Marius Roșu, the Founder of United Pencils, is the first guest of #RomanianThrivers, a section of The Alternative School blog exploring the success stories behind memorable local projects developing during the pandemic, against all odds. As the creative mind behind Letea Horses (Caii de la Letea, a Via Viticola label), Marius shares the insights of the branding process & the subtle art of speaking about tradition beyond fundamentalism, to connect with young & sophisticated audiences.
It’s easy to say: “We want something new, while keeping in touch with traditions”. The hardest part, though, is to implement it. Which were the novelty triggers to build the contemporary vibe of the brand?
Traditions are a relatively new element in the local area, but they are increasingly present in the world of young people and they become a landmark for many of them. What I am talking about is a correct understanding of them, not about a cheap form of nationalism as traditions often happen to be interpreted. People seem to understand that we need a return to our roots, to our local cultural heritage, in order to shape our identity. This was the starting point when brainstorming for the tone of the voice for Caii de la Letea brand. When you think about the wild horses in Letea, you think of freedom, and freedom can only be achieved by knowing, accepting, and preserving the past. In a world increasingly interested in authenticity, this look at the past gives the brand a contemporary voice.
What inspired the name of the brand?
The name was given by the old winery owners and it defines the spirit of the people behind the business. They think freely, they are interested in innovations and this makes them always looking for new shapes that they can give to their products.
What was the most difficult part of the branding process?
The most difficult part of the branding process was bringing the brand up to date without losing touch with the past. History is very important for the wine world in general, but for the Sarica Niculițel winery especially, as it is an old, very well-known winery in the Dobrogea region.
How did you decide for a minimal color scheme (whites & browns) to evolve up to the “black& white” label, in a market dominated by color?
The reasoning behind the color scheme chosen for the labels had several starting points. The result had to differentiate the brand, but also to define it. As the brand’s philosophy is closely linked to the soil, we chose earthly colors combined with vivid touches of black, meant to deliver strength and energy, the attributes of the wild horses from Letea. For increased visibility, we chose a white background that contrasts with the main image. The monochrome palette talks about elegance and modernity.
Tell us more about the shoot behind the black & white label, focusing on the horses’ eyes: where it took place, what inspired it, how did you end up with this visual direction?
The story of these wild horses made us see everything as a trilogy. We divided Caii de la Letea wine portfolio into three volumes: Volume I, Volume II and Princeps, each of them revolving around the main traits of the wild horses in Letea.
Volume I is about Vigor as they live freely under the open sky.
Volume II, Emotion, refers to the traumas they lived in the past. They were persecuted, forgotten, but they are still there and a daily reminder for us that freedom comes with a price. Hence the visual approach of the labels, with the horse’s eyes close-ups so we can read their true emotional story into their eyes. You know, eyes don’t lie.
Princeps, Volume III, is about Elegance. It’s the most impressive thing about horses in general. Moreover when it comes to the horses in Letea, as their elegance is preserved in spite of the difficulties they went through and in contrast with the wild landscape they live in.
Shooting in Letea with the photographer Dragos Lumpan was an experience we will not forget too soon. The horses, the forest and the people there are truly special. Despite the fact that it is a very isolated place, the feeling of freedom, of infinity is very strong.
Strategically speaking, which were the campaigns / activations that helped the most in the positioning process?
Caii de la Letea is a gastronomic wine, and food will always be a rich, offering topic. We have created a communication platform, Oameni si Radacini / People and Roots, so we can search for the origins of taste, know the local gastronomic heritage, meet the people who value it and share all these. By now, we have documented three regions of the country, Dobrogea, Moldova and Transylvania. The journey will continue, and the platform will grow bigger and more valuable. We plan to observe and the way people relate to who they are and what they do, while following their dream even if it means a series of sacrifices. We call these new people “De viță liberă”, they are caii de la Letea.
Caii de la Letea (Letea Horses) was born in the summer of 2020, at Via Viticola, in the oldest vineyard of Dobrogea, near the hills of Saricii and Niculițel, where the cultivation of vines has millennial roots. Even if, essentially, the selection of grapes, their introduction into the winery and the traditional methods have been preserved for thousands of years, the new winemaking technologies are masterfully handled by internationally renowned oenologists, emphasizing the specific imprint of the Sarica Niculiţel area.
ABOUT MARIUS ROSU & UNITED PENCILS
Marius first started his journey in 2002, as a recent graduate of the University of Arts and Design, Cluj Napoca. He came to Bucharest and began collaborating with several creative companies. For more than a decade he worked for Gav, an independent local agency, first as an Art Director, then Head of the Department and ultimately Creative Director. In 2019 he launched United Pencils, a multidisciplinary studio focusing on branding, strategy, design, illustration and video content, defined by sensitivity, clarity of insight and expressive executions naturally popping up vivid conversations. The United Pencils portfolio includes clients like Brain Institute, Chef Sosin, Covalact, Sanovita, Land Rover, Fine Thee, Owlight, Eisberg, La Fantana, Hangar F, Clandestin, Domeniile Prince Matei, Animest, Beesers.
This is the first episode of our #RomanianThrivers series. Who else would you like to see featured on our platform? Leave us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for more!