Watering Down Your Brand Loyalty

Nine days ago, Maker’s Mark bourbon-drinking customers received an email that caused concern. Citing an overwhelming demand, the distillery decided to reduce the alcohol content in its bourbon by 3 percent.

While not a huge percentage, the announcement was met by outrage from the brand’s faithful fans, many of whom took to social media to express their outrage.

Two days ago, Maker’s Mark announced it was reversing its decision. Both announcements resulted in huge media coverage, causing speculation that the original announcement and reversal was like a Hollywood publicity stunt.

While it is impossible to know whether the company was trying to generate publicity, the entire move appears to be a massive misstep. The distiller increased its visibility and name recognition. The Today show on Monday carried on a lively conversation about Maker's Mark as they passed around a bottle and poured it into glasses.  

But publicity only goes so far. What about trust? One of the Today show guest hosts wondered aloud whether reducing the alcohol content was a not-so-subtle way of causing consumers to drink more. That probably wasn't on the Maker's Mark key message list.

Maker’s Mark could have avoided this entire mess by engaging its customers and testing the concept before making the announcement. And the announcement should have come with a clear, credible explanation such as, perhaps, doing its bit for drinking responsibly.

Trends to Watch in 2013

2012 has been an exciting year in marketing public relations. Here, we highlight trends we expect to drive change and marketing innovations during 2013.

Social reputation sparkles

All things social will officially transition from their old ‘just for kids’ reputation to a well-earned position as drivers of strategic objectives. From crowd-sourcing to recruiting, selling to engagement — social strategy will be a first order of business.

Direct consumer engagement trumps media relations

PR has long evolved beyond being a synonym for media relations. In the rise of social media such as Facebook, blogging platforms, Twitter, YouTube and other sharable content networks, clients decreased traditional media spends in favor of creative campaigns that engage directly with consumers. We predict more brands than ever will embrace the opportunity to tell their own stories and share value-added content through their own online communication assets.

Visual marketing continues explosive growth

Images took center-stage this year, led by the visual superstar Pinterest. More than being a pretty face (or product shot), visuals showed their dramatic power to increase stakeholder engagement, linking up with goals from driving e-commerce sales to influencing voter sentiments during the presidential campaign. ‘Show, don’t tell’ will move from a novelty best practice to the norm, with the most consistent and creative brands claiming leadership positions in the marketplace.

The Marriage of Marketing and PR

Marketing and public relations are not strangers. They are essential parts of effective, integrated campaigns.A recent blog charted the differences between marketing and public relations. With all deference, the two have merged in a marriage of strengths. Whatever differences exist are mainly matters of tactics.

The marketing mindset is distinguished by

  • Strong reliance on research;
  • Targeting a specific audience;
  • Shaping information for that audience; and
  • Delivering the information in familiar channels for that audience.