The assumptions so far are that we know where we want to launch the product in principle, but there are always secondary and tertiary markets too. For example, when Kininvie launched their first distillery bottling, a 23 Years Old single malt, they opted to launch it in Taiwan to target wealthy consumers looking for exclusive whiskies that were super-limited edition, but they followed up only a few months later with Batch 002 that was available in the UK, Western Europe, the US and other key markets for them, as well as a 17 Years Old Batch 001 that was released into GTR, or Global Travel Retail (that’s duty free to most people).
Other brands opt to release their products on allocation which means that if a country’s marketing or sales team are interested in taking a product from the range they will pitch the head of brand marketing and sales directors back at HQ as to why they think it would be a good idea for them to take it, how many nine litre cases they want to take and the sort of visibility, revenue and mention they may get for the product during a certain period of time. Now, the decision-makers back at base may grant them their allocation and get it shipped pretty sharpish, they may push back and alter elements of the activation plan (that’s how the product gets visibility through events, influencer engagement and traditional marketing efforts) or may flat out reject the plan as not viable, or not a priority for the business at this stage, opting instead to prioritise key countries, continents or accounts.
Once all of this is worked out, agreed and budget allocated, the next step is often to take the product out to the teams in market to train them, get them excited, answer their questions and to ensure the message is communicated properly and fully to each of them to avoid any ambiguity or misunderstanding. Saying that, the usual preferred way to train and inspire the local market teams is to fly them over to the distillery’s brand home, usually the key distillery in a portfolio (so Strathisla for Chivas Brothers, Aberfeldy for Dewar’s and Bacardi Malts and Cardhu for Diageo, to name but a few examples), although the brand home will vary depending on the brand being talking about.
The more the brand can do at this stage to help the local market teams the better, as these are the people with boots on the ground and who are responsible for pushing and selling the product in both the on and off trade.
The final stage is to engage with influencers. These might be bloggers, writers, chefs, bartenders, artists, celebrities and all manner of people who have an influence with their followers and readers.
On the surface of it, these people often look like they get a lot of free stuff in return for promoting the product and saying nice things about it, but the reality is that while there are some in it for the free stuff, the ways in which these people engage and inspire their own audiences is incredible, and each one totally unique in their approach.
This could include simply sending out 50ml samples to a long list of whisky bloggers, or partnering with a select few to create content campaigns across their audience and their social media channels, or a big launch event to celebrate a new release either in the brand home or in a place with some relevance to the product’s story.
Depending on the brand, they will broadly focus on whisky influencers, lifestyle influencers, fashion influencers or a mixture of the three, but who they are connecting and partnering with will be planned to the nth degree so that the brand and product have the best possible opportunities for success and maximum visibility.