Beam Suntory Asia is known for its range of alcohol brands including Jim Beam, Hornitos, Roku, and Cruzan. The company, however, wants to push one of its whisky brands, Maker’s Mark, to the forefront. This led to Beam Suntory Asia concocting an experiential event named “Maker’s Mark Distillery Experience Singapore”, which resulted in it bagging the gold in best experiential marketing at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s recent Marketing Events Awards 2020.
Maker’s Mark is an American whisky that is well-known amongst bartenders in Europe and America, but less well known in Singapore where consumption of scotch whisky remains a larger category driver. According to Beam Suntory Asia, whisky is the most consumed spirit in Singapore and is forecast to continue growing across with the premium range being the key growth driver. The premium range in particular is expected to grow at 46.8% compared to a standard and lower-end whisky which is predicted to grow at 20.1%. Hence, there is great potential for Maker’s Mark to tap on this rising trend.
According to the 2020 domestic Singapore report by IWSR, which analyses the beverage alcohol market, being a US whisky or bourbon drinker does not differentiate someone from other whisky drinkers. Meanwhile, the report also found that consumers navigate and buy by brands and not the types of whisky. Additionally, the occasion is the biggest driver of whether someone choses to drink whisky.
Taking all this into consideration, Beam Suntory Asia recognised that Maker’s Mark awareness level is still low in Singapore compared to key whisky competitors. Hence, the challenge will be to increase awareness and considerations of Maker’s Mark within whisky drinks in Singapore.
Individuals who consume whisky to look good and discerning want to stand out, be different, as well as to appear clever and attractive. Hence, Beam Suntory Asia noted that Maker’s Mark has to be all these things. In relation to the whisky, these consumers want a drink that is sweeter, easy to drink, and mixable.
The team decided to create a pop-up concept that comprises these three aspects:
1. Share the craft story of Maker’s Mark through interactive activities;
2. Showcase that Maker’s Mark is accessible, easy to drink and mixable to meet the taste profile and needs of target consumers; and
3. Elevate Maker’s Mark brand image.
In addition to consumers, bartenders and media were also invited to the pop-up space as they play a vital role in sharing Maker’s Mark story to a wider audience. These two audience groups also experience more in-depth brand education sessions to offer them more knowledge to be Maker’s Mark brand advocates. Apart from that, media buy, PR programme, and influencer marketing plan were also incorporated to increase the reach and buzz created by Maker’s Mark during the period.
Beam Suntory decided on a pop-up event concept to make consumers feel like they are being transported to the Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky in the US. The uniqueness of Maker's Mark is summarised into four Ws - water, wheat, wood, and wax. During the event, consumers were put through a series of experiences to help them grasp the concept of each W.
Limestone water is key in the production of Maker's Mark. To allow consumers to experience this, Beam Suntory created a projection room where it evoked the sensory of sound and sight to understand how limestone water is key in the production of the whisky. Limestone water from Loretto was also available for consumers to taste.
The red winter wheat is one of the key ingredients that gives Maker's Mark its distinct flavour of sweetness. To allow consumers to taste this, a dough workshop was available for consumers to make donuts using red winter wheat. They were able to then enjoy the donuts at the end of the session to savour the sweet flavours of red winter wheat.
Each Maker's Mark wooden barrel in the distillery is hand-rotated and the tedious process ensures that it is exposed to the seasonal variance in Kentucky's temperature through the warehouse. During the pop up event, an actual wooden barrel weighing 100kg from the distillery was placed in the room to allow consumers to experience the strenuous effort of hand-rotating barrels in a stacked wooden warehouse.
Every Maker's Mark bottle is unique as they are all hand dipped. Guests were allowed to hand dip their own customised Maker's Mark glasses or bottle and seal it off with their initials.
Additionally, Beam Suntory also ran an Instagram contest where the most creative Instagram post taken at the event will win a four-course Maker's Mark dinner at Meatsmith. Three weeks leading up to the event, Beam Suntory also sent out press releases and media drops to key traditional and digital media outlets for earned media features. It also partnered with Kiss 92FM, luxury titles from publishing house Burda International Asia, and key opinion leaders from FLY Entertainment, and ran giveaway prizes for their followers to drive traffic to the event.
The pop-up event had an earned PR value of SG$480,000 and achieved 400 posts by attendees on social media. It also had 380 attendees from the trade industry and 80 new menu listings. On the consumer front, Beam Suntory sold 3,100 glasses and saw 1,136 attend its event. Quoting IWSR 2019, Beam Suntory said Maker's Mark led the growth within the US whisky category with 100% growth in 2019, overtaking key competitor Bulliet to clinch third place.