Let’s take the **** out of silly drinks.

6x cocktail

Wadworths 6X Ale

There are over 1000 breweries in the UK, creating some very distinctively named beers – Old Speckled Hen, Bishop’s Finger, Hedge Monkey, Dorothy Goodbody’s Country Ale, Old Peculier. By comparison Wadworth 6X sounds rather, err, well, ordinary.

A pint in need of added advertising poke

They had also come up with the line “The thoroughly decent pint”, which hardly sets the heart racing. Their marketing people asked Dave and Bev of DB Communication by Design to come up with an ad campaign that made this positioning of “it’s just a jolly good beer” work a lot harder – hard enough to attract a lot of younger drinkers discovering real ale for the first time, but without alienating the die-hard 6X loyalists.

The client didn’t articulate it quite like this but what they wanted was an idea to differentiate the beer from all the other choices behind the bar or on the supermarket shelves, make that point of difference motivating and attractive to real ale drinkers, and express it in a way that was remarkable, attention grabbing and memorable – but still using the “The thoroughly decent pint” line!

It was a tall order because the line actually positions the brand as the opposite of all the things they aspired to: intrinsically similar to an awful lot of other beers, frankly pretty boring and traditional, with nothing to give it any contemporary appeal whatsoever.  About as exciting as the old fart who props up the end of the bar and tells you the same stories every night.

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

The obvious route was to play the nostalgia card, but Dave and Bev realised that was simply too tired and overdone – and wouldn’t be sufficiently remarkable and contemporary to attract a new generation of drinkers. They had the germ of an idea and asked me to come and help them develop it, as well as a supporting rationale (important if the client was going to be persuaded to put any money behind it).

Their idea was that real ale drinkers, whilst being promiscuous (they enjoy trying a wide variety of beers), have a few pints they’ll file under favourites, a brew they’ll return to again and again, because it just ticks all the right boxes – a traditional classic that always slips down nicely.

They also felt the answer must have something to do with the fact that many younger drinkers come to real ale through the more youth orientated drinks such as vodka, cider and lager. They felt there was something in the general idea that real ale is a taste that you acquire with maturity (well, the beginnings of middle age).

Two little words make all the difference

They were trying to position 6X as a bit of a real ale legend by taking a swipe at all the “wannabe” drinks flooding the market, from cider to lager. But the line just got in the way. It didn’t make the comparison sufficiently explicit – it was just a picture of some cider and some beer…and you went “so what?”

But then I suggested putting “Time for” at the front of the line, and it worked – it said “when all about you are switching to cider you need to stick with a pint you can trust”.

We then did another version that poked fun at lager drinkers, followed by one that took the **** out of those who were tempted by trendy drinks that come and go, from bottles with a slice of fruit jammed in the top to cocktails sprouting silly straws and umbrellas.

The idea was to tap into the tribal feelings of the hard core real ale drinker and position ours as the pint of choice for true believers. When you discover 6X you’ll know you’ve arrived – almost like it’s the holy ale!

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The ads appeared in a variety of newspapers from The Independent to The Times

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It was a difficult story to tell and it had to be done artfully if it was going to work. Dave and Bev did a masterful job with the typography and the art direction. These were not stockshots but carefully crafted caricatures. Photographer was Pete Thorpe.

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The world has gone mad – mine’s a 6X

We then extended the idea beyond types of drink in particular (because there are only so many ways you can do that) to life in general. We picked up on those conversations you have over a pint in the pub when you put the world to rights. Europe, footballers who are over-paid, over-here and who over-act, silly celebrities who trigger silly fashion and lifestyle trends…when it all gets too much for you it’s time to head down to your local for a thoroughly decent pint and escape from all that nonsense for a few hours. Little did we know it at the time (2012) but we were tapping into the same attitudes and emotions that is making UKIP so popular right now!

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We were also asked to create a website for this iconic brew. This was unashamedly nostalgic, evoking the time honoured brewing tradition employed by Wadworth since 1875 with all the attendant aromas and tastes associated with it. Again, great art direction and photography. But the writing had to be suitably evocative too.

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The 6X blog is born

Finally I had to write a series of blog posts to support the advertising campaign. The Introduction had to set up the brand story.

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The first post then had to evoke the unique atmosphere and character of a real English pub.

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Once the reader is sitting comfortably at the bar it tells a more extended version of “the thoroughly decent pint in a world of silly drink fads” story. Subsequent posts then go on to tell the “the thoroughly decent pint in a world gone bonkers” story in greater detail than the ads were able to do.

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The campaign effectively created a point of difference where none existed before, made that difference meaningful to the target audience and then exaggerated the effect and impact by giving the story some emotional weight.

Subsequent posts had to build on this and introduce the conversations and discussions that were behind the ads that were appearing in the newspapers.

The end

In today’s overcrowded marketplace it’s not enough to just make a good product. On top of that you need a great story that sets you apart, grabs the attention, engages the audience by tapping into their attitudes and feelings, and is told with style and craft.

It’s just a shame that they didn’t have enough money to tell it on a grander scale using posters, TV and bigger press ads.