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We all try very many whiskies, some more than others, but all more than we previously did. Some see whisky brand monogamy as something insignificant and not even on their radar. Others are fiercely loyal to their dram of choice. But should whisky brands be doing more to encourage our loyalty, or indeed our disloyalty?

I have never been one for collecting supermarket points or petrol station points or things like that, airmiles I definitely collect, and have more than I probably need for a while spread across both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Airmiles have helped me in the past with ‘free’ upgrades, and a return trip to NYC a few years back for just £90.

It was whilst looking at the points statement on my Amex that I wondered: should whisky brands be doing more to encourage our loyalty, or indeed our disloyalty?

I’ve been a proud member of Friends of Laphroaig for years, but only in the last three have I actually bothered to enter the code given to me in each bottle’s pamphlet insert, 55 bottles bought in three years and counting – wow – and have gotten to the point where I just redeemed 500 points, or 50 bottles’ worth of points for a Laphroaig branded waterproof. May sound a bit of a weak prize for the expense it has inflicted on my Amex, but I am still chuffed that the brand has given ‘something’ back in recognition. Plus I almost bought one last time I was at the distillery but then forgot after the ensuing tasting so to get it for nothing helps a little.

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But why do more whisky brands not do this?

 

I’m thinking blends in particular; the backbone of Scotch and where the vast majority of the volume is so you’d assume that consumers could rack up quite a few points for arbitrary branded goods pretty swiftly, leading to increased sales and loyalty.

I clearly have too many bottles of Laphroaig, the ones mentioned earlier have not all been opened; some are being saved for later, some form collections, some are investment bottles and some have been gifted… of course a few have been enjoyed thoroughly though.

So why not?

Peroni used to do this with their on trade accounts (that’s bars / restaurants / pubs) when I worked in a pub at the tender age of eighteen, and there are lots of engagement and incentives for venues to stock various products and brands. Think “take this entry-level product, which you may not want to, but we want you to, and you can have access to these special products you really want to stock”.

I get that you cannot be seen to encourage alcoholism, and excessive drinking, but that’s not what it is about; you are allowed to do gift with purchase (free glasses / bottles from the water source / cufflinks / all manner of tat), which is clearly an incentive to buy so why not ‘collect x amount of tokens for a better and more useful reward’?

I’m genuinely curious. Is it a directive from the Portman Group? If so I cannot see it immediately on their site or guidelines (if you can, please send a link).

Committees and online signups are not a replacement

Ardbeg have the Ardbeg Committee which is how you gain access to their ‘limited edition’ bottles each year, though you traditionally have to take a day off, buy a new CMD and R key if you’re on Mac, or a new F5 key on Windows for the amount of times you’ll be refreshing the page just to bloody buy the things, but I guess this is a halfway house where you create loyalty by giving access. But this access is open to all, so it really comes down to how often you check your emails at 9am on a given Thursday.

Is there more value in disloyalty? Should someone champion it?

So, as mentioned in the opening line; we all try lots of whiskies, so should brands actively tell you to explore other brands / distilleries’ wares and create more exploration in the market amongst consumers? It would be a brave move, but Dewar’s kind of does it with their ‘Malts Within’ way of speaking about their five distilleries, Craigellachie, Macduff, Aultmore, Royal Brackla and Aberfeldy, in the same communications as their flagship volume-driven brand Dewar’s.

Chivas stock exclusive bottles from their other distilleries in their distillery shops to encourage awareness of the other products they produce.

Could there be something in being actively disloyal? One to ponder. What are your thoughts?


Also published on Medium.

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