03 Jul 2012

Connecting With Your Audience Through…..Whiskey

In consumer-packaged goods, the beverage category is overwhelmingly competitive. Not only are brands competing with their own product lines, they vie against similar products from direct rivals as well as indirect competitors that provide substitute products. Considerable time, money and manpower is spent evaluating, researching and discussing new flavors, packaging, promotional campaigns, marketing and advertising and branding to try and capture part of the over $200 billion beverage industry. Just a small change to any one of these vital aspects can mean millions of dollars of lost revenue or additional profit. Every small detail is explored to try to find a competitive advantage.

Every once in a while, I run into a company that employs a different strategy. Through all the clutter, they seem to step back and simplify their approach. I find these ideas and tactics very refreshing. Once such company is Stranahan’s Whiskey located here in Denver. Now, if you live here, I am sure you have heard of Stranahan’s. The product itself is a higher end whiskey that has helped spawn a micro distillery category while being the pioneer in Colorado. They have had many accolades including winning the Gold medal in the malt whiskey division of the 2008 American Distillers Institute in Louisville, Kentucky as well as the over all Best of Show. This is very impressive especially considering the overall whiskey category.

Stranahan’s has a program within their facility that truly engages their consumers, fans and supporters. Once the distillation and aging process is finished and the product is ready to bottle, Stranahan’s solicits the public through their website (and social media platforms) to vie for a spot on their bottling line. Potential bottlers sign up through the website hoping for an email asking to be part of the process. If they receive an email they must be one of the first 32 people to respond to secure their spot. If chosen, participants will receive a bottle of the product…that’s it. No pay. No special privileges…one bottle. With Stranahan’s email list being thousands strong, the probability of even receiving an initial email is remote. However, people continue to sign up daily hoping to get the chance to be on the bottling line.

I think this is a brilliant idea. Stranahan’s has figured out how to:

  1. Create buzz around their product
  2. Engage their fans and supporters
  3. Rise above the clutter and…
  4. Get some cheap labor out of the deal

They have created a sense of exclusivity with the program, which only helps promote it through word of mouth, social media and public relations marketing channels. Incorporating it thorough their traditional online and web tactics also help them spread the word while giving the program it’s legitimacy and credibility. As a small business, this type of creative thought and implementation is key to future incremental and sustainable growth while adding to their positive corporate identity. Advertising agencies, such as mine, should take a book out of Stranahan’s strategy here. I wonder if this idea was an internal one or if it came from an outside marketing agency. If it came from their creative agency, Stranahan’s should increase their retainer!


Adam is a graduate of Colorado State University (bachelor’s degree in marketing), and he has experience on both the client and agency side of the marketing world. These experiences led him to come up with a unique, more efficient business model, which he’s incorporated into Encite Marketing. Adam sets the strategic direction for all Encite projects, developing integrated marketing campaigns that bring results. He takes a consultative approach with clients, educating them about how the process works, and keeping them in the loop about end goals, steps, and tasks.