Monday, February 05, 2007

Crapulence calling

In a recent post at Thot Blurb, Fink commented on how whisky is still seen as the last male bastion. This got me thinking. Its quiet true that whisky is predominantly a male drink (now don’t hold me ransom for this statement). The image that first comes to mind is that of an older gentleman with a cigar in his mouth.

Interestingly, India is a larger producer of whisky than Scotland and sales are really high (100 million cases per year compared to 83 million of Scotland). And India is one of the biggest growing liquor markets in the world.

Look at some of the brand propositions:
“Make it large” – Royal Stag
“Game for life” – Royal Challenge
“It pays to unbelong” – Black & White
“Above it all” – 100 Pipers
“Taste that speaks for itself” – Blender’s Pride
“Genuine quality speaks for itself” – Teacher’s
“The new sign of success” - Signature

A closer look and you’ll notice that most of these brands are positioned around three things: Taste, success, achievement. Taste is a direct product benefit. While Success and Achievement is a derivative of age, accomplishment and the fact that the drinker has arrived in life to appreciate best blends of malt. These brands are premium, mind you. But none of them has managed to create a premium image/aura around them. Is whisky all about taste, success and achievement? Is it really a drink for older people? Is something terribly wrong in whisky which refrain younger people from enjoying it? Is it the lack of innovation or lack of education?

Probably the Scotch industry has been its own worst enemy over the years – the cheaper, less flavorsome blends have been under-marketed, by and large, with most of the advertising focusing on the top-end malts which offer a broader taste spectrum and greater margins.

But single malt is a product which remains extremely difficult to understand – despite the best efforts of the distillers to demystify – and even many regular Scotch drinkers could be hard pressed to distinguish between, say, a Lowland or a Speyside malt.

Furthermore, the emphasis on the taste profile has not helped sell the drink to young consumers – the reason why white spirits such as vodka and rum have been so successful in growing sales through the cocktail (and ready-to-drink) market is that they have relatively little flavour of their own – making them perfect vehicles for all the other cocktail ingredients.

I’m not a whisky connoisseur nor an expert, so it won’t be appropriate for me to comment much about developing a taste or educating consumer. But surely I can write about the image that a brand portraits and the one’s I want to associate with.

Chivas Regal seems to be the only brand right now in India which is doing things right. Promoting the “Chivas Life”. Ice Fishing in Alaska, Meeting without an agenda in a lighthouse or a Ibiza speciality foam party in Superclub Eden.

Am pretty sure over a period of time as the market becomes more lucrative, players like Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, and Macallan will end-up doing the same thing that Chivas is doing at the moment in India. Promoting a better life with a much better style.

This is something which caught my eyes. Probably the key lies in product innovation. If cola’s can go diet why not spirits. Then there’s Easy Drinking Whisky Company which make caricatures of the three founders on the labels.

Now admit you know God is a man.

Well, it’s a fun filled story for white spirits but that’s for some other day.



FiNK said...

hey great post!! except for the last line. God most certainly isn't man =P

What do you think about brandy btw? Apparently v big down south, their version of whisky in the north?

pooR_Planner said...

The last line is from an ealier Chivas campaign, you remember? "God is a man, Chivas, when you know."

Working on white spirits & RTD at the moment, hey isn't brandy a tonic for the sick, I mean brandy with warm water when you're cold...oops. Gotta work on that too.