Gard’s Scott Gallagher Builds a Brand
Meet Ulee, short for Ulysses. That’s him on the cans. Good guy. Likes to travel. Dislikes calories. Occupies much of Scott Gallagher’s free time. “Nights, weekends, vacations, lunches,” Gard’s director of public relations says.
Ulee is the face of Ulee’s Light Cider, a brand Gallagher and two friends, Don Forsythe and Matt Thompson, brought to market this summer. “We wanted a product that was all-natural, made with local ingredients and under 100 calories that still tasted great,” Gallagher says. All that took was a lot of work.
Befitting a character inspired by Homer’s epic, The Odyssey, Ulee’s story begins once upon a time.
Gallagher earned a Ph.D. in English at Ohio University before landing in Portland as Rogue Ales’ director of marketing and communications. Part of that job involved many hours in a conference room with Rogue co-founder Jack Joyce, calling out marketing ideas, developing new products, sharpening the best ones and then making them a reality.
Gallagher eventually left Rogue for Portland State and then here to Gard Communications, but he never forgot those brainstorming sessions. Those were fun. They stuck with him.
Then about a decade ago, he went to Iceland. At Ohio University, he’d studied Old English and translated another epic, Beowulf. Iceland was a place to study and explore. When he got there, instead of beer, he found the locals drinking cider. So, you know, when in Reykjavik …
“What I didn’t like was their cider tended to be really sweet,” Gallagher says. “My Icelandic friends would tease me because I would add water to make it less sugary.”
But he liked the idea of an alternative to beer. Cider, he notes, had been popular with America’s earliest settlers. In the early 1900s, Germans and eastern Europeans arrived with a taste for beer. Cider’s popularity waned. Prohibition took care of the rest.
Not so in Iceland, where Gallagher returned with some regularity. Meanwhile, back home in Oregon, he noticed a growing craft cider market complementing the beer scene. “Craft beer did the hard work of creating a craft market segment,” he says. “And that made it easier for craft cider to take hold once again and gain popularity.”
Gallagher saw an opportunity, a space for drier, lighter cider. He thought back on how much fun those sessions in the Rogue conference room were. He asked himself that question familiar to anyone who’s had a big idea: “How can I do this?”
He and his friends put their heads together. They found a producer in Washington. They figured out distribution. They spent eight months testing 26 different recipes before settling on Ulee’s first two products. The easier part, and for Gallagher the most enjoyable, was developing the branding and marketing strategy.
“I love the creativity of marketing and communications, figuring out what the market or audience needs, then crafting a story and strategy to get attention and sales,” Gallagher says.
The answer to, “How can I do this?” is you roll up your sleeves and get to work. You find the story. You figure out how to tell it, and to whom. It’s what Gallagher does every day for Gard’s clients — and in his spare time, for Ulee.
And in its first two months, Ulee’s Light Cider is already well on the way toward its first-year sales projections — with a third flavor on the way early next year.