Brand Managers Make Decisions Brand Champions Never Would

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonThey must not love the product. Seriously. They probably fancy light beers or white wine and rarely venture into the world of brown spirits aside from the occasional company mandated outing with retailers. Because there’s simply no other explanation for the boneheaded decision of the Makers Mark brand team to water down their bourbon to meet a growing worldwide demand.

They could raise the price. Or better still, they could create an export brand, since this foolishness was precipitated by a rising international demand, particularly in India.

Yes like many bourbons, this one is aged in somewhat concentrated form and so it’s standard procedure to add water at the end to bring it to the appropriate proof–in Makers’ case, that’s 45% alc./volume. After this tinkering, that will drop to 43%.

Which might not mean much to non-drinkers. But it smacks of cavalier disregard for the traditions and heritage that resonate with those of us who love bourbon. I’m sure those brand managers hired a consulting firm to produce a spread sheet of risk analysis which proves that this is indeed, a prudent course of action. But they’d be wiser to empathize or even consult with their legions of fans that made them so big.  I bet more than a few may be considering a new number for Makers Mark altogether: 86.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

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