I love looking at the way companies change their branding over time: the way they try to move with the times without losing their history. Sometimes this can be subtle ( and I have already talked about the alterations in the Glenlivet typography), sometimes it can involve the ditching of tired Highland cliches (the Glen Garioch deer) other times it can involve a sharpening up to make your presentation cleaner and a bit more modern, so that the bottle can also look at home in a designer bar. This is the Macallan way. The old crest was a tiny bit cheesy and so, quite rightly, had to be binned.
You can clearly see the crest was made up, an artificial conceit: the thistle for Scotland, water and an ear of barley. You can imagine someone doodling at his desk, working it out, then triumphantly explaining it to the client “you see with one simple badge we represents scotch whisky itself. We are scotch whisky.” Huzza and trebles all round! But whisper it gently – it is quite dull and clearly inauthentic. It is no longer good enough, especially as Macallan are astute with their presentation and their cultivation of an up-market image. They were one of the first malts to follow Glenfiddich’s in developing the market for single malts. In the 1970s they ran small adverts next to the Times crossword that were small, discreet, with line drawings and text and quietly brilliant. Just by the positioning they made the association of being smart (in both senses of the word). Since then they have pursued a strategy of wanting to be seen as the Rolls Royce of malts. But to do that you have to look the part, you have to get the visual presentation right.
Compare the two bottles and notice the subtle changes of shape, a clarity of line that makes the modern one look sharp, whilst the older is merely generic. Then there is the clever use of Easter Elchies House as an emblem. It had previously been used on the packaging (which I actually rather like) but now it is the symbol. A such it has a much more compelling story than the faux coat of arms. It is, after all, the building at the heart of the Macallan Estate.
The aim of any established whisky brand is to keep abreast of the times whilst being in touch with their past. Part of their appeal is heritage but at the same time they have to be modern and attractive, not fusty. It is a balancing act – a bit like blending really. Mostly the big brands are very good at it.