No, not a confession of alcoholism but a description of my start to the week.
Through the power of my favourite social networking site (Give me a T, Give me a W, an I, T, T, you get the gist..) I ended up with an invitation to the Bombay Sapphire Gintelligensia evening at their concept pop up bar, the Dusk Bar at Somerset House. An opportunity to meet other bloggers, creative types and the brand ambassador, chief Mixologist Sam Carter awaited.
Now I'm always interested in seeing how brands interact with consumers and I was suitably intrigued by the bar (dreamed up by legendary designer Tom Dixon and his Design Research Studio) and the rationale behind it to give up my modicum of downtime on Monday evening to experience it.
It seems that successful brands are increasingly willing to engage with the consumer to ensure their product stays hot, or in this case cold. Gone are the days when advertising solely relied on telling the public what to buy and how to wear it, eat it or engage with it, now any brand worth its salt comes to the public. Through digital mediums like twitter, facebook, blogger or offline in print, conversation and demonstration, big brands are increasingly looking to give something back, learn a little more and encourage their customers to stick with them in the face of decreasing markets. As I've mentioned before this is something that I find fascinating and is especially interesting to me as an Illustrator, as obviously we benefit if a brand decides to utilise illustration in a new campaign, so my interest in advertising trends isn't purely without motive.
As part of this event 'Gintelligensia' my small group learnt about the brand's history, taking a tour across the globe sampling, smelling and handling the ten botanicals from exotic locations that make up Bombay Sapphire's special blend of Gin. We were then shown how to make a Gin Martini and a specially devised cocktail for the Dusk Bar, the Bombay Sapphire Berry Spice. All the while the narrative around the brand was expertly told by Sam, who entertained and ensured this experience was a fun one.
Not only was it educational (I now know a Dickens martini comes with no Olive or Twist, but will always leave you wanting more – thanks Sam for that joke!) it also introduced me to the legacy of a brand that has been around for hundreds of years.
The mixology events are open to the public (reservations are on sale through Somerset House) and are an integral part of Bombay Sapphire's attempt to publicise their brand. The Dusk Bar is open until October 18th, meaning a great deal more people will come away with a warm association with the brand and their mixologists and staff will have gained valuable feedback and a chance to meet and discuss the drink with their consumers. The Dusk Bar and the cocktail events have a twofold effect, one the bar itself is a delight, a real talking point and a great venue to hang out at, which reflects positively on the drink, especially as the skilful staff ensure the quality of cocktails served is immense. Secondly, the brand have recognised that as people increasingly entertain at home initiatives like this are necessary to tempt drinkers into bars and if they do decide to participate in the mixology events they will take away the recipes (also available online) and try them out at home. Rather then fight the notion of supermarket purchases Bombay Sapphire have recognised that it can be a strength, as long as they are the brand purchased, which they aim to achieve by listening to what their customers want and through offering them an added extra that makes their product more appealing and accessible. This sort of smart promotion is something I expect to see more of from the brands that stand tall in the recession. It's also something that really resonates with me, as I'm generally quite loyal to brands that put a bit of effort into advertising their product.
It's no big deal for an alcohol brand to sponsor a bar, but it was nice to see the quality of the whole set up, The space really is quite special, especially if you catch the glorious sunset when the sky matches the blue of the surrounding bar for a fleeting moment. A great bonus in mid September is that the clever design also ensures the breeze from the Thames is tempered and the beautiful setting of an outdoor bar is not lost in shivers and goosebumps.
So all in all a good fun event. Obviously there are other Gin brands available and this post is not about the merits of Bombay Sapphire's drink, more about their willingness to recognise the changing relationship between consumer and product and respond to it innovatively. This is not a sponsored blog post and as Liz Lemon once remarked in 30 Rock "this isn't product placement I just really like it" that's the case here. I just thought the whole place was great and if you can get down there then check it out during Fashion Week when the bar will have music and special events.