How a Small Spirits Brand Approaches Their First Tales
We previously covered Seedlip right before its launch in October 2015, and it's been a whirlwind for the British brand since then. Ben Branson is the founder of Seedlip, which he says is the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit. In addition to having created Seedlip Garden 108 and Seedlip Spice 94, Ben’s responsibilities include setting the vision and strategy for Seedlip, creative direction of the brand, and sharing Seedlip’s story as its face and voice. Since launching, Seedlip has been embraced by many top-rated restaurants and bars. Here, founder "Seedlip Ben" discusses his inspirations, marketing to millennials, and how Tales of the Cocktail can be used as a springboard for smaller brand's endeavors.
What was the initial inspiration behind your product’s creation? Was there a specific “eureka” moment?
Seedlip’s story actually begins in the 17th century when apothecaries were distilling non-alcoholic herbal remedies. In 2013 whilst researching herbs and spices to grow at home, I came across a book written in 1651 called "The Art of Distillation" that documented these remedies. Out of curiosity I began experimenting with a little copper still in my kitchen. It was the perfect opportunity to bring together everything I cherish; my family’s 300 year farming heritage and my career in brand design to solve the modern-day dilemma of "what-to-drink-when-you’re-not-drinking."
What are the three most challenging aspects of starting your own brand?
Lack of Experience: I had no direct experience of what was involved. What's a value chain? How do you forecast something that has never been done? What margins do customers want to make?
Never been Done: Seedlip is the first of its kind, there were no benchmarks, no tried and tested models. It was all new and all unknown which while very exciting and liberating was a real challenge.
Time: I had no idea things take so long! It took two years to create Seedlip and that was as fast as i could do it! Finding suppliers, waiting on trademarks, testing the products — it all takes time.
Double the money you think you need and the time you think it will take!
What are the three most rewarding aspects of starting your own brand?
In Control: It's immensely empowering to take charge of your own destiny, to make all your own decisions and see the direct tangible results both good and sometimes bad from this!
It's Personal: I was able to put everything i care about into a bottle. I am able to work with both my mother and father's side of the family from the ingredients we work with, and how we then bring that to life is very special to me.
Creating a Culture: I started out as a one-man band and now have 17 employees, and have found a brilliant group of people united by a common purpose who are dynamic and hard-working. We are a nature company, and having that run through the veins of our team is so rewarding.
How did you first learn about Tales?
I heard about Tales last summer. We were only six months old, I had just hired my first two employees, and we were just starting to grow up! "Are you going to Tales?" people were asking me ... and so started a lot of conversations, stories, and plans for us to be there this year. Very exciting that five of our team are here as we have just launched in the U.S.
Where there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?
This is our first time and actually aside of coordinating diaries, travel plans, stock, and hotel rooms, it's been pretty smooth!
Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you?
Ask me on July 24th!
Why did you choose Tales as a platform for promoting your product?
We are dedicated to working with the very best bars and bartenders in order to solve the dilemma of "what to drink when you're not drinking," and so with so many of them attending, this is the perfect opportunity to see friends, meet new people, and learn more about what's happening at the forefront of the industry.
How do you think that smaller brands can compete against bigger ones for mindshare at Tales?
I think starting from your limitations (budgets, awareness, resource) can be really helpful. This is our first Tales and we don't have the big budgets, wide awareness, or lots of people, so we are focusing on what we can do: sampling, making new friends, and doing our seminar. Be remembered by a few rather than forgotten by everyone.
What are your product’s signature cocktails?
We are serving a very special Seedlip non-alcoholic cocktail at our seminar, celebrating English Peas that we grow on our farm and distill into our product Seedlip Garden.
Our two signature serves are:
Seedlip Spice & Tonic
- Highball with ice
- 1.75 oz Seedlip Spice
- Top with Indian Tonic
- Red Grapefruit Twist
Seedlip Garden & Tonic
- Highball with ice
- 1.75 oz Seedlip Garden
- Handful of Peas
- Top with Indian Tonic
What advice do you have for small entrepreneurial brands activating at Tales?
That would be us ;)
Our own advice to ourselves is make sure our small events are executed perfectly. Be nice, be good, we're here to learn and take it all in!
What is your marketing mix, e.g., advertising, PR, consumer events, bartender relations, etc.?
We are just launching in the U.S. and our marketing mix is simple: Feet on the streets, work with the best bars and restaurants, PR, and partnerships.
In your overall marketing mix, how prominent is Tales?
Tales is very important: both for our relationships with the trade, sampling Seedlip and tonics to introduce them to our brand, and getting some great PR.
What is your company’s approach to bartender relations?
They are very important to us as both a community and also as friends. So far we have found that those at the forefront of their careers join us in believing in the need that drinks can be great and grown-up — regardless of the alcohol content — which is very exciting.
What is the role of bartenders in the marketing mix? How has this role changed over the last decade?
To us, they are a target audience, much like our target consumers. Bartenders are the gatekeepers in a bar, they are trusted and respected and therefore should be considered in all marketing. They are now a global community and responsible for pushing the industry forward, which can be very powerful both for brands and consumers — as well as selfishly for us as we take Seedlip to more markets!
How important a platform is Tales for reaching bartenders with new products?
The ideal platform: it's where the best in the business congregate!
How does your company connect with consumers?
Two ways: We do a lot of events and partnerships with other brands; so that might be an evening with a fashion brand or serving drinks for a book launch. We also work very closely with our retail customers and do a lot of sampling of Seedlip and tonics so people get to try the product in-store.
In terms of reaching qualified consumers, how does Tales of the Cocktail rank?
From what I know, the audience is passionate about cocktails and making great drinks, and therefore the perfect audience for us to engage with.
How important are Millennial’s in terms of your target demographic?
Very important. They are a demographic that cares about what they put in their bodies, [and they] appreciate authenticity and quality products. They are also an audience that drinks less, but better, and are more aware of premium products and great cocktails. For those times when they're not drinking, with Seedlip, they still get to craft a great drink.
How does your company plan to engage with this important demographic?
Engaging with this audience informs our marketing strategy: from how we support our customers, our social media, and right through to which markets we focus on.
What do you think that Tales has done for small entrepreneurial companies in the cocktail/spirits scene?
I can't really comment, but I would imagine it is a fantastic platform for small companies to really access such an international audience.
Do you see Tales as a fellow entrepreneurial venture?