We’ve seen the rise of gin and rum, but now it’s time for whisky to take centre stage.
As it has been International Whisky Day this week, we have been inspired to take a closer look as to how whisky is making a comeback, and it could be said that millennials (a group of people born between 1980 and the late 1990s) have had a large part to play in this, with many of us now having whisky-based cocktails as their go-to drink. There’s no longer the perception that you have to be an older man, sat in a smoking jacket with a cigar to sip a whisky, as many young adults are enjoying the drink with their friends in an evening at a bar. The ‘retro charm’ of the traditional cocktails such as the ‘Old Fashioned’ has opened the floodgates for people who don’t ordinarily like whisky to give it a try, with almost nine out of ten (88%) of younger drinkers enjoying mixed drinks on a night out (Cellar Trends). In modern films and TV shows, whisky is often the tipple of choice, from Ron Burgundy in Anchorman to Suits, this influence has made us millennials think twice about the connotations of whisky and influenced them to give it a try. This resurgence in popularity has seen whisky brands take note and change their marketing tactics to appeal to a younger audience and the new adverts and products being released currently are a reflection of this.
I’ve grown up with my Dad having always drunk whisky, with anything from blended to single malt being stashed in our drink’s cabinet. I have always remembered whisky as a really pungent smelling liquor which I found extremely off-putting, and as a result I would only ever have a sip of it if I happened to have a really nasty cold. Fast forward to adulthood; I wouldn’t turn down a whisky cocktail at a bar, not because it is a spirit I particularly enjoy now, but due to the cocktail experience itself. Many of the millennial population love a cocktail (including myself), from the theatre to the unusual pairing of ingredients, you pay for the spectacle and a drink that is a bit more unusual than your straight spirit and mixer combination. This is an environment where we can really be opened up to the idea of drinking whisky with cocktails such as the ‘Old Fashioned’ and ‘Whisky Sours’ becoming firm favourites. Whisky is now being seen as a drink with confidence and attitude, with those who drink it cool enough to stand against the status quo.
This is a sentiment reiterated by a post from the India Times; the article discusses that the ‘associations with Mad Men and David Beckham or Gone Girl are only part of the reason why whisky has been trending globally. One big way in which it has been able to reach out to a larger diverse audience is through cocktails. With interest in these at an all-time high and with bartenders pushing boundaries to give us drinks that are Instagram-able and delicious.’
Whisky companies have taken note of this and have therefore invested more time and money into experiential advertising, giving the audience something unusual and memorable from whisky brands. Whisky companies as a whole have really relished in putting on pop-ups, from Glenfiddich’s ‘Join The Experimentalists’ where guests entered questions on a database about their personality traits that would match to their perfect serve, to Chivas Regal doing a pop up in the ‘Art of Blending’ where individuals are taught how to create the Chivas Regal blend and create their own blends to take home. I believe that doing these interactive classes helps the customer understand the complexity and work that goes into creating whisky and therefore will have a new level of appreciation for it.
One brand that has truly embraced the our millennial mindset and is changing the way whisky brands are advertising is Haig Club, and when you think of Haig Club you also automatically think of David Beckham, a partner and face of the whisky brand who is often seen sharing photos of himself to his many followers sipping the whisky at various different events. The innovation behind the product is inspired by David Beckham’s ever-changing image and it shows how the brand is committed to style and creativity. Haig Club interviewed David Beckham on some of his thoughts about the brand, the bottle and the whisky itself:
HC: “Did you like the Haig Club bottle when you first saw it?”
DB: “I love the bottle. Did I see it as a whisky bottle? Probably not at first glance but then after understanding the reasoning behind the colour of the bottle and the cap, and why we changed the bottle up so much from being a traditional brown or clear whisky bottle it became perfectly clear.”
HC: “The Haig Club bottle has a unique style and design. How would you define style?”
DB: “I’ve always defined style by the individual. Every person has their own particular style. Whether they come up with something different or whether they follow someone, it’s all their own interpretation. I think that’s what the majority of people do. I think that really resonates through what we’re trying to create with Haig Club.
The companies first TV ad ‘Make Your Own Rules’ aimed to break the stereotypes surrounding whisky and instead focused on party-goers in interesting locations, and of course David Beckham. According to the global marketing director for Haig Club Ronan Beirne, “With Haig Club Clubman, we are purposefully and assertively inviting consumers to make their own rules on how to enjoy this versatile Scotch whisky. This progressive approach aligns with our long-term ambition to recruit new whisky drinkers by breaking down the barriers for entry, continuing to drive the vibrancy and relevancy of the category.” This style is a fresh take for the whisky industry, but it is one that truly resonates with the audience as they invite people to socialise with the serve in their own way, something that millennials enjoy doing.
Experiential advertising is not the only tactic that whisky brands are using, with some of them trying to appeal to the millennial audience through popular culture to try and push their limited-edition products. This is the case for Johnnie Walker’s White Walker bottle which has taken inspiration from Game of Thrones, an international TV hit with 10 million regular viewers. Unusually, Johnnie Walker recommends that the whisky is served straight from the freezer, ‘echoing’ the chilling presence of the White Walkers (an army of the undead who live north of the wall if you didn’t know). The similarities go further than that, with Johnnie Walker specifically choosing ingredients from Clynelish, an area which endures long Scottish Winters, ‘not dissimilar to the long periods endured by the Night’s Watch who have ventured north of the wall – so it was the perfect place to start when creating this unique whisky.’
It has been really interesting to see the shift in the way that whisky brands have decided to market themselves, with particular emphasis on shedding the stereotype that it is a drink for older people. This new lease of life for the industry has influenced millennials to give it a go, showing it as a fun drink that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere as classics such as the ‘Old Fashioned’ are the same wherever your location in the world. Finally, according to Savvy Insights, 30.5% of 18-24 year olds have drunk whisky in the last 12 months compared to 20% of 35-54 year olds, so the industries marketing tactics must be working – let’s cheers to that!