Case Studies

Southern Comfort Global Rebrand


Identity System
Brand Messaging
Packaging System


Design Team: Christian Helms, Lauren Dickens & Erick Montes
Creative Direction: Christian Helms
Writer: Mike Woolf, Christian Helms

Bucking trends and declaring confidence in being different.

Brown-Forman challenged us to help Southern Comfort – a brand with 140 years of history – begin a fresh conversation with consumers. After years of campaigns and product packaging built around market trends, the brand had lost focus and drinkers no longer connected to its offering or story.

Our solution was to work collaboratively with the Southern Comfort team, shedding novelty and artifice in favor of meaningful messaging and timeless simplicity.

The result is an identity system and package that allows the brand to stand proudly and confidently in owning who they are: A Category of One. That spirit of authenticity is universal, and won’t fade with momentary trends.

The new face of Southern Comfort.

From the new Category of One brand messaging and bold iconography to the streamlined label and sturdy bottle silhouette, the new Southern Comfort is built to stand confidently and comfortably on the shelf.

Rich heritage and a valuable, relevant legacy.

In 1874, whiskey was harsh and tough to drink. A young New Orleans bartender named M. W. Heron had a bold idea: what if the drinks he served actually tasted good?

Heron was a man who knew what he liked and wasn’t afraid to share it. He blended the spirits of the day with fruits and spices to create something completely unique: a spirit that wasn’t just drinkable, but delicious. Unlike anything else in bars across the country, Southern Comfort was a hit. Heron’s singular spirit won medals and ribbons and, more importantly, the hearts of drinkers.

In the 140 years since its creation, Southern Comfort has seen countless packages and expressions of identity; but the idea that sparked its genesis remains relevant. It was created to be unique, and unlike anything else on the shelf.

The original Southern Comfort package prominently displayed the brewers star emblem, a historic symbol of care and craft. Proud of his creation, M.W. Heron emblazoned each bottle with the phrase “None Genuine but Mine”. His bottles won medals and ribbons, and evolved to feature signature fluted shoulders in the early 1900’s.

Crafting a brand for today, with respect for years past.

In building the new Southern Comfort, we challenged the brand team to consider the entirety of the brand’s history and visual equity, rather than simply focusing on refining the previous packaging. We also engaged consumers in a dialogue around the brand’s personality and values, gaining insight in incorporating those aspects of the brand into the new identity.

We explored a range of creative solutions for the brand, reigniting and refining elements from the past that communicate Southern Comfort’s unique history. At the same time, we created new language and iconography that speaks directly to contemporary drinkers.

The combination of heritage assets and new messaging clearly communicates the brand’s enduring legacy, and its fresh, confident personality.

New brand language: A Category of One.

Just as it was 140 years ago, there’s nothing like Southern Comfort. New brand language proudly claims the spirit’s remarkable position as a category of one, and differentiates the brand by its purpose: to celebrate the value in being unique, genuine, and comfortable. The icon references both the brewer’s star that adorned the first packages of Southern Comfort and the ribbons it won across the country.

Comfort takes precedence over geography.

The brand was born in the south, but its spirit of self-confidence and comfort is universal. “Southern” takes on a smaller role on the new label, allowing Comfort to stand front-and-center.

The marquis placement of M.W.’s name reminds drinkers that Southern Comfort was created by a man with a bold purpose, who wasn’t afraid of walking to the beat of his own drum. His signature adds a stamp of authenticity.

Original, and distinctly Southern Comfort.

A naming shift from “70 Proof” to “Original” reinforces the authenticity and time-proven nature of Southern Comfort’s flagship spirit. Just like Heron’s original bottles, the new package boldly reads “None Genuine but Mine.”

A bold new bottle ties to brand heritage.

One re-branding challenge was to retain the familiarity and equity of the previous packaging, while giving the brand a more contemporary image that signals comfort and confidence. With a sleeker, more sturdy silhouette, the new Southern Comfort bottle is designed to stand out on the shelf. The bottle’s pronounced fluted shoulders and solid base present a timeless look to match the enduring legacy of the product.

Building a spirited product family through brand extension.

We worked with Southern Comfort to build a packaging system that offers a spirit for any moment, from kicking back and relaxing to kicking off a party. Special Reserve, the brand’s premium whiskey offering, displays more refined glass-work while Comfort Flavors use playful typography to show their lighthearted and fun-loving nature. A consistent bottle shape helps drinkers quickly identify each offering as Southern Comfort while allowing them to individually show a personality that is distinct and memorable.

The Southern Comfort product family: A spirit for any occasion.

The packaging system for Southern Comfort begins with the flagship Original 70 Proof spirit and extends to 100 Proof, Special Reserve and Comfort Flavors. All are unmistakably connected to the core, but extend the system of iconography to create a family of products, each with a unique personality. Whether emphasizing the brand’s premium offering, delivering more masculine cues or creating a playful flavor system, product extensions expand the brand language while reinforcing the parent identity.

Sharing comfort across the globe.

Southern Comfort is a global brand that offers a variety of products around the world. As part of our work we helped to build a system of unique products, responding to cultural cues, history and consumer preferences in territories including Germany, the UK, Africa and Australia.

Ready-to-drink cans, seen here, are hugely popular in Australia and the UK, and one of many packages we developed for sale in multiple territories.

In addition to crafting global market-specific packaging, we consulted with brand teams and regional creative agencies to ensure the brand message, personality and spirit is communicated consistently worldwide.

“We knew from the first introduction that Helms Workshop would be a different kind of partnership. They are a small shop of passionate designers and they are excellent at taking a business challenge and applying thinking, creativity and humor to find the best in class design solution.”

Lena Derohannessian, VP Global Marketing Director of Southern Comfort

Bold and memorable brand activation.

The most resonant brand activation happens at a local, personal level. To connect with consumers in an authentic way, it’s vital for a brand to come alive off-package, in everyday life.

To be relevant, the new Southern Comfort needed to be noticed, speak in a consistent voice and engage people in memorable ways. We created a system of activation items that champion “comfortableness” and create a sense of ownership for drinkers, allowing them to show their love of the brand.

The activation items grow from elements within the primary package. Original typography, brand shorthand, imagery and label shape are all leveraged in unique ways. The system is rich and extendable, but connected to the core to strengthen the brand and create consistency. Plus, it just looks great.

Bringing the brand to life through activation.

Activation elements are born from the brand’s rich heritage and simplified into a shorthand that distills the brand’s story and personality. The system is simple, but offers broad variety in application to create energy and intrigue around the product. Typography, pattern and color elements work together in a system that is contemporary, but true to Southern Comfort’s roots.

Ensuring consistency through Global Toolkits and Guidelines.

As part of our ongoing work on the brand, we’ve helped to communicate the new identity and messaging to both domestic sales teams and global partners. We worked with Brown-Forman to create a series of Brand Toolkit books, designed to help internal groups and global agencies use the system and understand the personality and values that make Southern Comfort a unique and iconic brand.

“With no ego or hierarchy, the team finds what is right- both for a brand’s short term performance and future potential- and they go above and beyond to deliver. Southern Comfort is a great illustration of how true partnership can yield proud results.”

Lena Derohannessian, VP Global Marketing Director of Southern Comfort
Helms Workshop®