Just what is a Hot Rum Cow?
At the time we decided to launch Hot Rum Cow, most of our client work was in the public sector and financial services. In the wake of the global banking crash and government budget cuts, these were probably the two most challenging areas to be working in. Hot Rum Cow was launched as a serious project that had to survive on its own merits and prove our belief in the power of magazines. But it was also a Trojan Horse designed to take us into new markets and build our profile.
Adventures in the world of drinking
Beautifully designed by Creative Director Eric Campbell and packed with extraordinarily good content by Editor Simon Lyle, Hot Rum Cow is designed to be a collectable ‘bookazine’ that doesn’t date. Billed as ‘Adventures in the world of drinking’, its 100 pages (produced three times a year) explored the people and history behind drinks, ditching the pretentiousness of some drinks magazines with a mission to educate and entertain while not taking itself too seriously.
A game changer
Hot Rum Cow was stocked in WH Smith, Barnes and Noble, and many other prestigious stores from Foyles and Selfridges in London to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The magazine has won five Scottish Magazine Awards and the PPA Indie Magazine Cover of the Year Award in 2015. The crowning achievement was being awarded the Best Cocktail and Spirits Publication at the 2017 Spirited Awards in New Orleans, beating competition from The Daily Beast, Difford’s Guide and Class magazine.
More than just a magazine, it was also a community, well served by a dedicated website and social media. And importantly for us, it has transformed the quality of opportunities that we have been offered to work with new clients.
5 Scottish Magazine Awards
Featured us in their ’80 things that define our time’ issue
10 things we have learnt from Hot Rum Cow
1. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s extraordinary what you can do if you believe in yourself
A small group of people can make a global impact if they have a great idea and a determination to make it happen.
2. Don’t be put off by the nay-sayers
More than a few people suggested we were mad for pulling out of the public sector and launching a magazine. Fortunately, we ignored them.
3. If you write about booze, people will send you really weird shit
Just take a look at our drinks cabinet. Sheep dung whisky anyone? We love it!
4. Content is crucial
Hot Rum Cow is a really good read. That’s what we do with our print and digital client campaigns. Make it genuinely interesting – rather than the 80% of branded content out there that is deservedly ignored.
5. Never underestimate the importance of beautiful design
In the digital era, design is often talked about more in terms of functionality rather than beauty. But if you make stuff look amazing, people will want to take a look.
6. Veteran porn star Ron Jeremy likes to play the harmonica when he’s being interviewed on the phone
And that’s not a metaphor.
7. The indie magazine renaissance hasn’t fulfilled its potential
The surge in indie publishing, encouraged by the sterling work of MagCulture and Stack, offers potential for reviving the overall magazine sector. However, many indie mags are art projects without business plans. That’s fine if the publication is a hobby, but there are wasted opportunities out there.
8. Mainstream magazine publishers haven’t learnt from indie mags
At the same time, there’s a wealth of innovation, passion and interesting ideas to be found among the stars of the indie sector. Why are so many of the bigger players still taking a publishing-by-numbers approach when there is so much to learn from – and opportunities to collaborate?
9. The magazine distribution system is nuts – and getting worse
It’s almost as if the biggest magazine distributors want the magazine industry to collapse. We did enjoy working with MMS and Select though.
10. Putting red wine in a Sodastream dispenser is a bad idea
Unless you want to redecorate your walls.