Proof in Print: How a Whiskey Maker Distills a Tangible Brand Experience
| Posted on 11/24/21

Proof in Print: How a Whiskey Maker Distills a Tangible Brand Experience

How do you stand out in an ever-crowded market? If you’re whiskey pioneer Oak & Eden, you build a brand experience blended with flavor and story and top it all off with a literal twist. They honor the tradition while going their own way. Which just so happens to be their approach to print marketing, too.

A glass of whiskey with a spiral-cut piece of oak.
A branded marketing booklet for Oak & Eden laying on top of more booklets laying open and overlapping each other.

Something Old, Something New

Launched in 2018, Oak & Eden “was birthed out of a collective love for creation, innovation and inspiration,” said cofounder and CMO Brad Neathery.

 

Neathery, along with cofounders Joe Giildenzopf and Jamie Giildenzopf, developed the technique that truly sets the brand apart from other whiskeys lining the shelves: in-bottle finishing™.

Two hands holding a marketing booklet open to images of a whiskey bottle and a man stringing a guitar.

A hand with tattoos up the forearm holding a bottle of Oak & Eden whiskey by a lake at sunset.

 

 

“After we age our whiskey traditionally in oak barrels, we finish it inside the bottle by placing a seasoned and occasionally infused spiral-cut piece of oak inside the bottle, introducing new flavors that didn’t exist in the original aging barrel alone,” said Neathery.

 

This spirit of innovation and creativity even spans the marketing and brand experience. “We never submit to the way things have always been done just because they’ve been done that way,” said Neathery. “We build a brand around the principles that matter to us and bring value to our consumers.”

A hand holding a direct mail booklet with Oak & Eden and a cowboy on the front above other marketing materials.

A Story Worth Sipping

One principle that’s certainly bringing value to Oak & Eden’s brand is engaging print campaigns. Online printing with Smartpress gave them the chance to make their creative priorities a reality with custom booklets.

 

“Our creative team are storytellers first,” said Neathery. “Our primary focus is positioning a narrative. Great print design is nothing without a solid story.”

 

For Oak & Eden, that story is told primarily through stunning photography, with captivating images of vast western landscapes, roping riders and tattooed ranch hands alongside their rich shades of amber whiskey.

But cowboy caricatures they’re not. With an annual coffee table book in the works, Oak & Eden’s catalog and booklet printing showcases an aspirational lifestyle with “real stories from real makers, ramblers, wanderers and dreamers” alongside the artwork.

 

“It’s likely the only element of a physical brand encounter [customers] will ever have outside of our whiskeys themselves,” said Neathery. “We wanted our catalogs to properly fit the tangible brand experience at an affordable price. Smartpress made this possible for us.”

A man wearing a cowboy hat, orange shirt and jeans holding a bottle of Oak & Eden whiskey.
A woman standing on a rock wearing a cowboy hat and holding a glass of whiskey.

 

Hint: Before you print imagery as eye-catching as Oak & Eden’s, check out our artwork and color space specifications. Neathery also chose a hard proof – a great option to consider if color is critical.

Direct Mail Distilling

If you’re not near the Oak & Eden flagship store in Bridgeport, Texas, or one of their 2,000 distribution locations across the U.S., you can still experience the spirited lifestyle. Neathery’s made sure of that with direct mail marketing.

 

With a curated collage of the brand’s culture spread across more than 50 pages, Oak & Eden’s Spring 2021 catalog is part lookbook, part product catalog. “We wanted our catalogs to have an archival, heavy, matte feel to them,” said Neathery. “The vision for our print design and the outcome were a perfect match.”

But how to get that catalog to the brand’s tens of thousands of subscribers and customers? Smartpress’ Direct Mail Saddle Stitch Booklets and complete mail fulfillment services. “We’ve historically shipped much of our print material and merch items in-house, but after using direct mail, we will never go back,” Neathery said.

 

With everything from variable data printing that lets you personalize addresses and customer information to mailing permits, list processing, even wafer seals (Neathery used three for his booklet), Smartpress’ online printing services make designing and shipping a one-stop process.

 

Hint: Want to mail more than booklets? Since we’re a full-service online printing shop, you can go right ahead with letters, postcards and newsletters: Direct Mail Printing.

 

Two hands holding a marketing booklet open with an image of a bottle pouring whiskey and loyalty program details.

A Creative Cocktail

With their Spire Select program, Oak & Eden immerses their customers in the crafting process even more – you get to make your own whiskey with the spirit, wood and fire of your choosing. Saddle Stitch Booklets let their customers get up close and personal with every step.

 

“The Spire Select booklet was an account marketing booklet we printed for our sales team to distribute to many of our distributors and retailers,” said Neathery. “It was a way to promote a retailer-exclusive product line. It helped drive hundreds of retail select programs and was a major success.”

Custom book printing with Smartpress meant Neathery had his pick of premium paper stocks, text and cover weights, UV coatings, laminates, shrink wrapping and more. In the end, Uncoated Smooth – White stock with full-color ink for both the cover and interior pages gave the saddle stitched books a finish that went down smooth.

 

“Saddle stitch was a great option for us to incorporate a high-end feel, all while giving it that familiar look of the nostalgic catalog,” said Neathery.

 

Hint: Not sure which paper stock to use? Let us help you decide between coated, uncoated, recycled and specialty stocks: How to Choose the Right Paper Stock for Your Booklet

A group of custom booklets standing open with a cowboy and whiskey being poured into a glass on the covers.

Traditional Tactics

As an online printer, we believe in the value of print marketing with visual impact. For Neathery, seeing is believing. “While our primary goal is to drive brand equity in our print strategy, we saw a significant uptick in sales coming from each print item we produced,” he said.

 

To achieve this business sweet spot, it’s important to have the right partner. “We’ve been incredibly impressed with the ‘white glove service’ from Smartpress,” said Neathery. “Every part of the process was handled with incredible intentionality and very well communicated.”

And though a brand like Oak & Eden lends itself easily to a more substantial, tangible marketing and brand experience with print, Neathery thinks the medium leaves a lasting impression regardless.

 

“In a world saturated with digital, people are hungry for quality, experiential tactile brand marketing assets,” he said. “We can spend astronomical amounts of money on digital advertising but print is always what is memorable.”

 

We’ll raise a glass to that.

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