How to ‘Premiumize’ Your Whisky Brand, in 10 Easy Steps!
Marketing is one of the many tools for Premiumization
Sales flagging? Running out of quality stock? Desperate to push prices up even higher? Here’s our 10-step plan to get you to the world of ultra-premium spirits.
Step 1: Be well respected at the start
This is crucial. You have to have a good reputation from the start, because the goal here is to make a load of money, and in that process we’ll eventually need to ruin your reputation. There’s no way to do that by starting from a bad reputation. You should have a decent following, with a well respected and reasonably priced range of whiskies with age statements. Also, your distillery should be completely unprepared for a sudden increase in the popularity of your whisky, or at least look it.
Step 2: Discontinue your age statements
Age statements are great from a customer perspective, but to really premiumize those you’ll need to discontinue them so that they become sought after. To do this you’ll need a new range of whiskies to replace the ones with age statements. Name them after colours, something in nonsensical Gaelic, or anything really. People will buy them no matter what.
Step 3: Bring back the age statements… at a price
Ha, a bit switch! Now you need to bring back the age statements to much fanfare and applause… but at a much, much higher price. This means you’ll be getting way more money from the same whisky you were selling before! Boom, premiumized! It really helps if these whiskies were well loved to start with, which is why step 1 is so important.
Step 4: Bring on the marketing gimmicks
Marketing is a fantastic tool that you’re going to be spending a lot more of your money on now you’re a premium whisky brand, so make sure you invest it wisely by blasting whisky into space, using virtual reality experiences, smoke machines, or anything else that will get people talking. It doesn’t need to be positive, just talking. There’s no such thing as bad press.
Step 5: Release crazy expensive stuff
Another way to get people talking is by releasing some crazy expensive stuff they can never afford to buy. Now that you’ve premiumized your age statements, you have the go-ahead to release something astronomically expensive and people will believe that it’s worth it. It is important that every part of this whisky be very expensive looking. Possible packaging could include a massive hand-made wooden box carved by a sixth-generation craftsman, a certificate signed by the distiller, and a hand-blown decanter or bottle. A good rule for the box is that it should be at least three times the size it needs to be. Make sure to auction a few bottles for charity and have huge release events with a premium and exciting setting. Mega-yachts work well.
Step 6: Become collectible
Another crucial step is to become collectible. This is because you want prices to spiral out of control and then capitalise on rising auction prices by raising the prices on your stuff on the primary market. Step 2, 3, and 5 should help with this, but it may also be prudent to bid on your own whiskies at auction, buy back any stocks you sold to other companies or brokers and buy hundred-year-old fakes off collectors to display as a reminder of how premium you’ve always been.
Step 7: Get whisky enthusiasts to hate you
Studies have shown a definite link between whisky enthusiasts hating a whisky brand and the continued premiumization of the same brand. There is some disagreement as to the causality of these two things, but we believe that these same whisky enthusiasts will talk, either way. This chatter will be negative but it’s still talk. But all this whining about how you used to use better casks, ‘it’s not like the old stuff,’ and other rose-tinted-glasses comments is perfect, because you discontinued all the old stuff and made it inaccessible to anyone without a Bugatti, which is then driving collectibility and auction prices (and therefore your own prices, remember) further and further skyward. Of course, this only works if you were well respected in the first place which again, is why step 1 is crucial.
Step 8: Explore Duty Free/Travel Retail
If you aren’t releasing stuff in the airport, you aren’t premiumizing. The important thing to remember here is that people in an airport know nothing about whisky and will either buy your rubbish NAS whisky for loads more than they should or will pay crazy money for dark-looking whisky in fancy decanters and boxes. It’s important that you only release these two things in travel retail and save your good stuff for the Bugatti drivers.
Step 9: Premiumize social media
Social media is becoming bigger and is a fantastic place to shout about your newfound premiumness. Start an official page on all the usual platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. These pages will churn out nothing but artsy black and white photos of the distillery and how premium and ‘hand made’ everything is. You must also start accounts for all of your brand ambassadors (of which there should be quite a few) showing off what rare and collectible whiskies they are getting to try and the exotic places they are getting to go. This will again further associate your brand in people’s minds with the words premium, rare, and collectible.
Step 10: Profit!
Well, we’ve discontinued the age statements, brought them back, raised the bar, raised the prices, become collectible, released a load of new whisky, and become universally hated. The only thing left to do is watch the cash roll in. Wow, it’s that easy? you say. Yes, but be aware, there is a trade-off: Respect. Now that you’ve become hated, you’ve lost all respect and therefore your reputation, since you’ve alienated the customers who actually loved your whisky, not just loved to brag about how expensive it is. To gain this back, you would have to undo all of the premiumizing that we’ve come so far to achieve. Don’t be foolish! What’s the grumblings of the whisky community compared to cash in your pocket? Next round’s on us!