The classic retailer range strategy of good, better, best now has boatload of further classifications; standard, premium, super premium, ultra premium, luxe. What next? Mega premium Single Malt Whisky?
Terminology in whisky is traditionally a challenge to navigate; blended Scotch, vatted malt, single malt, non-chill filtered, natural colour, triple distilled, double matured and cask types that consumers just don’t get; Mizunara, Fino sherry finish, second fill rechar bourbon casks.
I’ve worked with retailers for over a decade to define their layouts, their messaging, communication strategy and range architecture, amongst other things wrapped up in the sub-category of ‘brand strategy’ called Shopper Marketing.
Very rarely do any of the big retailers deviate from clear, consistent and concise language to explain their vast ranges, which is why I always smile (often internally) when I see a whisky described as ‘one of the most anticipated luxe releases of the year’ or ‘taking the super premium category by storm… with a recommended retail price of £27’.
I’ve lost count of the amount of new Irish and Scottish distilleries who send me press releases that tell me that their super premium range, available in all supermarkets, is priced between £22 and £35. Or that their three-year-old first release, if paid for before it has even flowed from the still, is a steal at £100 for a bottle as collectible as this. Does my nut in, as many of my peers will know following a rant about it on a private Facebook group recently.
£35? Super premium? That’s the typical lower price bracket for a super premium Irish whiskey and it makes me sad, genuinely, as that is not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things and there are countless amazing whiskies in price brackets much higher than that, but that then start to add words and new terminologies that we just start to accept.
Ultra premium. Sure. I get it. It is very expensive and beyond the average whisky drinker’s wildest dreams. Luxe? Come on… if something is ultra premium, surely it is a luxury product?
Whatever next? Mega premium single malt Scotch whisky?
What about the next rung? Whatevs Premium? Show some flippancy with millennial-inducing vernacular and personality?
Personally I think it should then go to Nutter Bollocks Premium; the seriously good shit. One of one releases bottled by filtering the whisky not through traditional filters used in most distilleries, but through the beards of the distillers, blenders and CMOs out there.
That’s where the next luxury frontier is… don’t mark my words.
My point is simple; make it simpler to understand both for trade and for consumers. Make the pricing brackets make sense, and the products within them adhere to certain rough guidelines as £35 for the third tier of Irish whiskey makes no sense to me. In my eyes that’s premium.
Standard should be up to say £30 and would include entry levels products i.e. Grant’s Family Reserve, Bell’s, Johnnie Walker Red & Black, Teacher’s, Jameson (main product), Aberlour 10, Girvan 4APPS and many others as these are well within the affordability stakes for most consumers, and the blends above make up the largest volume of product sales globally.
Then it makes sense that premium represents products from £31 – £100 as these are still widely affordable for whisky drinkers, not your old school whisky drinker, but the modern flavour exploring Millennial and affluent overseas whisky drinkers. I’m thinking; Laphroaig 10, Lagavulin 16, Springbank 12 and 15, Method & Madness Irish Whiskey and scored of others.
Above a hundred pounds feels fair for a super premium product as it is likely to be older, or at least contain older compineneds in the end blend or single malt (which is still a blend), or have had something innovative and interesting done as part of the process to make it a truly unique experience.
Finally, once you get above, I don’t know… £250 or £500… then we can just call it Nutter Bollox Premium, as these are ultimately for the few, not the many, and are probably immensely collectible, investable and, for the one or two bottles that get opened, positively shareable.
Once we get to grips with this, then the category starts to be understandable and products will find their natural place in the order, not just shoved in wherever the brand owner thinks they can make a few quid by calling it what it is probably not, or, to coin a well known phrase often bandied around the design industry; I would like them to stop trying to polish a turd, and want producers to put products out there for fair prices that make sense and can then be easily compatible.
I would love to know your thoughts on this, and if you had any ideas for tier names or if you think I’m ranting for no reason…
Also published on Medium.