How Glenfiddich went into battle to win the whisky wars

A famous old name turned its fortunes around and repositioned itself as the leading whisky brand thanks to clever targeting and content creation.


In December 2016, Glenfiddich was at its lowest ebb. The fabled Scottish whisky brand had slipped to number three in the on-trade market and number 12 in its home market of Scotland.

By the end of the first quarter of 2018 Glenfiddich was back up to number two in the on-trade market throughout the UK and ninth in Scotland.

The objective was to reclaim top spot in the UK listings and move up to number five in Scotland, with a longer-term aim of being number one in the brand’s home country within five years.

An aggressive move was needed to reclaim drinkers from competitors in the on-trade, while also saving enough budget to protect off-trade performance.

Glenfiddich’s brand health tracking revealed that awareness was the big challenge. Prompted awareness was high, running at 93%, but there was a definite lack of unprompted awareness and consideration, a tricky situation when budget constraints came into play.

The decision was made to take the fight to a series of strategically targeted battles in key regions. The ‘Glenfiddich Battleground Attack’ was born, focusing on winning in London, Scotland and Yorkshire, underpinned by a national base of activity to protect off-trade leadership.

Digital out-of-home and paid social was planned to target bars, with an extra focus on malt whisky-loving Scotland.

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Two key audiences were identified: the ‘Explorers and Peacocks’, who like to discover new things and experiment; and the ‘Crowd’, who represent the more conservative malt drinker.

The team developed the ‘The Glenfiddich Experimental Series’, a creative content series that would be shared via paid social and targeted at the various geographical “battlegrounds”.

This included radio ads targeting rural Scotland, presentations from brand ambassador Mark Thomson and an invitation to 700 bartenders to attend the Glenfiddich Festival Experiment, a festival based at the company’s distillery and dedicated to the Scottish on-trade.

Impressive gains

Within 12 months of starting the campaign the main objective had been achieved, with Glenfiddich returning to overall on-trade leadership and climbing to fifth in Scotland.

The battleground approach, underpinned by Glenfiddich’s national base, saw awareness and perception increase. Brand health tracking showed impressive gains for a mature brand, as nationally spontaneous awareness rose by 1% and consideration increased by 6%.

Glenfiddich became the most searched malt brand in England and Scotland. The brand made a mild 2% gain in England, but searches rose by 6% in Scotland, including significant gains in target cities such as Glasgow (11%).

The Glenfiddich Festival Experiment generated over £140,000 in Scottish on-trade value and largely paid for itself. A sample of 102 bartenders responded that they would recommend Glenfiddich to fellow bartenders.

The 30-second festival video reached eight million people on social, while the radio campaign enjoyed a unique reach at 77% of a 5.1 million target audience.

The winner of the 2019 Marketing Week Masters award for insight and market research, the Glenfiddich Experimental Series succeeded despite budget restrictions and low spend.

It proved that targeted battles can help you win the war.

Click here to find out more about the 2020 Marketing Week Masters Awards.


Whisky brands gain power as Johnnie Walker maintains title of most valuable drinks brand

Alison Millington

Johnnie Walker has maintained its position as the world’s most valuable alcoholic drinks brand, while Glenfiddich is the fastest growing, according to Brand Finance’s annual review of the world’s 50 most valuable drinks brands. The dominance of whisky brands wasn’t shared by white spirits, however, with Smirnoff and Bacardi both losing rank to their brown counterparts.