Responses by Bryan Judkins, principal/ group creative director, Young & Laramore
Background: Hotel Tango is a craft distillery founded by Travis Barnes, a Marine veteran, in 2014. As the company approached its fifth anniversary, it was looking to expand its footprint and become nationally recognized. To accomplish this, Hotel Tango needed to appeal to discerning, affluent drinkers, and enlisted Young & Laramore for a comprehensive campaign that included everything from identity and packaging to print, posters, outdoor and digital.
Reasoning: It was clear that consumers didn’t see how Hotel Tango’s military connection—it’s the nation’s first combat-disabled, veteran-owned distillery—translated into better-quality spirits. With that in mind, we needed to make Travis’ background meaningful to drinkers—and the key was shifting the way Hotel Tango talks about the military. It’s not Travis’ status as a veteran that makes Hotel Tango spirits good—it’s the way he makes them, using the rigor, standards and mentality he gained from serving in the Marines. That’s how “Veteran-Owned” became “Distilled with discipline.”
Challenges: Finding a voice and aesthetic that acknowledged and respected the brand’s military background—without veering into what could be seen as clichéd or jingoistic territory. We wanted to create something that meant a lot to Travis and others who served, but wouldn’t be a turn-off to the average consumer.
Favorite details: The details we were able to incorporate into the work, from subtle references to Travis’ military background—the black diamond in the logo was inspired by the nickname given to his Battalion by the Taliban—to the numbering system we created. There’s a lot that looks like decoration, but everything has meaning and purpose behind it.
Visual influences: We took a lot of inspiration from military packaging—primarily from military rations and meals, ready-to-eat—but also military shipping crates, like ammo crates. They’re all typographically driven and straightforward in their layout and language. They tell you what’s inside, how much of it there is and what you’re meant to do with it. To this basic approach, we added inspiration from some more modern and elevated typographically driven packaging, marrying those worlds to create a product that looks both military and premium.
Specific demands: Any time there is a rebranding effort this comprehensive, encompassing everything from labels and bottles to the menu in Hotel Tango’s tasting room, there are going to be challenges and setbacks. But the brand’s willingness to embrace change made a huge difference. The excitement and alignment from everyone at Hotel Tango added real momentum to the project and was a constant source of motivation for us to make the work as good as it could possibly be.