Whisky Magazine Issue 105
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Charles K. Cowdery discovers whiskey's equivalent of the barn raising
Free labour. Sweet words to any business person's ears. Most companies, large and small, count on good word-of-mouth advertising, a kind of unpaid labour, to promote their products and services. It is a peculiar feature of our modern consumer culture that people don't just buy, they will also help sell the products they love by talking them up and even wearing their logos and brand names.
Whiskey producers have long cultivated this tendency. Maker's Mark has its ambassadors. Jack Daniel's has its Tennessee Squires. Johnnie Walker's ‘walking man' is as ubiquitous as the Nike ‘swoosh.' For small spirits producers, local good will is essential because it promotes brand adoption and loyalty. One advantage of being small is the ability to develop personal connections, both with trade customers, especially bartenders and beverage managers, and also consumers. It's one of the few natural advantages a micro-producer has over the big guys.
But that's advertising. What about fans who are willing to go to the factory and work on the assembly line for a day or two, for no pay? Where do you find people with that kind of enthusiasm for a brand?
Volunteering to help out at American microdistilleries, of course.
Instead of pay, typical volunteer bottlers get lunch, a bottle to take home, and maybe a T-shirt or other tokens. Mostly they get a story to tell their friends.
If they tell it while pouring out a few fingers of their ‘employer's' product; well, that's the whole idea.