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Something Old, Something New

Something Old, Something New

Many leading brands have been created overnight through smart advertising, association with quality products and celebrity endorsements. If you spend enough money on it, consumers will often be convinced that the brand and product are ones with which they wish to be associated.

However, it is often the way in which the product is produced that drives demand with customers willing to pay a premium for a product made with traditional methods and values. But at a time when innovative technology is moving at lightening pace, how do these traditional brands stay relevant?

Take whisky for example. The way in which Scotch Whisky is produced is enshrined in law, The Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009 (the “Regulations”). Only when whisky is produced in accordance with the Regulations can it benefit from being called Scotch Whisky. I was recently interviewed on BBC Good Morning Scotland following news reports that Diageo wished to test the water on changing the strict production regulations that govern the manufacture of Scotch Whisky. According to the press coverage, Diageo were floating ideas such as finishing Scotch Whisky in casks previously used for tequila (currently oak casks are required). In addition, it is claimed they want to introduce a new category of Scotch Whisky infusion including low alcohol blends sold under the same brand names or adding the likes of chocolate to the mash during fertilisation.

As we all know, Scotch Whisky is an iconic global brand, built on traditional methods used in its production. Customers appreciate the quality and heritage synonymous with the product and are prepared to pay a premium for that. However, keeping the right balance between preserving traditions and being open to innovation can be a tricky one to maintain. Brands need to be recognisable and relevant in today’s society, but it doesn’t follow that you can’t have one without the other. Both tradition and innovation aren’t mutually exclusive and done right, they can compliment each other to achieve the best of both worlds. Innovation can be used in a way which enhances, rather than dilutes, the inherent distinctiveness found in successful brands. Change happens every day even Irn Bru® has a new recipe (though most of us can’t tell the difference!)

Imagine that the key elements of a brand are like bricks in a wall. You may get away with removing one or two bricks without damaging the overall strength of the wall. But take too many away, or remove one key brick and the wall becomes unstable and falls. Innovation is good, but the success in a brand and its reputation are fragile and any changes to tradition have to be very carefully considered.

We have recently rolled out our firm’s Technology offering under the strapline of “designing your future with artificial and emotional intelligence.” That seems a fitting phrase for brands deciding how to develop and move forward without losing the qualities that ultimately make them special.  Advances in technology afford fantastic opportunities to businesses and their products but the emotional response consumers have when purchasing a product or service cannot be underestimated. Traditional brands have some fundamentals that will never change. Scotch Whisky will always be made in Scotland and processed, converted and fermented at the same distillery. But that is not to say that innovation cannot exist in the whisky industry or indeed in Scotch Whisky in the future. 

There is however, one important thing to remember, when innovation leads to changes to a brand it is important to make sure that your intellectual property portfolio protects any new avenues.  That includes registering new trade marks, designs or patents and making sure you have secure methods in place to keep business information confidential.  Innovation requires protection too!

You can listen to my time on BBC Good Morning Scotland here (01:19:00s).

Megan Briggs
Senior Solicitor

Burness admin