Building a Brand Identity Using Storytelling Marketing

Using your story in your brand elements

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. label carries the almost unedited family story
Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and producer of a concentrated tonic syrup, his label carries the almost unedited family story of his grandfather, Jack Rudy. The characteristics of Rudy’s life drove the product’s intensity. Jack Rudy Cocktail Company

I wrote 5 Ways to Create Your Brand Story with Backstories to illustrate how storytelling is an integral part of your Content Marketing Strategy.

I previously featured a client story How Victoria's Kitchen Almond Water Uses Storytelling Marketing with creative use of symbols of the founder's grandmother as part of their brand essence

So for a quick review of the elements, they are:

  • Trace Your Origins in Your Story
  • Have Your Story Visualize Where You Were
  • Feel the Feelings - Write About Emotions
  • Create Your Stories with Symbols
  • Now Write Your Story

So the best way to learn how to use story telling is to see the results from other food entrepreneurs. Let's examine one of my clients whose brand is built upon a legend, myth or story and have incorporated these elements into their brand's development.

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.

Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. was established by Brooks Reitz. The firm bottles and sells a handcrafted, small batch, concentrated tonic syrup that is used to make the classic Gin and Tonic cocktail. The cocktail culture which has seen rebirth builds on a legacy of swank, style and class inherent to the 1950s and before; times that for many seem simpler, more pure and true.

When Reitz, who is also a bartender at Charleston's highly praised FIG Restaurant, started his company, he looked to his heritage in Kentucky.

He found his touchstone in his grandfather, Jack Rudy, who was by all accounts, quite a man. When he asked his mother about Rudy, she wrote him a letter whose contents, in part, are now on every bottle of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.'s signature syrup. (For an in-depth look at the brand's origins,view Brooks Reitz's presentation on Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.

to Charleston's Pecha Kucha audience.)

The story of Jack Rudy printed on each bottle reads:

"Jack Rudy was many things. He was a pilot who illegally flew his plane under the Ohio River Bridge (on a dare), and he worked on planes during WWII.

He invented a mechanical device for pharmacists to count pills (rather than by hand), and built a houseboat out of an old city bus. He drew a line on it where he said it would float when launched and it was dead on.

He was an engineer for his working life after the war. He was, as legend has it, a "marvelous dancer."

He read Popular Mechanics & National Geographic cover to cover. He made his own bullets, and shot them into a dirt wall he constructed in his basement.

He LOVED to entertain and was known to overindulge in drink, smoke and his wife's gourmet cooking."

Reitz found his brand in his grandfather. The brand's bottle harkens to the early 20th century and the bottles pharmacists used for syrups and tonics. Jack Rudy Cocktail Co.'s label speaks its handcrafted nature through the stamped serial number which invokes the artisanal attributes of the brand. Finally, the elements of the bottle, label and legend combine into this iconic product, that appears as if it's been in production since before Prohibition, but in reality, came to market in 2010.

An interview with Brooks Reitz

Q. What or who sent you in search for a persona for your brand?

A. Reitz tells us, "I had always wanted to use the Jack Rudy legend for something, because it was such a strong story with such a personal connection. When I began to bottle the tonic, it seemed like such a natural fit because of our bottle, which had a distinct "old school" vibe, and because of the product itself - a cocktail mixer - Jack Rudy was a big drinker."

Q. Why did you think you needed a persona or legend for the company?

A. "It made it personal, but I think it also helped me create a stronger brand that could foster a connection with our customers."

Q. Did you consider other names for the company?

A. "No. It was an instant connection, and I knew it would work."

Q. After you "found" your story, was it easier to determine the packaging, or did you already have that determined?

A. "Because of Jack's work for some pharmacies in Kentucky, we knew we wanted the label to have an apothecary style design. His story certainly informed all the decisions we've made from day one."

Q. What has been the response of the "public" to your Jack Rudy story?

A. "Everyone loves the story - but some people don't understand that it is entirely true. It's definitely not the work of a marketing firm!"

Building your product story

Jack Rudy based their brand story on an actual person, the grandfather of the founder… in a way that captures the intrinsic characteristics of the person. This drives the packaging’s style and copy and serve as iconic touch points for their customers.

For other entrepreneurs, you may find your backstory, myth or tale in your own life. One who used her own story is Slather Brand Food’s Robin Rhea, interviewed by Dom Celentano.

Study each of these three food and beverage entrepreneurs and base your brand’s approach on a story. But in doing so, look for a story that is authentic, contains traits of myth or legend which all people can relate to. Use these elements in your package design, in your copy writing, on your website. If you do this, your brand won’t soon be forgotten.