. The boar will also have its own Twitter handle aimed at revealing the character’s, and therefore the Gordon brand’s, personality and point of view, while a PR push is also planned for the new year.

Gordon’s sales

Gordon’s is the biggest gin brand in the UK with around a 46 share of the market, according to figures from Nielsen. Figures from IRI show that sales of Gordon’s were up 7.6% in the year to 13 December, giving it 4.7% of the total spirits market, which is worth £3bn.

However, Gordon’s growth has failed to keep up with more premium brands, which are seeing double-digit growth.

Gordon’s has seen volume growth of around 4% this year, while value growth is up “slightly less than 4%”, according to Diageo’s senior brand manager for Gordon’s in Western Europe, Kate Yateman-Smith, roughly in line with the wider “standard gin” market.

However, sales of premium gin have risen by 17%, she said, meaning that Gordon’s needs to boost its sales growth if it wants to maintain market share.

“The gin category is in massive growth driven mostly by premium gin. Gordon’s is holding its own within standard gin but premium is performing better. We want Gordon’s holding its share which means, if we look at the total, we need to be growing at closer to 8%. That is quite difficult,” she said.

Driving reappraisal

Yateman-Smith said Gordon’s had identified that the brands that were performing best were the ones with a “distinctive tone of voice and personality” that are bringing “vibrancy” to the gin category. She admitted this has previously been lacking for Gordon’s, with the new campaign aiming to change that.

The “It’s got to be Gordon’s” campaign aims to allow the brand to talk about its credibility and heritage in gin while also bringing “excitement and originality” she said.

Gordon's brand ambassador is making his first appearance in marketing for the brand
Gordon’s brand ambassador is making his first appearance in marketing for the brand

“Going through the brand assets the one that stood out was the boar. The boar emblem has been central to the brand but we’ve never chosen to use it within marketing before. By making the character front and centre of the campaign we can make him ‘cool’ to drive brand reappraisal but make it distinctly Gordon’s. No other gin could do this,” she said.

The campaign is aimed at “gin category buyers”, an audience that totals 11.3 million. Diageo is hoping to reach 78% of these people with a new distinctive message that will force consumers to reappraise the brand.

Yateman-Smith says the success of the campaign will be judged on its ability to affect equity and measures such as distinctiveness, brand love and the way people feel about Gordon’s. She says this is not a sales-driving campaign with Gordon’s having missed Christmas, the biggest window of opportunity for sales, but is instead focused on content, engagement and comprehension of the Gordon’s brand.

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