Maker’s Mark: Lessons Learned

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Maker’s Mark is an iconic brand with fiercely loyal consumers and, thanks to social media, they’re not afraid to speak up (make that holler) when the company decided to mess with the brand.

Last week, the company announced that, to “meet demand” they would lower the alcohol content. They explained it to Wine and Spirits Daily by saying that the brand is encountering shortages and among the solutions (including lowering the age, raising the price) they chose lowering the proof from 90 to 84. The outcry among their consumers was deafening with “watered down” the rallying point.

This week they announced that the decision would be reversed.

Maker’s and Beam made a number of errors. First, their explanation of lowering the proof to meet demand was seen as BS, with industry cynics shouting that their real motive was taking the tax savings (approximately $1.5 million) to the bottom line. I don’t buy that. It’s not worth it for a million case brand to take the “goodness” out for a buck. They either should have had a better rationale or spent more time than they did talking to their consumers about the decision.

So, they made a PR mistake.

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Southern Comfort Turnaround

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An advertising campaign that actually works?

Wine and Spirits Daily reported recently that the Southern Comfort ad campaign seems to have paid off.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you won’t be surprised to learn that. (See Aug 4, 2012 and Dec 19, 2012.)

The brand’s net sales had been in decline for years but turned around in 2012. While 3% growth isn’t necessarily a big deal, for a brand that was hemorrhaging, it’s a road to recovery.

Judging from the emails and comments I received, I’m not surprised at all that the brand turned around.

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Booze to Broadway to Booze Again

Wine and Spirits Daily and Shanken Daily News have each had stories on
Hiro Sake and its co-founder, Carlos Arana. In fact, there’s been quite a bit
of press about them lately.

Since I’ve known Carlos for most of my booze business days, I thought I would chime in.

At Seagram, Carlos and I suffered through the foibles of our Latin American boss and managed to survive the adventures of Patron in the early days. Carlos went on to run the Asia-Pacific whiskey business.

Next came an 8-year stint with the Beckmann family running the tequila business with impressive results and literally put Jose Cuervo on the global map. He managed to double sales and triple profits and increased market share by five percentage points. Not shabby.

A brief tour of duty as President of the Arnell Group was enough to convince him that doing your own thing is far more rewarding than working in a corporate setting.

So, enter Broadway and Hiro Sake.

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