From smoking jackets to dance floors, a handful of whiskey brands are starting to diversify their marketing strategy and align themselves with emerging platforms to authentically target new audiences. More and more brands are understanding that to truly have an impact you need to bring value to culture and help it grow. By supporting the right partners in the right way you can build something that supports communities, nurtures talent and as a result creates advocates that will buy into the philosophy of the drink and spread the word.
The whiskey market in general is getting more and more competition, with other spirits such as gin set to outstrip Scotch whiskey sales by 2020. In the UK, gin made it back into the inflation metric for the first time in 13 years, which represents it's growing popularity across the board. Other beverages such as beer have also seen a spike with craft breweries like BrewDog dominating bars across the country.
In order for whiskey to keep up with this evolving market, they need to appeal to a younger audience and start to resonate with a wider variety of culture. But it is important that these brands actually contribute to the culture and don't just try to force their way into something that may not be right for them. Below are a few examples of brands that are doing it the right way and are making smart moves to make sure they resonate with a more youthful audience in a natural way by building a presence within that community.
Ballantine's & Boiler Room
Ballantine's kicked off their partnership with Boiler Room almost 3 years ago with 'Stay True Journeys', showcasing individual stories from local music scenes around the world. This partnership allowed Ballantine's to build a presence in new markets and to also create engaging content that was distributed to Boiler Room's 1m+ fan-base of taste-makers.
It's important that a drinks brand entering culture actually has a voice and a purpose, and does not just exist for the sake of it. Ballantine's activation has put on some great events but also supported them with a real narrative to discover new scenes and showcase some of the emerging talent across the globe. This representation of electronic music has helped to push artists' careers forward and has allowed Ballantine's to create an extremely strong presence within the culture.
Johnny Walker & NTS
Similar to the Ballantine's and Boiler Room partnership, Johnny Walker teamed up with London based radio show NTS to bring a selection of live streamed events across 3 key regions in Europe. Diageo have put together a couple of events with NTS and the results have not been too transparent, but there is undeniable value to partnering with a platform like NTS that has such a deeply rooted presence in underground music culture.
With any partnership, it is vital to look at the core values and see how they are aligned. For this, there is a lot of synergy with the brands which is why the campaign seems like a great fit even if it's slightly outside of Johnny Walkers comfort zone. Obviously the blend element of whiskey has a lot of synergy with DJ culture but the NTS audience is also slightly more mature than competing platforms and spans a wider range of music genres.
What better way to enter music culture than being born out of it. 808 whiskey is the creation of legendary producer and DJ, Tommy D, who decided to create a Scotch whiskey that focuses on electronic music and it's audience. As a result the drink has seamlessly cemented itself in the extremely sought after Ibiza market and gained ambassadors from some of the most influential musicians in the world. 808 proves to be a great example of how being closely and authentically attached to the culture you are trying to enter will allow you to easily build a strong community that associate themselves with your brand.
These are great examples of brands engaging with new audiences in a subtle and indirect way, by either partnering with established platforms or having a strong presence in the scene. By having a clear mission and point of view, a brand can really share a voice that a community can get behind and support. More and more brands will need to follow this approach and collaborate with the people shaping culture to create mutually beneficial campaigns.