North Of Center, No Chaser

Some brands are more than just the packaged product. A brand can evoke a place and even a state of mind. At this level, the creative process becomes more like an existential quest for meaning—a step beyond a simple logo and tagline.

When 44° North Vodka approached Drake Cooper for branding, marketing, and digital work, we quickly realized this brand raised more questions than answers. Questions like “What is Idaho about?” And even, “What is America all about?”

Part of the reason was 44° North Vodka’s origin as an independent, crafted vodka in a world of bland, mass produced spirits. Unlike most global vodka brands that are produced from neutral grain spirits, 44° North is Grown in Idaho and five column distilled, using Rocky Mountain Spring Water, Famous Idaho Potatoes (aka earth apples), Mountain Huckleberries, Rainier Cherries, and Brundage Winter Wheat.

While this sounds like a refreshing break from the mainstream, what does “Grown In Idaho” really mean? Outside of the Northwest and beyond the Famous Potato, Idaho is pretty much a blank slate. Upon further exploration, this turned out to be a good thing. People can make Idaho what they want to make of it, defining and redefining in the process. This notion is at the heart of the rugged independence of Idahoans. Coincidentally, this is the same DIY spirit that sparked 44° North’s early backpack revolution style of marketing and distribution.

This insight evolved into the North of Center brand direction. This tagline-and-more speaks to the indie mindset and the iconoclastic spirit of the Northwest. The brand identity evokes a rugged authenticity that is defiantly optimistic, wide-open and refreshingly direct.

The new brand allows 44° North to handle all avenues of communication in a unified approach, all the way from shelf-talkers to ads and from out-of-home to an engaging website complete with up-from-ordinary swag.

The results? 44° North is the number one vodka in Idaho and recognized by the Idaho Potato Commission and Idaho Preferred. Nationally, 44° North continues to gain distribution in many states, becoming the ambassador of North of Center—and all things Idaho.

As for the work, Drake Cooper recently won one Gold and two Silver Rockies at the 2011 IAF Rockie Awards. Gold for the 44° North brand materials and Silvers for the website and Distilled by Earth & Sky newspaper ad. Boo-ya.

Shout Out: Ken Wyatt, Ron Zier, Harold Joyce, Dylan Amundson, John Drake, Sean Young, Jennie Myers, Matt Stevens, Chad Connelly, Amanda Cash-Crowley, Chris Robinson of the PromoShop, and Scott Kelch.

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