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The Beauty of Branding

Susan Wall

Managing Director
Pax Studio Branding Consultancy in Edinburgh

Over the last 16 years, brand experts PAX Studio have been helping brands globally enhance their businesses, addressing the real needs of brands – from launch through to strategy and delivery of effective and inspirational communications. In India, District 6 Micro Brewery Pub and Kitchen in Bangalore and District 6 Food Theatre in Ludhiana, among others, have benefited from their creativity and market support. BW speaks with Susan Wall, ‎Managing Director, Pax Studio Branding Consultancy in Edinburgh about her inspiration, her insights in the Indian market, and how she delivered to a concept so far away from home base.

What is your background? How did PAX Studio come to India?

My background is from a large London agency, specialising in food and drink brands, where I started about 25 years ago. Since then and after moving to Scotland, I set up PAX, working on giving new energy to the existing brands as well as giving life to new products.

We work closely with our clients to develop the concept from strategy, through to project delivery of the brand in all its forms that is naming, packaging, interiors, digital comms, websites, and social media marketing, everything to communicate the brand’s offer, personality and raise profile of the product. We have been working largely with companies in UK. However, over the last 7 years, our global reach stretches across Europe, the Caribbean and to India.

Our connection with India was via Pradeep Verma of CFB Consulting GmbH, acting in the capacity of Adviser to Assam, based Radiant Distilleries, Vodka and Spirits. This was a few years before we started work on District 6. They came to the UK to learn how to create a new whisky from scratch and when discussing the concept, I suggested bringing in an acclaimed master blender, John McDougall, to aid credibility from Scotland to the Indian market for this blend of Scotch malts and Indian grain whisky. To our knowledge, the new whisky, named Castle Hill, sold out on the first day of its release, purely on the basis of its on-shelf appeal and stand out. And we have continued to work alongside Mr. Verma since.

What is the key thing you need to know from your client in order to build a complete branding package? What was District 6’s brief and your concept for it?

I need my clients and their advisers to be absolutely focused upon what they want to achieve and have a thorough understanding of the potential for their product. The client team must know their target market and audience and have realistic expectations regarding the impact.

Also you need to have some understanding of budget because there’s little point designing without being aware of any budgetary restrictions. As far as District 6 was concerned, what I understood from the start was that this was always intended to be a global, scalable brand and not necessarily be just the one venue. The concept therefore was not niche; it wouldn’t look like a small company product. It needed to look like a repeatable concept that people would understand right from the start. We also knew that the client had engaged a fabulous Japanese interior design firm Super Potato, known for high quality delivery. So from the name, the branded items (glasses, menus, uniforms, interior/exterior design signage and materials, etc) to the digital concepts, these were going to have to be globally understandable and of super high quality When we came up with initial designs, we knew we wanted to use copper to reflect the brewery tanks and wood to reflect the beer barrels and we created mood boards to guide the interiors team, so the overall delivery was cohesive despite the miles apart. We created the name District 6 to reflect an urban, modern vibe, a word not too difficult to understand globally, and the concept was expanded upon to differentiate different food cooking regions (German District, Grill District, etc). Supporting the concept was the theme ‘It’s all in the making’. This reflected the authenticity and craftsmanship across the whole experience, from the state-of-art brewery to the chefs and the wizardry of the hand-spun cocktails.

The result was less about launching an Indian brand and more about creating something exciting and dynamic with credibility across the world. Bringing in a ‘foreign’ branding team such as PAX was considered a shrewd move in this delivery and was key to the strategy of delivering the necessary stand-out.

Did you have any idea of the Indian market before you took up District 6? How did you get the insights?

As part of creating new brands for Radiant Distilleries, Mr Verma had provided market dynamics of alcoholic beverages industry in India, consumer behavior, target segments and industry data. There were many Skype calls to share insights between the teams regarding the market and as well as researching global ideas online. I also visited many different sites to get a level of authenticity.

I had an advantage regarding the market because in the UK at the moment there is a big surge in craft breweries and gin distilleries with many new small producers. It’s a very exciting space to be in and a great sector to watch develop.

You have campaigns worldwide. The fact that it’s another country, has it ever become an impediment?

I have worked in other countries but working internationally is certainly not an impediment. In my experience, working out of the country has been considered a benefit to my clients. In markets where you are looking to stand out, it can be an advantage not to have the same level of awareness of local context, comparisons, cultural or visual trends etc. I’ve produced brands that look different in the market and it’s often due to this, many of our international clients choose to commission us. We bring a fresh approach not compromised by familiarity.

The key aspect in the delivery of any international project is communication, a set timeframe and having a man ‘on the ground’ or adviser to represent you locally. For all our different Indian clients and globally, communications run smoothly with meetings generally held weekly on Skype, making the world much smaller and very easy.

As mentioned before we also had our ‘man on the ground’, a representative and adviser – Pradeep Verma of CFB Consulting GmbH working on behalf of the clients and PAX. With a great pedigree in delivering of Turnkey solutions, particularly in the brewery, micro brewery & restaurant sector, his experience in project management and delivery was crucial to the timing and success of projects.

With over 25 years producing brand, it is great to form part of the overall team and have one’s insights and instincts acknowledged and implemented.

Do you have any other brands in India that you are doing promotions and packaging for?

We have a new whisky brand yet to hit the Indian market from Radiant Distillers. It’s under wraps while the final touches are made.

You’ve mentioned District 6’s restaurant offer which we developed following the success of the microbrewery. It’s all about the food and the drama of watching the chefs perform in the open kitchen hence our name District 6 Food Theatre. This time the venue is a high-end shopping centre in Ludhiana and the client was very clear about the type of people they wanted to attract. The branding is based on a simple global icon, so people seeing from a distance would at once know it’s not about microbreweries, but about food and drama.

I have designed a new whisky for clients Aberko called Deerstalker, which has been designed with a Scottish feel, for the Indian market. The brand name reflects a country gentleman who goes out, shoots deer, then comes in and drinks his whisky by the fireside. It’s also the name of his hat!

What do you think is the futuristic concept for beer branding? Froth, bubbles, clear liquid…what’s innovative?

Craft. Craft. Craft! Either in bars or delivered to your door via online purchasing. With such an opportunity for differentiation, you can have some real fun and the options on taste, bottle, and fizz are endless. Pure magic for the future!


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