Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/126443
PHOTO: COURTESY OF BEAM INC. MARKETING Ardent Advocates SCOTCH BRANDS LEAD THE WAY WITH CONSUMER BRAND AMBASSADORS by Mark Vierthaler PHOTO COURTESY OF BULLDOG GIN S cotch drinkers belong to a unique stratum of imbibers. They have a particular brand, from a particular area of Scotland, distilled a particular way. Ask three scotch drinkers the proper way to enjoy it and you'll ﬁnd three different answers, each defended as if it were gospel. They'll tell their friends, their family and their mailman about a new iteration from their favorite distillery, and they'll chastise the local watering hole if they take it down off the bar back. It's not surprising that the leading developers of unofﬁcial consumer brand ambassadors were Scotch whiskies. With a ready base of die-hard fans, all they needed to do was provide the tools for their imbibers to go and spread the news. Among the pioneers was Islay single malt Laphroaig. On fresh bottles of Laphroaig, consumers will discover a small brochure tied to the bottleneck. In the brochure is a number. This number gives a lifetime lease on a one-square-foot plot of Islay land, as well as access to a community of Laphroaig drinkers. "With Facebook and Twitter, we have really expanded threefold our membership," says Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador for Laphroaig. "The word is getting out there and it's being passed on through the Internet." The Balvenie offers a similar set up with its Warehouse 24 program. "Not every whisky enthusiast is able to travel to Scotland," says Balvenie representative Annie Taplin. "Modern technology like social media and Warehouse 24 allow us to keep our fans up-to-date in real time." Taplin notes that drinkers of The Balvenie tend to feel 38 / the tasting panel / may 2013 a special connection with their brand. By giving them a peek behind the scenes, The Balvenie is able to increase that consumer connection that they will then pass along to their friends and family. Blended scotch distiller Chivas has taken that love of community and brought it online with a tip of the hat to male bonding. The brand launched its Chivas Brotherhood in 2011. The site offers discounted products from men's lifestyle suppliers such as Issey Miyake and access to private tasting events, as well as educational tools on the different variations of Chivas Regal on the market. It isn't just scotch brands that have discovered the ability of spirits to create communities, however. BULLDOG Gin has one of the most active social media presences in its category, giving brand loyalists a chance to spread their knowledge and love of the upstart gin. BULLDOG's Facebook page holds tasting notes and cocktail recipes, as well as features on mixologists that prominently feature the use of BULLDOG in their creations. "We offer engaging platforms which allow our fans to interact with our brand," says Megan Boudris, Associate Brand Manager for BULLDOG. "We want our consumers to identify with our brand versus being bombarded with product knowledge." By empowering consumers with an intimate knowledge of the brand and building a community in taste, spirit companies can be in millions of spots at the same time, giving them the ability to expand their reach and market share with a low level of investment.