McEwans brand transition

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Brand development and evolution, packaging design, merchandising and relaunch support material for McEwan’s Scotch Ale, by Wells & Young’s.

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The McEwan’s name had been synonymous with beers since 1856 and one of the most successful and best-loved export products was McEwan’s Scotch Ale, fondly known as ‘Red Top’ by its legions of fans. 

Unfortunately, due to a series of mergers and acquisitions, focus on, and efforts behind, McEwan’s Scotch Ale had dwindled until Wells & Young’s bought this, and other brands, in 2011 from Heineken UK as part of a wider £20m deal. Our brief was to resurrect.

McEwan’s Scotch Ale, which had ceased production under Heineken, and reconnect the brand with its existing fans (who regularly clamoured for its return on social media channels) and introduce it to a new generation of beer drinkers.

Following the commission from Wells & Young’s we researched the history of the McEwan’s Scotch Ale brand in detail and found that in the first half of the 20th Century, the beers had been advertised with illustrations of a distinctive blue/green tartan. 

Following further research and contact with The Scottish Register of Tartans, we found that this tartan design had, in more recent history, been formalised, registered and protected as ‘The McEwan’s 1856’ by the renowned Scottish tailors, Kinloch Anderson. Kinloch Anderson also informed us that the tartan had been used for staff uniforms at the former Fountainbridge Brewery. This research was a deal clincher in the design process and the previous generic red tartan (seen on the last production bottle) was replaced with ‘The McEwan’s 1856’, a tartan steeped in the brand’s history.

As well as devising the new branding for the relaunch of McEwan’s Scotch Ale, we designed the bottle labels, four- and six-pack cartons and outer shipping cartons, bar lenses, as well as drip mats, bar runners, glassware and other on-trade promotional materials.

McEwan’s Scotch Ale was launched in the summer of 2013 in the USA and Canada.  Since then Wells & Young’s has also launched the range in Italy on draught.

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In-depth research led to rediscovery of historic brand asset. Successful modernisation and relaunch of a heritage export brand.

This project was about taking a very traditional and much loved beer, which had experienced no TLC for a number of years. The old design was very traditional and very dated. The concern was to not over modernise it as that would have been the wrong direction. The design needing updating but be sympathetic to the origins of the beer’s heritage.

Bonfire came up with a number of excellent options for us and worked tirelessly on the details of the tartans used. The result has been well received from the beer lovers in North America, who are quite possibly the most enthusiastic beer lovers I have ever come across.

Head of International Marketing, Wells & Young’s Brewing Company
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