I’m not a big bourbon drinker but I do enjoy it from time to time. A friend of mine invited me to be a Maker’s Mark Ambassador a while back, which is a sort of frequent flyer program for the brand. That’s given me a front row seat to something that’s happened over the last week and is a fantastic example of how marketing works these days.
Maker’s Mark has been doing an awful lot right with the brand, so much so that there is a shortage of product. Earlier this month (about 10 days ago as I write this), the distillery emailed us that they were going to be reducing the proof of the liquor a bit. Watering it down would be an apt description. Another bourbon brand did the same thing a decade ago and not much happened when they did so. This time, as one might expect, outrage ensued. However, as we’ve discussed fairly often here on the screed, that outrage is now easily broadcast across the planet. The negative response built on Twitter and Facebook and after three days there were thousands of posts which were amplified by others.
Maker’s Mark then did something very smart. They listened. They acted. They sent an email to all of the Ambassadors. Mine showed up yesterday morning and it said, in part:
Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.
You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.
Perfect. Take responsibility for your actions (don’t hide behind “mistakes were made”), express regret, and explain what you’re doing to fix it. The positive reaction was immediate and loud – 16,000 “likes” on their Facebook page and a couple of thousand positive comments within a few hours. This is how it works in the social age. Listen, respond, be transparent, rinse, repeat. This is how the Maker’s hit the mark after a big miss. They’ll have to find another solution to their supply problem – once which doesn’t involve watering down the product (and the brand!). It’s a good lesson for any brand. Do you agree?