It’s the booze talking

When it comes to writing about alcohol, one false move can land you in hot water. You must walk the fine line between selling your product, and not promoting irresponsible behaviour.

The answer for many brands is to sell an atmosphere or tell a story. You see it all the time in TV ads and social media – but how do you then set the same mood in the limited space on back of pack copy?

Capturing the personality

As well as describing the flavour, ingredients and offering a serving suggestion, the words need to convey a brand’s identity. Just like fashion or cars, someone’s favourite tipple ‘labels’ their personality type – whether they’re a serious connoisseur or a party animal. So the tone should adjust accordingly: reflective and thoughtful for a single malt sipped after dinner; but fizzing with energetic taste metaphors for a spirit served in trendy nightclubs.

Thinking out of the bottle

Telling stories is one tried and trusted writing technique, made easier by plenty of alcohol brands possessing a genuine and interesting history. You have beer brewed in medieval monasteries. Vodkas and rums that have survived revolutions, wars and prohibition. There are even accidental discoveries to talk about: such as with Jameson’s Select Reserve when some oak barrels caught fire, and the whiskey inside was found to have picked up a pleasing smokiness.

Raising a glass to tradition

Attitudes and rituals, including how a particular drink is traditionally enjoyed at a certain time of the day, can also help with thinking up lateral ideas – and creating that one clever, all-encompassing strapline to appear on the bottle when there’s no room for any other text.

The eccentric British humour in Raise a glass to PIMMS o’clock wittily demonstrates how a drink can ‘own’ an occasion. Stella Artois invented the famous Reassuringly expensive line, which succinctly implied that the quality of the beer is reflected by its higher than average price. And Guinness’s Good things come to those who wait campaign worked as brilliantly for its TV epics as it did on cans of draught Guinness.

In fact, some of the most original, award-winning advertising copy ever written has been for alcohol brands. And for a skilful, creative copywriter, finding the right words to describe a drink on a 20cm square label can be a wonderfully satisfying challenge.

We’ll drink to that (responsibly of course).