It is quite fitting for Maker’s Mark, an iconic American brand, to commemorate the Superbowl, America's most important sporting event. The wonderfully executed special edition bottle features Maker's Mark's signature wax in the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots teams colours.
Celebrating American sports with a limited edition bottle isn't a new trick for Marker's Mark. In fact, if you visit the website you will find a gallery of collectable bottles linked to sports, particularly Kentucky teams, which works to reinforce the brand's strong ties to its home state. Furthermore, many of these limited editions have an added charitable element, in that they donate a portion of the proceeds to a good cause. For a brand like Maker's Mark, this strategy on special editions makes perfect sense. It's a down-to-earth brand, rich with heritage, that succinctly balances quality with value.
Design-wise, however, the limited edition portfolio runs into some snags. There are some stunning, pitch perfect executions, such as the 2003 Ambassador Bottle. True to its Kentucky roots, this special edition features the famed red wax in the shape of a racing horse.
However, there are others within the portfolio that miss the mark. Look at the 2014 University of Louisville Charity Bottle. While the sentiment behind this limited edition is noble, the design compromises so many equities that the brand becomes unrecognisable. The signature wax seal is there, but it has been changed to black. This would be fine if it was the only equity that was altered, but it's just the beginning. The craft label that communicates heritage and quality has been replaced with a modern photograph. The ACC logo takes center stage with the Maker's Mark logo now just a sign-off at the bottom. Of course, the most striking change is that it is now an opaque bottle which hides the warm golden colour of the bourbon.
With no rules governing how equities are treated when creating a limited edition, brands run the risk of a creating a portfolio that not only lack cohesion, but dilutes the brand. Limited editions are an effective way of driving engagement, giving your loyal consumers something special and celebrating brand-relevant events. The designs for special edition must reflect this, but should not be overpowered by it.