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24 August 2023

Characterful brews, colourful tales: the making of Badger

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Ever wondered what inspired an acrobatic mouse, a boxing hare and a barista stoat?

Design director Rich and copywriter Lizzie spill all about how we created each of Badger’s characterful brews with colourful tales.

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What made ‘characterful’ the right direction to go down?

Rich: Whereas the rise in popularity of craft beer has brought loads of excitement and personality, the premium bottle ale category has been left behind and is still pretty drab, dull and old fashioned. Badger had a collection of much-loved beers but their bottles were blending into the background. We needed to harness the personality that had earned them their fans and amplify it, to appeal to a whole new generation of customers without losing their existing ones.

Lizzie: Badger had some great stories and lots of loveable quirks. But they weren't showcasing them to their full potential. So, our strategy was to build on the tales they were already telling, and then make them compelling to a modern consumer.

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How did you bring the stories to life, both verbally and visually?

Lizzie: We tapped into Badger’s roots in Dorset and their characterful eccentricity to offer the drink a moment of escapism by sharing the secrets (either true or half true) behind each of their beers. Tonally, our approach was to tell the stories like you would do in a pub – you sit with your friends and share personal tales over a pint, so it was all about adding excitement and intrigue, whilst still keeping the language friendly and accessible. Instead of overtly telling a story about a mouse or a hare for instance, we focused on linking the characteristics of the beer with the characteristics of the animal and left some bits to the imagination to leave the reader wanting more.

Rich: Some beers already featured an animal, so it was a case of giving them more prominence and a reason for being there in the first place. And with others we started with a completely clean slate. We made sure each brew had its own distinct character with its own distinct ‘job’ and personality. They’re almost like the Avengers in the Marvel Universe. They’re all totally unique and have a collectible feel about them. We always started with the beer – asking ourselves, what are the specific attributes and tasting notes that make it different from another? For example, Master Stoat is a coffee stout, so creating a perfectionist barista was a no brainer.

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Can you talk us through the process of creating the characters themselves?

Rich: We started with the characteristics of the beer itself and the name, and then explored which animals and activities would reflect these characteristics. Once we had this, we did our own internal sketches and created reference mood boards including props, wardrobe details – you name it. Then it was time to enlist in an illustrator to help us bring the characters to life. We chose Bob (Venables) who’s incredible at what he does and was a real tool in our arsenal. He understood our vision straight away and no request was too weird for him.

Were there any specific challenges or things you had to consider?

Rich: The challenge was keeping a sense of tradition without the brand feeling old or fusty. When deciding on the look and feel of the illustrations, we chose contemporary clothes like the barista apron for the stoat and little touches like the earring on the acrobatic mouse. It was about giving each character a sense of relatability and familiarity.

Lizzie: This was a big consideration for the stories too, as we wanted them to be rooted in Badger’s history and have a sense of locality to them while still feeling like a modern retelling. We avoided anything too whimsical or limerick-like to keep it adult, and incorporated some first person perspective to give the stories some wit and warmth.

And finally, tell us your favourite…

Rich: It’s gotta be the Golden Champion. I think I have a bit of a soft spot for him because he was the first illustration we cracked and it set the precedent for all the others that followed.

Lizzie: Definitely the Fursty Ferret! He’s so cheeky and charming – he always makes me smile.

Check out the full project here.