MAKING AN IMPRESSION ON 2023
JAMES HARTIGAN, CREATIVE DIRECTOR OF PACKAGING: MAKING AN IMPRESSION ON 2023
As I sit down to reflect on the past year, I am filled with excitement and pride — it was a cracker. 2023 was an incredible year of award-winning, record-breaking and doubling down on our ethos — designing a difference that goes beyond the surface.
In the realm of brand and packaging, Contagious has carved out a reputation built on delivering not just good but great and beyond all expectations. And it can’t be underestimated how important packaging as an expression of a brand can be for its success.
Spirit, wine, beer — whatever your product — your packaging is often the customer’s first taste of what you’re all about. And in my opinion, those first impressions can really count for something.
Let’s jump into my highlights from 2023…
BREAKING NEW GROUND
In 2023, Contagious launched two ultra-modern, consumer-focused brands — DropWorks Rum and Burnt Faith Brandy.
The brand creation and conceptual thinking for both were born out of rock-solid research insights. Inspired to go deeper to create consumer-first narratives and gripping experiences way beyond the product’s surface. And always put the consumer first and how they see themselves in a brand.
Both these brands were amazing opportunities to define a category, British Rum and Brandy respectively. A rum that brings the category into the modern era and a brandy for a new generation. Both breaking the rules, both made in Britain and both making big industry waves since launch.
DATA DRIVEN. EVIDENCE BASED. EFFECTIVE DESIGN.
The team and I always strive to design a difference for clients by driving change and creating impact. And Gordon & MacPhail's portfolio of whiskies is a perfect example.
With 11 different ranges and 500+ SKUs, Gordon & MacPhail’s huge range was impressive, but it was getting increasingly difficult for customers to navigate — even the company described themselves as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
When the project wrapped up, the team and I had turned their underestimated and somewhat misunderstood portfolio into a customer-friendly brand framework, underpinned with stunning packaging. And the results? 71% increase in revenue and 109% increase in average case price. Receiving a DBA Design Effectiveness Gold last year for this was just the cherry on top — a personal highlight for me and the rewards of years’ worth of collaboration with G&M.
NEW HEIGHTS FOR JAPANESE WHISKY
If whisky is ‘where the money is’, Karuizawa is concrete proof. Last year, Sotheby’s Auction House got in touch with me to find out more about the packaging design story of the Karuizawa 1960 Japanese whisky. In the end, they auctioned off a 1960 bottle at a staggering record-breaking price of £300,000.
The auction also included some of our other beautiful Karuizawa 1965 designs. And for the 1960, 10 years after launch, it’s still making waves in the world of luxury whisky. It's also one of my top 3 all-time projects at Contagious, which makes it even better!
PACKAGING THE PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF A DISTILLERY
I also had the pleasure of leading the team during our collaboration with Bladnoch Distillery to create its inaugural luxury ‘Samhla’ series. Limited edition packaging conjured up an ultra-luxe experience. Handmade walnut box, layers of storytelling weaved throughout, ornate crystal decanters, ceremonial key… all meticulously designed and polished to the nth degree. This project was amazing to work on and it even helped raise £27,500 at The Distiller’s One of One charity auction.
As I package up the events of 2023 neatly in my mind, I have no doubts that 2024 will give us plenty more to shout about. New creative challenges, hitting new sustainability goals, taking packaging design to even dizzier heights, and hopefully wowing more consumers around the world.
If that sounds like your kind of tipple, we’d love to talk.
Meanwhile, wishing you all the best for the year and beyond.
Creative Director of Packaging