Mexican journey to discover Tequila story | Case Study

Every brand has a story to tell and for the new variant of Sauza Tequila, there was a rich background to draw from for design agency Osborne Pike. Tony Corbin looks into how the packaging brought the brand to life

The brief  Osborne Pike was tasked with designing a bottle for a new variant of Sauza Tequila. The design agency had an open brief and visited Mexico to tell the story of the brand.

Client  Beam Global

Brand  Sauza XA Tequila

Design  Osborne Pike

UK launch date  January 2013

While every redesign, rebrand or brand extension will involve a high level of creativity and research, not all come with a story that’s as rich and evocative as the one behind the Sauza XA Tequila bottle.

Considering that Sauza Tequila founder Don Cenobio Sauza was the first distiller to call the spirit, produced from blue agave plant, “tequila” way back in 1873, it’s not surprising that there were many stories for branding and packaging design agency Osborne Pike to chose from when given the task of designing the bottle. They were basically dealing with Tequila royalty.

“There’s nothing like going to the place of origin,” explains Osborne Pike managing director Steve Osborne. “There were many stories we could have told about this product. It was an innovation meant to operate as the flagship for the Casa Sauza [House of Sauza] entity, the umbrella title for all the Sauza Tequilas.

Open brief

The brief was open with respect to bottle shape, outer packaging and even the product or sub-brand name. “Working in collaboration with partner agency Studio Davis, who specialise in innovative structural packaging, we developed three inspirational design territories which captured different aspects of Sauza Extra Anejo: tradition and leadership, vision and innovation, and the power of simple truths,” explains Osborne. “Despite the appeal of naming the spirit after ‘La Constancia’, we suggested a more direct approach of ‘XA’, a prestige designation with a nod to premium cognacs.”

Along with the name, Osborne Pike needed to put across its compelling storyline to the consumer. “The story we ending up selecting was the one related to the original founder Don Cenobio Sauza who did a lot of things in his time,” adds Osborne. “He became president of the town of Tequila, he bought a distillery and he rode on his horse to the border with the US, starting the first export of Tequila.”

The man whose mission it was to take in the various stories was the company’s creative director David Pike. He visited various retail outlets in Chicago and Mexico City in 2011 while examining the market and consumer attitudes. “Basically David went to Chicago [where their client Beam Global is based] to look at some sales outlets including off licences and some Mexican bars and the same thing in Mexico City,” says Osborne. “It was more about picking up the flavour of where it would be sold.”

Jalisco visit

Pike also visited the distillery itself in the heart of the Jalisco region of Mexico, where he absorbed the history and heritage of the Sauza family, brand and distillery. Potential shapes, materials, opening rituals and names were inspired by Pike’s time in the region and naturally he shared a glass or two of the new spirit in the ageing room, ‘La Constancia’.

The stories were passed on to the Osborne Pike team in the UK who used them to create a unique and distinctive bottle to house the premium spirit, described by some as  a ‘sipping Tequila’ – a far cry from the kind you might associate with boisterous festivities. When you consider that Tequila can only be made in the Tequila region, it’s easy to see how it lends itself well to connoisseur tastes.

The outstanding feature of the bottle is the leather strap that stretches from the shoulder-mounted metal clips to seal the robust stopper. It’s also the feature that  fuses the history with innovation.

“The big idea and innovation was to create leather straps that would be part of the bottle’s fabric rather than just decoration,” says Osborne. “So we decided to strap on the stopper with a leather strap. I suppose you could say it was inspired by saddlery and horse riding but also by the desire to be innovative and stand out.”

Authentic

While the tapered form with its weighty glass base is also premium cognac-inspired, the bottle remains true to the spirit’s roots. “We wanted to make it authentically Mexican at the same time,” says Osborne.

The agency achieved this with the saddle-like front panel with screen-printed graphics providing a window through the amber-coloured spirit to the agave image on the back label. A premium gift box lined with the new Casa Sauza corporate stripes and a storytelling booklet completes the package.

Produced in a limited edition of 12,000 bottles selling at €150 each, the brand was launched in January this year. The hope is that consumers will buy into a brand with a compelling story.