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07 October 2020

Fighting fire with values

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When the Masons distillery burnt down in 2019, taking with it all of the brand’s history to date, founders Karl and Cathy Mason took the disaster as an opportunity. “On the one hand, we had a disaster we had to recover from; we had nothing left,” says Karl Mason, “but we wanted to look for the positives, and out of that we realised that this was the ideal time to go all in on a rebrand.”

They reframed the fire as a chance to forge an evolved, modern identity that could rise to the high standard of the Masons name. All they needed was a partner to help them do that – one that understood their ambitions and values as Yorkshire’s first speciality gin distillery. That’s where we came in.

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When we started work together, Masons had never worked with a branding agency before – they’d done some gift packaging the previous autumn, but the rebrand we worked on together is their first since Karl and Cathy founded the distillery in 2012. Karl told us: “We met with agencies in London and elsewhere, but wanted a Yorkshire agency. It was important for us to keep the business in the local economy as much as we could.”

But it wasn’t our shared geography than won Masons over. Karl and Cathy were drawn to the no-nonsense, direct, and engaged approach we take at Robot Food. Karl says: “I told every agency I spoke to that I’d had a look at their website, and so many insisted on continuing to show me case studies I’d already seen online.” For Karl, that made the experience generic and he didn’t get the sense they were really invested in working with the Masons brand.

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“Robot Food, on the other hand, was able to take the fact I’d done my research in stride and jump in with the most relevant information for me as a potential client – they were quick on their feet and thought outside the box from day one to create a bespoke experience that really understood us and our business.”

The branding process was a learning curve for Masons, Karl admits. “It took longer than I thought It would – because there’s so much more that goes into the process than I imagined.” It’s true: we spent the better part of a year working closely with the Masons team to develop a brand identity and strategy, and packaging that would help them achieve their goal to stand out on shelf with a new modern look and feel that takes their ethos into account.

To do that, we had to really dig into the culture of Masons, and elicit its most powerful stories to reach new drinkers. Through a period of deep discovery, we worked with Masons to help them identify and articulate what they wanted to express through brand.

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“I don’t speak design usually,” Karl says – but he is a man who knows what he wants, and a large part of our job was to learn everything we could from him and Cathy about Masons and translate that into a design that really reflected the brand’s past, values, and future ambitions. All of this work led to Masons’ new strategy, identity, and the centrepiece of the project – a bespoke glass bottle design that embodies Masons distinct style and elevates the brand to the high standard of its product. “Robot Food really understood us, and got what I wanted, delivering it with a down-to-earth honesty that we appreciated.”

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It was an incredibly collaborative experience that we all benefited from, with lots of healthy push and pull on both sides as we joined together as experts with the common goal of giving Masons the fresh new brand it deserved. Ours has become a relationship Karl emphatically told us he wants to continue, as well as kindly declaring he’d absolutely recommend us to others. "There are a lot of parallels between Masons and Robot Food," he said. "We both started and are still based in Yorkshire – but Robot Food understood our global ambition and how that would influence every decision we made as a brand.”

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The future for Masons is bright, Karl, Cathy, the Masons team, and all of us at Robot Food are confident about that. Karl says, “What we’ve got now is a better-looking product to invest in,” he says. “And the identity is only the tip of the iceberg. The way we think about brand, and what goes into articulating it, has completely changed for the better.”

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Karl was right when he told us that “the liquid in the bottle was always great.” What we accomplished for Masons through a deeply strategic rebrand is a framework to take that liquid to new heights. “The fire was a devastating shock for us,” says Karl, “but what’s grown out of it has been overwhelmingly positive, and Robot Food has been a massive part of that.”

Check out our full case study for more.

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