case study: brand development
for Sweet Gwendoline French Gin
Sales up 150% in six months
14,553 bottles sold in 2023
813 points of distribution, including Michelin Star restaurants
Social media engagement rate of 5% (average is 0.47%)
Creating the building blocks to success from brand vision to brand launch.
Industry: Premium speciality spirits/lifestyle
Size: Entry level
Premium lifestyle brand Sweet Gwendoline French Gin results from Larry McGearty’s lifelong passion for the artistry of John Willie, a passion he shares with Dita Von Teese—his business partner in the project.
Work with the founders to develop a premium gin based on the aesthetic, values and whip-cracking glamour of mid-century fetish artist John Willie.
Build a brand that will champion his legacy and bring to life the spirit of his most iconic character, “Sweet Gwendoline”.
How do you combine the seemingly disparate worlds of John Willie and Gin with authenticity and purpose?
If the brand is perceived as a niche fetish brand, will enough customers relate to it, or will too many decide, "It's just not my cup of gin?"
If it's too broad, extolling the virtues of John Willy, fetish and French Gin, will it fail to resonate with either fan?
How is the world of consensual subversion expressed in a way that sounds inviting, erotic and seductive, free from objectification and feelings of alienation from those unfamiliar with its passions?
Make John Willie's simple commitment to liberty, equality and the freedom to express yourself in your "own sweet way" (as he would often write) the overarching brand message.
After all, these values resonate with everyone: gin fans, the fetish community and bartenders.
The aesthetic of John Willie's fetish was developed as the visual language for the brand, positioning it at the intersection between FASHION and fetish. For its tone of voice, the work explored the language in his publishing project: his "fashion" magazine Bizarre.
Brand pillars were identified, and language was developed to mirror its humour—the tactic he employed to camouflage sometimes explicit content to make it feel playful and less intimidating.
As John Willie puts his passions within a fashion context, so does the brand. Not only is this authentic to "what John Willie would have done", but it appeals to his fanbase and those who love glamour and playful, witty, razor-sharp language.
Most importantly, the work reimagined Sweet Gwendoline for the 21st century regarding diversity and representation, repositioning John Willie's catalyst, inspiration (and wife) Holly Anna Faram upfront and centre in the story, exactly where she belongs.
A brand that feels bold and modern, with the current zeitgeist.
Known for its unique, intriguing and glamorously risqué activations, it justifies why the Sweet Gwendoline brand is a French Gin: because glamorous cocktails create the drinking moments that bring like-minded people together.
An opportunity to dress up, look fabulous and discuss the things they value and enjoy.
Its look and feel have delighted and bewitched cocktail bars, fine-dining restaurants, and all those who've interacted with the brand through social media, its on-premise events or other liquid-to-lips experiences.
Sweet Gwendoline French Gin is fun and playful, its stories erotic and stylish —it is a brand that flourishes within the aesthetics of fetish, fashion and a premium spirits context.
It's enjoyed by gin lovers, fashionistas, and those who value liberty, freedom of expression and living life as the bold provocateur…
Dita Von Teese image by Albert Sanchez
Event photography by Alejandra Guerrer and Natasha Gornnik
Visual assets created by Nick Paparone
case study: brand language
for Sweet Gwendoline French Gin
Creating an authentic writing style for Sweet Gwendoline French Gin.
Sweet Gwendoline French Gin's brand design is based on the fetish artistry of John Willie.
John Willie was a mid-century illustrator and photographer who used his fashion magazine “Bizarre” to button up his ideas for a fetish aesthetic.
As a cheeky snub to sexually-repressed “polite society,” his art turned the restraint on its head by devising cheerful, willing characters in his erotic Bizarre magazine scenarios, all wearing the highest of high heels, corsets and glamorous opera gloves.
He would often hide his risqué content behind a witty quip or commentary that focused on the fashion detail of the subject’s clothes and accessories, taking the gaze away from the erotic intent to make the content feel playful and accessible.
—John Willie made fetishism a hoot.
The deep explorative dive between the pages of Bizarre magazine led to a thorough understanding of John Willie’s intentions and style, helping create the blueprint for Sweet Gwendoline French Gin’s tone of voice and brand language.
The blueprint mimics John Willie’s writing style, creating an actionable formula for writing all brand copy, from cocktail descriptors to promotional scripts.
For social media captions, humour and innuendo—lead by the double-entendre—accompany John Willie's elegant women.
His illustrations and photography are captioned with wry, knowing quips that detract from the fetish content and instead place the image in a humorous or more everyday, relatable context.
The meme format reimagines his captioned fashion pages for the digital age to create highly shareable content that increases reach and feels modern.
The result is sincere copy and content faithful to “What John Willie would have done.”
It's a formula that has helped the Sweet Gwendoline French Gin Instagram account organically grow to 7+k followers in one year. Its posts continue to be shared multiple times, proliferating the original image across like-minded audiences.
Do get in touch if you're interested in finding out what I might be able to do for your brand.