CAMPAIGNS: PRODUCT BRANDING - A tonic for the drinks market

Client: Plymouth Gin

Client: Plymouth Gin

Campaign: Reviving the Plymouth Gin brand

PR Team: Communications Plus

Timescale: May 1997 - ongoing

Budget: Undisclosed

Plymouth Gin has been distilled for over 200 years at the same site in

Plymouth, and is one of only a few gins which survive in its original

form from the 18th century.

A year ago, the brand was losing some pounds 25,000 a month and had lost

its distribution agreement. The brand was bought by a private consortium

and a new managing director, Charles Rolls, was hired to turn the brand


Food and drinks specialist Communications Plus, was hired to provide PR



To recreate awareness of the Plymouth Gin brand and position it as the

premium gin on the market.


As there was only a small budget, an advertising campaign was ruled out,

and the focus was on public relations and marketing.

The packaging of the gin was completely overhauled to recapture the

heritage elements of the brand. Importantly, the strength was lifted to

the original 41.2 per cent alcohol volume - thought to be the optimum

for holding the flavours in balance.

At the time, distribution of Plymouth Gin was minimal, so the campaign

had to begin with a very hands-on approach - there was no point in

raising public awareness before the product could be bought over the

counter to gradually re-build confidence in the brand.

Communications Plus decided to bring the brand back to its West Country,

naval roots and began working with yacht clubs and targeting consumers

interested in sailing with tastings, to remind them how a great gin

should taste.

Great Western Trains was also brought in as stockists, and a series of

stories were sold in to the local media, including interviews with

Charles Rolls.

Drinks writers and broadcasters were targeted with comprehensive fact

sheets, reminding them of the heritage of the brand and its place in the

premium drinks market. Interesting facts, such as the fact that the 1896

Savoy Cocktail Book recommended Plymouth Gin as an ingredient in 27

cocktails, including the original dry Martinis, were included.

A real turning point for the gin was when Jilly Goolden, of BBC 2’s Food

and Drink programme selected Plymouth Gin as the best tasting gin out of

around 30 brands, in a blind tasting.

Once the fortunes of Plymouth Gin had begun to change, Communications

Plus focused on the business story, selling it in to the Financial Times

and other quality newspapers.


The sales speak for themselves - they are up 350 per cent on the same

period last year. Stockists of the gin now include Thresher, Tesco and

Asda. Plymouth Gin has recently gone into profit. Following the

broadcast of Food and Drink, sales rose some 500 per cent, and the media

relations campaign was a success, with in-depth articles appearing in

the Independent on Sunday, ITV’s This Morning, the Express and the


Plymouth Gin is also having considerable impact on the east coast of the

US, where it was unavailable for some 20 years.


Plymouth Gin has a distinguished history, something to be envied by

other brands. This campaign’s strength was to build on this history of

the brand, and focus on the quality of the product. It was also very

well targeted - capturing interest locally not only helped the brand,

but provided a good platform from which to launch a nationwide


Charles Rolls has bought into the company, and there are plans to expand

further into the US, and increase distribution of Plymouth Gin to

100,000 cases annually.

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