When the world’s largest producer of spirits, Diageo, opted to relaunch the legendary Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey brand, I.W. HARPER, to the United States after a nearly 20-year absence, part of that homecoming included establishing the brand’s identity to a stateside market that hadn’t tasted the historic bourbon in decades. The sonic identity of the brand was one consideration, and the question behind this task was a tough one to answer: “What is the sound that modernizes a classic, 142-year-old bourbon brand?”
The Crossing Tree
Founded in 1872 by I.W. Bernheim as the original premium bourbon, I.W. HAPRER grew in class and reputation wherever it went—winning its first of many gold medals in 1885 and traveling to 110 countries throughout the twentieth century. After nearly 20 years, the I.W. HARPER brand returns to the U.S. with stories to tell. To maximize this relaunch, parent brand Diageo teamed with Chicago-based agency, GERTRUDE, INC. The GERTRUDE team has worked with such clients as AB InBev, Tiger Beer, and Singha Beer, making the partnership an apt choice for I.W. HARPER.
One of the first steps of the relaunch included a series of brand films for the brand’s online channels, including YouTube and its webpage. “Welcome Home Mr. Harper.” was the first of these, showcasing the regal bottle of I.W. HARPER with text in a golden color reflective of the bourbon’s premium quality. A pivotal component of these brand films was determining the music. In such an artfully minimalist video, the music would be a defining layer of the brand’s new reception.
To discover that “sound of bourbon,” the creatives at GERTRUDE looked to fellow Chicago-based agency, Music Dealers, and our global community of emerging artists. One of them is Ryan Silverman, an actor/singer who performs regularly on Broadway, television, and film. A blend of operatic power with popular trends, Ryan Silverman’s song “The Crossing Tree (Instrumental)” is an introspective Pop/Soul track that is rife with emotion, nostalgia, and determination. The song fit so well with “Welcome Home Mr. Harper,” the clients synced it with three more web spots.