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.