Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Maker's (Almost) Missed Its Mark

 Last week, Maker's Mark surprisingly announced that it was changing its bourbon recipe, altering its famed-formula from 90 proof (45 percent alcohol) to 84 proof (42 percent), on account of a short supply of bourbon.

Not surprisingly, the consumer push back from this announcement was swift and strong.  According to an article in the Washington Post, within two hours, the company received 2,200 comments on the move.

Today, the bourbon brand announced via Twitter that it's reversing the decision to conserve bourbon by adding a "touch more water" to the recipe.  Maker's Mark chairman Bill Samuels acknowledged that the brand "got it totally wrong" by focusing on fixing a supply problem at the expense of creating a brand problem.  

It would have been the first time in its 59-year history that Maker's Mark had altered the proof of the bourbon and they cite consumers' emotional connection to the formula as a reason for preserving it.

I give Maker's Mark a lot of credit for responding to its customers.  However, it's clear that it was not looking through the consumers' lens when it making the original decision to extend its supply of bourbon in order to respond to growing demand for the product. 

Maker's Mark forgot that its brand is much more than a price point.  They lost sight of a great story they developed and told us about heritage and the quality bourbon that's produced from its unique formula and distilling process.  All that branding stuff actually resonated with people.

Hopefully, the opportunity to look through the consumers' lens is a view won't soon forget.

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