In the News

Ashes of Disaster - Lehman Brothers whiskey!

Penny Brooks

17th September 2017

Launching a new product into a crowded market place requires a well thought out marketing mix, and a brand name that sticks in the memory. Lehman Brothers is a name that most people recognise as the bank that went bust in September 2008, defining the global financial crisis, but now it is also a range of whiskies, with the name being both "its biggest asset and its biggest problem".

The brand is a very deliberate tongue-in-cheek take on the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Founder James Green acknowledges that "We are playing on the Lehman brothers destruction". One of the three varieties is named Ashes of Disaster, and its tasting notes say that the blend is "HEAVY BODIED" with a nose that has a "Wicked suggestion of burning banknotes, a hint of ripe autumn fruit, about to fall". While Snapfire is "Perfect with reckless manoeuvers, long gambles, and explosive consequences" - and creates "almost irresistible desire to sip again".

It does offer a useful example of the importance branding and value of a trademark. Barclays Bank bought many of the bank's assets just after it went into meltdown, and fought Mr Green's efforts to register a trademark for the whisky at New York State's Division of Corporations. Barclays argued that the public would be confused into thinking the whisky was connected to the bank, but was not successful in stopping its use for the whiskey.

The BBC has a short video about the whiskey, and particularly the use of the Lehman name in this and other cases, and an article with some comments from the world's biggest whisky seller Diageo and also Anthony Shore, who runs Operative Words and is one of the world's most sought after people when it comes to naming new businesses and products. 

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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