“A brilliant mind and an engaging host, Robin will help you tell your story better than you ever thought you could. And in this business, Story is King. If you want to be known in every circle that matters, drop everything and call him now.”  Cheri Reese, Far North Spirits

Using a passage from Hamlet, we explore the power that your unique, rooted story has in combination with your brand.

The Bard of Brands is dedicated to finding your narrative, the unique soul and ethos of your brand as a differentiator in a crowded and dynamic market and activating it to create sales.  Nothing is more true than the axiom "the story sells the spirit" and with the dominance of large brands and the resources they have on hand, that narrative becomes a small brand's competitive edge.

A recent report from Wm Grant & Sons, makers of Balvenie, Glenfiddich and Hudson Whiskey, revealed that brand loyalty is dead, especially among the much coveted Millennial generation (LDA-35).  Instead, these consumers are gravitating toward “unique experiences from the brands they engage with”.  Multi-national spirits companies will inevitably use this to throw huge chunks of money at it, trying to differentiate in the market place by creating dozens of soul-less brands with manufactured experiences, many of which will fail.  They can afford it; the small brand can't.

But you might say, 'I've already got a story' and my response is this: does one story tell me about your whole life as a person?  Of course not, you're much more complex than that and so is your brand.  A narrative is the long arc, made up of separate stories that connect to deliver a singular experience.  The narrative is your house and each story is a doorway into it, offering each visitor a different entrance based on their needs and preferences.

Robin helped us put our narrative into a concise and effective format and helped our team develop the skills to be able to activate our story in a variety of situations. This format continues to drive our strategy when training new distillery team members, when developing marketing materials, when providing tours and tastings at both of our distillery locations, when presenting to distributor teams or at special events, and when meeting with On and Off premise accounts.

Robin generously shared his vast industry knowledge and provided valuable guidance with regards to choosing and working with the “right” distributor partner, and made himself available for regular and comprehensive consultation sessions during our challenging, though not yet complete distillery expansion project.
— Rick Wasmund, Founder and Managing Member; Cheryl Targos, Administrative Manager - Copper Fox Distillery
“Purposeful storytelling isn’t show business, it’s good business.”
— Peter Gruber
Every culture in every time period in the history of mankind has used stories to bond themselves to each other.

Every culture in every time period in the history of mankind has used stories to bond themselves to each other.

A narrative activates parts of our brains in ways that mere facts and information do not. It's part of our DNA and it bonds you to your customer in a deep relationship.


A story for its own sake is just a story,  but for a brand it must sell product.  I've created a simple methodology to discover your brand's narrative that keeps this at the front of the customer's mind:

  1. Discovery: The process by which I understand your current state, your background and genesis, your challenges, failures and victories; your means of production, your goals and aspirations for the brand.

  2. The Narrative: the result. Its your collection of stories from every stakeholder in your operation: the founder(s), the sales people, the customers.

  3. The Application: your "living sales bible" and how it applies to the market place. It directs your marketing and sales strategy, your PR strategy, your line extensions, your labeling and POS materials. It's the foundation of your brand and its unique to your brand alone.

Nobody Wants to Taste Your Shit

In April 2017, Robin Robinson and Jackie Summers of "Jack from Brooklyn" and creator of Sorel Liqueur, presented at American Distiller's Institute (ADI) in Baltimore, MD and gave a dynamic, informed and real-life look of what it takes to get and keep your product out on the market.  On the last day of the conference, it played to a sold-out room and the comments ranged from "brutally honest" to "the best thing we saw here in 3 days".  Here's an abridged version, check it out for yourself.

Click inside the presentation to advance the slides and builds

"Robin helped our brand at a time when we felt we had lost a bit of our identity.  He acted very much like a therapist; listening to all of our ideas about what the Sons of Liberty meant to our team.  With his knowledge of the spirit’s industry (and his use of Google-inducing big words*), Robin’s strength lies in his ability to listen to a crapload of nonsense and boil that down to a single, solid narrative." Mike Reppucci, Founder, Sons of Liberty Distilling


Why the "Bard"? William Shakespeare revealed the complexities of the human experience like no other writer. He constructed his plays in a complex, multi-threaded structure that held "a mirror up to nature". The Bard of Brands is dedicated to the narrative of your brand: the long, arcing, multi-faceted through-line that contains the stories, characters, drama, history and struggles of the brand. It is multi-dimensional; it is epic and poetic. It can contain legend and myth but it always rooted in a truth. And for a brand, it must have an outcome: it must connect in order to sell. It is the basis of a sales and marketing strategy, not a result of them. Those are about the "what" and "how". The Bard of Brands is about the "why".

How are you going to stand out here...?

How are you going to stand out here...?

...or behind here?

...or behind here?

With 100’s of competing products, the narrative gets muddled in the sales cycle and even more so at the retail level. Having a clear vision from the originator to the consumer is imperative to the success in this field that has so many great products competing with each other.
— Bikram Singh, Proprietor. Norfolk Wines & Spirits
A narrative is a story that comes from a deep, personal place.
It does not change, it adapts. It is complex, but is simple to behold.
We are hard-wired as humans to tell and receive them.

A speech from Troilus and Cressida reveals the fickleness of the marketplace.

From tales of ancient civilizations and heroes to homespun anecdotes from around the kitchen table, stories reveal our deepest meaning, dreams and longing in their telling.  Stories move people to action, to take a stand, to right a wrong or to dig deeper.  Stories motivate people.  And for a small brand, stories are the foundations of their success.


the narrative: systematically engaged to work

1.       The narrative must be rich enough that it can be effective coming from the creator (distiller, blender, etc.) to the fourth salesperson in a far off market. 

2.       It must be flexible enough so that each tier in the distribution chain receives their own value from it: wholesale, retail, bar and consumer with no break in continuity between them.  Instead, it invites them all to be a part of this experience, to live in a chapter of this story. 

3.  It must survive production changes, product evolution and personnel replacement. 

4.    It tells us where to sell, to who and when.  It is not “branding”; it is not “messaging”, it certainly is not “bullets”, but the foundation from which these spring.  It abhors stupid, trendy marketing-speak, like "disruptive", and "meta" and other words that people bandy about with no meaning.

5.      It favors education in a knowledge-based, smartphone-driven consumer environment, but it can have a well-spring of legend or myth.  Combined, it must create more than consumers, it must create evangelists.   

“If history was taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”
— Rudyard Kipling

At the same time, who said a narrative shouldn't be fun?  Here's one I did for a well-known Scotch whisky company that got the story across while still tweaking those who still didn't get it.