When I read last night that Maker’s Mark was going to water down their bourbon in order to meet demand two things struck me at once. First, this flies in the face of basic economics. Secondly, it’s horrible marketing. Maker’s Mark’s current slogan is “It is what it isn’t.” Which is perfect because by adding water to the drink “Maker’s Mark” isn’t the same Maker’s Mark.
Even if the bourbon tasters at Maker’s Mark are right and the extra water hasn’t changed the taste it’s still horrendous marketing. Maker’s Mark has developed itself as a quality bourbon brand. “Watered down” has never been associated with quality. Ever.
It seems that Maker’s Mark real problem is increased demand and a short supply. Most companies wouldn’t consider this a problem. Bourbon takes up to seven years to make, so a dramatic increase in demand could cause some supply problems.
So why don’t they just increase the price? This seems like the biggest no brainer ever. The way this announcement has been handled I almost assume this whole story is a marketing ploy. Sometime in the next few days Maker’s Mark will announce that they’re not going to water down the product and that they’re going to increase the price. The diehards will be happy to pay a little extra for their beloved Maker’s Mark. Meanwhile Maker’s Mark just enjoyed several days of free publicity. Bam! It’s New Coke all over again.
After losing ground to Pepsi for decades Coke decided to change its flavor in 1985. The commercials are classic.
People were outraged that the old Coke was gone. It only took a couple of months and Coca-Cola Classic was back on the market. By the end of the year, Coke Classic was substantially outselling both New Coke and Pepsi. Six months after the roll-out, Coke’s sales had increased at more than twice the rate of Pepsi’s. Yeah, it was a disaster, but the publicity helped Coke wrestle control of the U.S. market. Coke still leads today.
Is it cynical to think that this might just be a marketing ploy? Or am I just that smart? The people at Maker’s Mark can’t be dumb enough to be serious about watering down their product. It has to be a marketing ploy. Right?