Storytelling as Brand

I was recently admiring the sleek, beautiful packaging that the Norwegian branding agency, Kind created for their fellow Norwegians at Oss Craft Distillery, when I was struck by the depth of metaphor and allegory that was presented by this bottle alone without any supporting context. The elegant and surprising aesthetic of the bottles had initially caught my eye and drew me in with the curious juxtaposition of gray monochrome and vibrant color, yet there’s so much more going on here than just a pretty package; there’s a single story being told by every aspect of this brand.

Oss is a Scandinavian distillery, creating a uniquely Scandinavian product (Aquavit or Akvavit) with an important place in Scandinavian culture. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that their brand should tell the story of the Scandinavian people. Kind focused their brand story on the perception or cultural stereotype that Scandinavians have a cold, reserved outer facade that guards a much warmer, friendlier and more exciting true nature. The parallels there to a crystal clear liquor which, to the naked eye, is indistinguishable from water yet is actually bursting with robust herbal flavors, are easy ones to draw.

The name smartly reinforces this link since “oss” is the Norwegian word for us, and aquavit translates to “the water of life”. To further connect the two, the wordmark for Oss Distillery is a fluid watery affair making clever use of the letterform’s serendipitously curvilinear lines. Like water, the logo is simple, elemental and clear.

From there, Kind brilliantly intertwined the metaphor of a cold and reserved exterior disguising a bright and vibrant interior into packaging, collateral, marketing et cetera, all with a bit of self-deprecating wit. The black and white monochrome labels are elegant and classy, but a bit a drab and conservative and each exactly uniform. However, the reverse sides (as seen through the glass and liquid) show the same mark set against wild bursts of commingling colored waters corresponding to the particular flavor of the spirit.

This allegorical brand identity was able to function as a guiding light for brilliant marketing pieces like these, which further delve into the tale they’re telling about Scandinavians in a more explicit nature while perfectly dovetailing with everything else they’ve created for Oss. In this way, all of the collateral surrounding Oss could be a clear extension of the brand, rather than adding additional layers to it. The marketers and designers behind these campaigns didn’t have to search for stories to tell about the product, the story was already written.

So often brands merely scratch the surface of their true potential by focusing on a name or a visual identity in isolation and then attempting to write a story about that brand, expecting the gaps to organically fill in from association and repetition or be explained by marketing campaigns that attempt to educate the audience about brand’s story enough that they buy in. But by taking a more holistic approach to brand strategy and allowing the story to become the brand, the message can be much more compelling and immediately impactful.

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