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Southern Comfort

Rebranding & Packaging

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Custom Typography
Brand Merchandise & Apparel
Collateral Design
Logos, Iconography & Illustration
Brand Messaging
Packaging System
Identity System


Design Team: Christian Helms, Lauren Dickens & Erick Montes
Creative Direction: Christian Helms
Writer: Mike Woolf, Christian Helms
Photographer: Nick Cabrera


Communication Arts Design Annual

Bucking trends and declaring confidence in being different.

Brown-Forman challenged us to help Southern Comfort—a brand with 140 years of history—begin a fresh conversation with consumers. After years of campaigns and packaging built around market trends, the brand had lost focus and drinkers no longer connected to its offering or story.

Our solution was to work collaboratively with the Southern Comfort team, shedding novelty and artifice in favor of meaningful messaging and timeless simplicity. The result is an identity and packaging system that allows the brand to stand proudly and confidently in owning who they are: A Category of One.

From the new brand messaging and bold iconography to the streamlined label and sturdy bottle silhouette, the new Southern Comfort is built to stand confidently and comfortably on the shelf.

Rich heritage and a valuable, relevant legacy.

In 1874, whiskey was harsh and tough to drink. A young New Orleans bartender named M.W. Heron had a bold idea: what if the drinks he served actually tasted good?

Heron was a man who knew what he liked and wasn’t afraid to share. He blended the spirits of the day with fruits and spices to create something completely unique: a liqueur that wasn’t just drinkable, but delicious. Unlike anything else in bars across the country, Southern Comfort was a hit. Heron’s singular spirit won medals and ribbons and, more importantly, the hearts of drinkers.

In the 145 years since its creation, the Southern Comfort brand has seen countless bottles and expressions of identity, but the idea that sparked its genesis remains relevant. It was created to be unique and unlike anything else on the shelf. That spirit of independence and authenticity is universal.

The original Southern Comfort package prominently displayed the brewers star emblem, a historic symbol of care and craft. Proud of his creation, M.W. Heron emblazoned each bottle with the phrase “None Genuine but Mine.” His bottles won medals and ribbons, and evolved to feature signature fluted shoulders in the early 1900s.

Crafting a brand for today, with respect for years past.

In building the new Southern Comfort, we challenged the brand team to consider the entirety of the brand’s history and visual equity, rather than simply focusing on refining the previous packaging. We also engaged consumers in a dialogue around the brand’s personality and values, gaining insight in incorporating those aspects of the brand into a new identity.

We explored a range of creative solutions for the brand, reigniting and refining elements from the past that communicate Southern Comfort’s unique history. At the same time, we created new language and iconography that speaks directly to contemporary drinkers. The combination of heritage assets and new messaging clearly communicates the brand’s enduring legacy and its fresh, confident personality.

New brand language: A Category of One

Just as it was 145 years ago, there’s nothing like Southern Comfort. New brand language proudly claims the spirit’s remarkably singular position and differentiates the brand in purpose: to celebrate the value in being unique, genuine and comfortable. The icon references both the brewer’s star that adorned the first packages of Southern Comfort and the ribbons it won across the country.

Comfort takes precedence over geography.

The brand was born in the south, but its spirit of self-confidence and comfort is universal. “Southern” takes on a smaller role on the new label, allowing Comfort to stand front-and-center.

The marquis placement of M.W.’s name reminds drinkers that Southern Comfort was created by a man with a bold purpose, who wasn’t afraid of walking to the beat of his own drum. His signature lends the new bottle a stamp of authenticity. Just like Heron’s original bottles, the new package boldly reads “None Genuine but Mine.”

A bold new bottle ties to brand language.

One re-branding challenge was to retain the familiarity and equity of the previous packaging while giving the brand a more contemporary image that signals comfort and confidence. With a sleeker, more sturdy silhouette, the new Southern Comfort bottle is designed to stand out on the shelf. The bottle’s pronounced fluted shoulders and solid base present a timeless stance to match the enduring legacy of the product.

Sharing comfort across the globe.

Southern Comfort is a global brand that offers a variety of products around the world. We helped to build a system of unique products, responding to cultural cues, history and consumer preferences in territories including Germany, the UK, Africa and Australia. In addition to crafting global market-specific packaging, we built brand guides and briefed regional creative agencies to ensure the brand message, personality and spirit is communicated consistently worldwide.

Eleven months after the launch of the rebrand, Southern Comfort was sold to Louisiana-based Sazerac for $543.5MM.

“We knew from the first introduction that Helms Workshop would be a different kind of partnership. They are a small shop of passionate designers, and they are excellent at taking a business challenge and applying thinking, creativity and humor to find the best-in-class design solution.”

Lena Derohannessian
VP Global Marketing Director of Southern Comfort
Helms Workshop®