The drink’s maker’s take on the “earned versus paid” dichotomy currently vexing marketers stems from the belief that recommendations not scale are key for products with luxury and exclusiveness at the core. A review is taking place over the next two months to justify the strategy to the board, which could see future campaigns from brands such as Glenfiddich and Sailor Jerry’s prioritise reaching bartenders, bloggers and other key influencers over a mass audience.
Gary Keogh, marketing director for William Grant & Sons, says: “While our smaller brands have focused more on the earned media side in recent years, we’re looking at applying some of those learnings to our bigger brands. The brands that do have a strong paid [media] element in the mix are where I’m focusing with the review because we think the power of recommendation is so significant that it’s worth investing in.”
TV and other traditional owned media will still play a key role in maintaining awareness but to improve its standing among influencers, the company will increase spend in digital and experiential. Investments are guided by the work done on smaller brands such as malt Scotch whisky Monkey Shoulder, which is offering bartenders the chance to take home the earnings from a pop-up bar they could run during London Cocktail Week in October in a competition.
“Could we conceivably run a brand ambassador event for bartenders for Glenfiddich? Absolutely”, adds Keogh. “If you look at the single malt whisky category, the single biggest driver of consideration is word of mouth. [Glenfiddich] is available in the on-trade and driving those impulse sales through influential bartenders would definitely be a benefit.”
The changes will affect the whole portfolio eventually with Glenfiddich, which is currently supporting a Leagas Delaney-created campaign, Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry and Reyka its initial focuses. The campaigns are all backed by a year-on-year “noticeable” increase in marketing spend designed to also meet consumer trends across the on and off-trade, online, high-end prestige and gifting.
Keogh says the business will expand its “limited” gifting offering “not just in the UK but globally”, to exploit “the fact that 70 per cent of purchases of whiskies, particularly malts, go to a relative or friend”. Digital investments will tie back to these plans with the company looking to collaborate closer with retailers around their own ecommerce platforms and give consumers access to more information while they browse.
The increased marketing support is a result of the company’s rebrand from First Drinks to William & Grant & Sons last week (11 July) in order to better align its UK and international business.
The marketing division has reshuffled internally to support the shift. A digital specialist now sits within the off-trade grocery team, while a new ‘Prestige’ unit has been formed to nurture deeper relationships with high-end outlets including the Dorchester, Claridge’s and Harrods. Additionally, William Grant & Sons has centralised brand management for its whisky brands into one division.
Separately, Sailor Jerry is rolling out a global “Life Outside the Lines” campaign featuring what it claims are “real people who encapsulate the spirit of the brand”. The Quaker City Mercantile-created push spans digital, print, outdoor and social media activity.