Drinks swirl in and out of fashion like nobody’s business. Thirteen years ago, I was commenting on the revival of Aperol and the appeal of Jägermeister. And in between, we’ve had the gin revolution, too. For every marketer trying to capitalise on the “sober curious” movement, there seem to be ten times as many rediscovering and relaunching alcohol brands from the dim and distant past.
It seems to be Sleeping Beauty Underberg’s turn to be kissed awake now. When I first came to Germany, Underberg was one of those odd things that I put down to cultural differences. Little green 20ml bottles, wrapped in a twist of brown paper, sold at supermarket checkouts like sweeties. Weird-fey imagery of mystical-looking meadows and fairies, like the cover of some tacky fantasy-romance paperback.
Underbergis a brand with huge prompted awareness (88%) yet it isn’t really top-of-mind. It was originally positioned as a digestif, but probably more known as a hangover cure. It has a mass of half-remembered dictinctive assets to work with, including a brand song (or march) which UK readers will know as Colonel Bogey (with a rather different text that Germans wouldn’t be too keen to revive). Underberg bottle tops are popular with collectors on ebay, as are bandolier-style Underberg belts.
The people at Underberg have taken this rich brand history and made something fresh, distinctive and appealling out of it, in my view. The brand has the advantage that it’s so ancient (it dates from 1846) that the imagery of that era can happily be used without running into too many dodgy associations. The “magic world of herbs” (evoked through illustrations evoking 19th century botanists and explorers) fits nicely with today’s desires for naturalness and no artificials.
The phrases “probably the most famous bitter in the world” and “only 5 human beings know the recipe” borrow from Coca Cola, Dr Pepper and Carlsberg. But that’s no bad thing - and, most importantly, what I think this new presentation does is capture the mystery and magic at the heart of this quirky and very German brand.