One of my favorite brand blunders was made by Maker’s Mark, a small-batch bourbon whisky that is sold in distinctive squarish bottles sealed with red wax. Maker’s Mark is distilled in Kentucky and bottled at 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume). In the 1960s and 1970s, Maker’s Mark was widely marketed with the tagline, “It tastes expensive … and is.”
Citing supply issues and demand for their product, in 2013, the company sent a mass e-mail announcing a plan to reduce the alcohol strength of the whisky. The result of this change would have been to reduce the product from 90 U.S. proof (45% alcohol by volume) to 84 U.S. proof (42% alcohol by volume).
Maker’s Mark thought that since their tasting panel couldn’t taste the difference, their customers wouldn’t notice or care. They didn’t stay connected to their fans or protect customer loyalty.
While Maker’s Mark claimed that their own tasting panel of distillery employees cited no taste difference in the lower proof, consumers and journalists made their voice heard loud and clear, communicating their strong displeasure through social media.
Within a week the company said that they had reconsidered their decision after receiving a strong negative reaction from customers, and that they will continue to bottle at the original strength. Although speculation has clouded the Maker’s Mark proof reduction controversy and a number of fans and industry professionals believe it was a publicity stunt, Rob Samuels maintains that it was not.
Whether it was intentional or not, it’s not wise to disappoint your customers and manage your brand under any circumstances. Talk a look at the self inflicted outcry on social media that Markers Mark brought unto itself:
Don’t make the same brand blunder that Markers Mark did. Stay loyal to your customers and make sure you are delivering upon your Brand Value Proposition and maintain your tried and true recipe to provide your customers with a great brand experience.