By Christopher Coates

Opinion: Glenmorangie's collaboration with photographer Miles Aldridge is a game changer

The second instalment in Glenmorangie's collaboration with award-winning photographer Miles Aldridge has doubled down on its themes of inclusivity and ‘drinking it your way’ – not to mention it has real artistic merit, too.
At the end of last year, Glenmorangie launched the second instalment in its vibrant brand campaign titled It’s Kind Of Delicious And Wonderful. Once again, celebrated photographer Miles Aldridge has crafted intensely colourful scenes that he says were inspired in part by the work of ground-breaking animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, of Studio Ghibli fame. Seeking to evoke a similarly visceral emotional response in viewers, Aldridge has taken what at first glance appear to be relatively everyday scenarios and applied his cinematic and acid-hued signature aesthetic. Packed with hidden details, his highly stylised scenes blend the real with the surreal and are wonderfully weird.

All of Aldridge"s scenes have hidden clues, like the anagram "Mega Neon Girl" and the distillery"s founding year on the scoreboard.

Both whimsical and arresting, the scenes successfully invoke a sense of the ‘emotional magic’ felt during a perfect whisky-drinking moment. But rather than taking the well-trodden route of utilising overt whisky imagery (casks, glens, stills, etc.) and literal visual representations of whisky flavours (fruits, spices, etc.) in the scenes, Aldridge has instead created images of astonishing complexity that don’t ponderously tell the viewer what to think and feel but elicit an involuntary, genuine personal response – just like when one tastes a whisky.

Not content to stick with photography, the accompanying video montages – a new addition for this second chapter – so successfully bring the scenes to life that they put me in mind of magical living images. Given that Aldridge’s photographic work is often described as looking like stills from a movie, this translation to film feels entirely natural – though the photos, shot on medium-format film, remain the stars of the show for me.

An image from the most recent It"s Kind of Delicious and Wonderful campaign by Glenmorangie, shot by Miles Aldridge

The enchanting effect of Aldridge's images is heightened by the unusual decision not to show any of the models’ faces, which not only adds to the uncanny nature of the scenes but leaves it entirely up to the viewer to decide how to respond to the work. The diverse but anonymous cast could be anyone the viewer can imagine, and, with their out-of-time, realistic but not-quite-real aesthetic, the locations could be anywhere – or nowhere at all. At the centre of it all, the eye is inevitably drawn to the enticing range of beautifully presented whisky serves, many of which are elaborately garnished. The message is clear: these whisky moments could belong to anyone, wherever and whoever you are, and regardless of how you like to drink your whisky.

There’s much talk these days of ‘democratising’ Scotch, but this is the first campaign from any brand that I feel has truly succeeded in communicating the message that whisky is for everyone intrinsically and in a way that feels consistent with the brand’s pre-existing tone of voice (after all, bright colours and quirkiness, like the giraffe mascot, were already Glenmorangie’s bread and butter).

It’s Kind Of Delicious And Wonderful also avoids the slip-ups that have hampered other (albeit seemingly well-intentioned) attempts to communicate whisky inclusivity. In this campaign, there is no ‘othering’ of traditional whisky drinkers; no ‘whisky rules’ that have to be reiterated and then broken; no painful, out-loud listing of brand values and target-demographics in the creative; and no swapping out of the old kind of gatekeeping for a new flavour. Being a true master of communication, Aldridge shows rather than tells, and his work is simply a celebration of the profound human joy of drinking whisky.

It"s Kind of Delicious and Wonderful aims to show whisky being enjoyed in a variety of un-traditional settings

The images are deeply complex yet wonderfully simple, genuinely intellectual without being pretentious or exclusive, and convey a clear message of progressive whisky values without being propagandist. The work overtly and subliminally subverts out-of-date whisky norms, expectations and rules, while keeping the narrative focus squarely on the ‘whisky moments’.

Calling these images ‘ad creative’ would be an injustice. Glenmorangie has in fact used its marketing budget to fund the creation of bona fide art that wouldn’t look out of place on the wall of a gallery, bar or home. (I know I'm not the only one wondering if prints will ever come up for sale.)

A balloon ride ends with whisky, shot by Miles Aldridge for Glenmorangie.

Pivotally, the campaign doesn’t just look good and send a positive message – it’s making people want to drink Glenmorangie, too. Since the launch of It’s Kind Of Delicious And Wonderful in 2020, the brand’s sales have grown 20 per cent by volume and 40 per cent by value – a feat the team behind the scenes attributes predominantly to the campaign, though some route-to-market tweaks have also helped.

The success of this campaign is a resounding endorsement of the idea that colour, fun, inclusivity, a ‘drink-it-your-way’ approach, and a bold commitment to building a characterful brand with its own distinctive voice are the keys to whisky’s continued growth and relevance going forward – and I think that really is wonderful.

A delicious and wonderful tarot reading.

Post Script

As I have an interest in photography, professional proximity to whisky marketers, and arguably fit the mould of the traditional whisky drinker myself, I became worried that I was reading too much into the campaign. Was it perhaps that It's Kind Of Delicious And Wonderful is just my idea of inclusivity – rather than the real thing? I found myself wondering whether traditional, ‘new generation’, and non-whisky drinkers with very different lived experiences from my own would also respond positively to the campaign and see the value in its message.

To find out, I pulled together a digital portfolio of Scotch whisky global campaign images and videos from a variety of top-tier brands and invited a diverse range of people from across the globe (from Singapore to Spain, Mexico to Edinburgh) to view them before taking a short questionnaire that did not give precedence to the Glenmorangie campaign.

The initial results suggest Glenmorangie is onto a winner, as It’s Kind Of Delicious And Wonderful consistently ranked in the top two of the 10 campaigns included, indicating broad appeal across demographic groups. Described by respondents as fun, eye-catching, on-trend, whimsical, accessible and luxurious (by dint of its sheer quality rather than wealth signalling), I was told that the campaign is ‘selling a vibe, not a product’ and that it appeals because ‘anyone can sit at home with their dog, watch a film and have a drink; go to the barber; hang out in cool bars; or take a trip to the beach with friends.’

I intend to formalise, hone and roll out the survey to a wider audience over the coming months and will share these results in the future.

This article originally published in an abridged form in the print edition of Whisky Magazine Issue 189 (December 2022).

An uncanny barbershop scene, shot by Miles Aldridge for Glenmorangie.