Metallica's BLACKENED Whiskey

Client: Metallica
Role: Brand strategy & creative direction
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Creating a new brand with 2 industry icons that are born in metal, forged in sound, and finished in wood. I partnered with Sweet Amber Ventures and Jones Knowles Ritchie to create the brand strategy and creative direction for a new brand for the legendary band Metallica and Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell.

As unapologetic masters of the craft in their respective fields, Metallica and Dave Pickerell have built world-renowned legacies by carving out new spaces and bringing their singular, incendiary perspectives to everything they touch. My challenge was to take these two uniquely talented collaborators and create a brand that would show the world their shared creative fire and dedication to the craft.

Key learnings from this project

Don’t assume a big brand has a brand strategy

One of the most interesting and surprising parts of the process was that when started the brand strategy work we realized to get the whiskey brand right we needed to back up and map out Metallica’s brand which had never been done before.

Creating a brand associated with celebrities is much harder than a brand from celebrities

Metallica and Dave wanted to create a brand and a product that could succeed own because of its quality. This meant we had to use the essence and spirit of Metallica but not the logo or obvious elements of their brand.

Innovation can come from anywhere

Blackened pioneered the Black Noise process where sound waves are used to enhance the flavor of the whiskey while still in the barrel. It had been tried before but other companies did not have the resources to engineer the audio the way the band did.

THE CHALLENGE

5 rock stars in 2 industries.

Unlikely collaborators on the surface, their shared creative fire, and dedication to craft make them anything but as Metallica and Dave Pickerell combine forces to create BLACKENED. 

DAVE PICKERELL
An award-winning Master Distiller and all-around distilling expert. Over the course of his career, Dave built and maintained some of the world’s most noted distilleries. Perhaps most widely known for his tenure as Master Distiller of Maker’s Mark, he has established a stand-alone name for himself with his vanguard rye whiskey, Whistle Pig. Among connoisseurs, Dave is highly regarded for the unique finishes that give his whiskeys a character of their own.

METALLICA
Formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California by drummer Lars Ulrich and vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, Metallica has relentlessly pushed the boundaries of music for over three decades. Considered one of the most influential bands of all time, Metallica has picked up nine Grammys and 23 nominations, with over 125 million albums sold worldwide. Along with longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo, Metallica continues to tour the world playing to sold-out arenas from Asia to the UK, Lisbon to Los Angeles.

The result is more than a whiskey. BLACKENED is a testament to the creative process, to the hard work and determination required to make something from nothing. It’s a monument to the ones who charge into the fray and come out the other side stronger, together. Fueled by decades of creative passion, BLACKENED is a distillation of the incomparable bond between a creative vision and the community of fans who connect with that vision.

BRAND STRATEGY

Uncompromising in every way.

As a brand, BLACKENED had to be more than a whiskey. It had to carefully combine the best of both Metallica and Dave’s brands to create something new. The challenge was if the brand was too much Metallica then it would look like every other rock ‘n roll product in this space where the band put their brand above the product quality – and in this case that was the farther thing from the truth. But if it took on too much of Dave’s DNA then it ran the risk of not standout out enough in the space.

The resulting tension is a testament to their brands and creative process. It is the balance of the hard work and determination required to make something from nothing. It’s a monument to the ones who charge into the fray and come out the other side stronger, together. Fueled by decades of creative passion, BLACKENED is a distillation of the incomparable bond between the band and their community of fans.


BRAND POSITIONING

The power of two archetypes.

A large part of the project was clarifying and defining the brand archetypes for Metallica and Dave as a foundation for all work going forward. Normally this process would try to land on a single brand archetype but because of the complexity of both groups, the brand needed to be more complex.

ARTIST
The artist looks to create something of enduring value and beauty. They do it with confidence to be themselves and are often uninfluenced by the state of the world. This describes the style of both Metallica and Dave and their collective dedication to their craft.

LEADER
The leader shows everyone else the way by imposing their creativity and vision through their voice. For both Metallica and Dave, their voice as a leader in their industry has lasted for decades.

Both the artist and leader are individually important parts of their brands, it is the combination that explains their success and impact. The artist often has a work ethic which leads to a single instance of success but is the leader who is then able to create something new from that work. Cycling between the two states has meant that they have been able to find success and evolve their work over the years.

BRAND WORDS

Expressed in 3 brand words.

Confidence in the ability used to challenge the confines of conformity.

We’ve always done things our own way, and we’re not about to change now.

Fearless visionaries driven by confident and bold resolution.

Crafted by a band of brothers for those who share our passion for quality done right.

the power of emboldened individuals coming together in a community.

For those who don’t just listen – they hear. For those who don’t just taste – they understand.

Crafting our version of perfection without heed of the rules of opinions and doing whatever it takes to achieve it.

Upholding the highest standards in execution from grain to glass.

Commitment to unparalleled quality no matter the cost.

BRAND DESIGN

BLACKENED was the perfect name for a few reasons. From the Metallica side, it is the name of one of their iconic songs and is the name of the production company. From Dave’s side, it is part of the whiskey-making process where the barrels are blackened to create the caramel color of the liquid.


Visual signifiers

All the brand strategy in the world doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t translate into the visual design of the brand. The visual elements of BLACKENED support the positioning from the block strike-through logo to the iconic bottle design or the soundwave or brand signifier which hint at the Metallica heritage.

INNOVATION

Pioneering ‘Black Noise’ aging

The creators of BLACKENED set out to craft a whiskey that brings the uniqueness of the collaborators together in a bottle. A whiskey unlike any other in the world. A whiskey born of innovation. From the time Dave was a cadet at West Point, he was fascinated with the effects of sound—the way an organ can play a note that shakes an entire building. As he honed his craft over the years, the thought of what sound could do to whiskey at a molecular level stayed with him.

As it so happened, Metallica and Meyer Sound innovated a subwoofer employing that same range, harnessing the vibrations that make a Metallica concert the resonant, visceral experience their fans know and love.

The convergence of these ambitions has resulted in a sonic-enhancement method that utilizes a variation of the band’s song-determined frequencies to disrupt the whiskey inside the barrel, causing an increased wood interaction that kicks up the wood-flavor characteristics in the whiskey. We call this proprietary sonic-enhancement process BLACK NOISE™. Each batch of BLACKENED is enhanced by its own Metallica playlist, selected and arranged by the band members themselves.

READ MORE IN ESQUIRE MAGAZINE

LAUNCH VIDEO

Announcing the partnership to the world

The final step was to announce this new brand to the world. We created a viral video that supported the brand positioning with its strong black and white look using a slow reveal that pulled the user into the story and the brand.

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