A perspective from Ken Grier, Director of Malts, The Edrington Group

You probably don’t realize how much grief “The Drammies” has caused me over the years…especially those pesky negative categories…

But I think that the industry deserves to feel the agony of defeat along with the thrill of victory.

To make it clear, the nominees are picked based on the volume of nominations and the subsequent winners (or losers as the case may be) are selected by volume of votes.

And, while The Scotch Blog is not a forum to lobby for votes, I do feel that I have an obligation to allow a forum for additional information and alternative views.

To that end, Ken Grier, Director of The Macallan, and I had a great call the other day – and I invited him to offer up some information on the Rankin project…

Whether you agree that the Rankin campaign was a brilliant idea or not, I truly believe that it’s important to understand the intent and thoughts behind the concept.

Without further ado…Take it away, Ken…

A perspective from Ken Grier, Director of Malts, The Edrington Group

I was interested to see that The Masters of Photography bottling had been nominated for a Drammie for Worst Marketing Campaign of 2008.  I would like to make my views known as to why I believe that it should in fact have been nominated for Best marketing campaign, and not the worst.

So everyone is clear on what we are doing with the concept and what they get for their money I would like to make the following points:

We operate with the highest integrity at The Macallan.  We would simply not put a new label on an existing whisky and sell it a higher price.

Each bottle is in fact a unique work of art and the price reflects this.  What you are purchasing is an original Rankin Polaroid image, unique to this pack together with a one off bottle label to match and signed certificate of authenticity from Rankin.  No one of these products is like another.  The photography here is wide ranging and comes from an array of images which not only contrast artistic nude studies of the model Tuuli with the distillery surroundings, but also photos of the distillery workers and still life and landscape studies.

At the projects inception our intention was that the product should be great value as we were offering an original Rankin Polaroid (these currently sell for up to $1000 each) as part of the pack.  This is your chance to enjoy Fine Oak 30 years old and own an original work of art at a very small premium if any.

Fluctuations in the exchange rate have obviously had an impact on the price equation but none the less it still represents extraordinarily good value for an original work of art from a world renowned photographer.

We deliberately set out to make this concept as accessible as possible for purchase by our consumers we believe that we have succeeded. The evidence to support this is that 62 of our own staff, ranging from Directors to workers in the bottling hall have bought one. This has been a higher staff take up than any other new product launch in our history.

Irrespective of whether or not you love it or hate it as an idea, I passionately believe that The Masters of Photography bottling has had a positive effect on Scotch Whisky.  In order to attract new drinkers and grow the category it is not just good enough to produce great quality whisky, you need to produce innovative new products that appeal to a new audience.  These need to enthral existing users and beguile new drinkers.

In addition I think it is all important that if you are assessing the effectiveness of a marketing campaign that you look at its performance versus its original objectives.

Our intent here is both to generate publicity for the brand and to recruit new younger and more stylish drinkers into The Macallan ‘club’ alongside our much valued and loyal drinkers.

We have facts to show that we have exceeded our objectives in all cases.  Firstly we have generated media value of almost $2 million of publicity in just three months of its launch in art, fashion and news press.

Secondly in our four launches and exhibitions to date in the UK, Russia, Greece and the USA, we have exposed the brand to over 1500 key opinion formers and affluent consumers who attended the launch events.  They may not otherwise have entered our world of single malt whiskies.

Thirdly, I have had over 300 personal expressions of praise and delight from press, trade and drinkers who adore the concept with only 5 negative comments to date, including this nomination. 

Finally we have left a rich photographic legacy which encompasses one summer in the life of The Macallan for those who follow us to cherish as they ensure that this wonderful brand continues to receive the acclaim it deserves.

We at Macallan are very proud of our innovative track record.  The Fine Oak range, the Fine & Rare collection and our partnership with Lalique to create our Six Pillars range of decanters are all examples of innovative new products we have brought to market. We will continue to plough this sometimes lonely furrow to the benefit of The Macallan brand and the Single Malt category for years to come.

One of the great things about blogs is that they allow freedom of speech and the right of reply.  Thank you for allowing me to exercise these rights and put forward my point of view.

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Comments (13)

  1. Doug Ratz

    Thanks to Kevin for letting us hear the other side of the story. I still think it’s a silly campaign, but I’m not one of the targeted audience, since I’d never pay $1000 for a Polaroid of anything, but I appreciate hearing the thoughts behind the project.

  2. Way to go, Ken! Great reply.
    Still, I bet you had fun on the shoot (nudge, nudge).

    Need to talk to you about my bottle.

  3. See, I think it’s one of those things that doesn’t appeal to you at the beginning but the longer you are exposed to the idea, the more sense it makes. I have criticised the campaign in the past but now I would love to have one of the bottles for myself (which would be a waste, since I would open it straight away).

  4. kallaskander

    Hi there,

    the internet is a amazing place with a long memory.

    Originally a just-drinks publication titled “Chapter 2 Brand marketing strategies. (Global market review of malt whiskey–forecasts to 2012)” the article contains a discussion about whisky as a luxury item.

    “Given that many other firms dismiss The Macallan as having shifted from being an iconic single malt to some frivolous fashion statement it is surprising to find the brand’s director viewing the brand as being still firmly rooted in very solid (Scottish) values.

    “We talk luxury as if it is one thing, whereas it is many. Scotch whisky as a business, like wine, is simply moving with the times and that means that different brands have different choices. The consumer is changing as well. There are consumers in new markets who want brands which show their status, equally in mature markets there are those luxury consumers who seek out crafting, knowledge, provenance. What we have to do is learn the lessons from the past and be different. In luxury, people are interested in the stories behind the product. It is not just bling.”

    Ken Grier, director, malts, Edrington Group/The Macallan”


    That may be true. Equally true could be that the consumers who want to see the whiskies they buy as a luxury item is a relativly small group and therefore that market is small in customers but big in money.
    But the customers who are prepared to buy a bottle of whisky with a polaroid by a well known artist for a certain sum do not vote at the drammies.

    They indeed would not think that the Rankin campaign was a candidate for the worst marketing stunt. The prople who think that that campaign is not a good one are people who have been left behind and who are not the target group of the Rankin campaign. Or the “Double Barrel” idea of Ardbeg or any other marketing stunt that tries to lift whisky into überpremium categories to ask überpremium prices.

    Not only because of the high end segmant of the whisky business we see a growing alienisation between the industry and common customers with the industry driven by the need for profit and shareholder value interests losing more and more their grip on reality.

    So I can well understand that Macallan is not pleased with that nomination and that there is a core misunderstanding between the intentions of Macallan and the people who suggested the Macallan Rankin campaign for that drammie award.
    Marketingwise the campaign is brilliant. But it was not targeted at people who read the scotchblog.
    From that point of view the nomination seems unfair. But the whole incident shows how wide the span between the average whisky customer and the industry seems to be getting.

  5. A very interesting and strongly-argued reply. I am encouraged that Ken ‘would simply not put a new label on an existing whisky and sell it a higher price.’ I would be interested to know how the whisky in the Rankin bottle differs from the standard-issue Fine Oak 30yo – perhaps they would have attracted less criticism if they had made it clearer that it was a different whisky in the bottle.

  6. kallaskander

    Hi there,

    not sure what to say to this. Judge for yourselves, please.

    “Ken Grier

    The Edrington Group

    Our interviewee is director of malts at The Edrington Group and the man in charge of marketing for The Macallan and Highland Park

    Do you remember the first time?

    The Damascus moment for Macallan was eight or nine years ago in a new hyper-stylish bar overlooking Red Square in Moscow. That’s when it clicked that Macallan was about luxury. Scales fell from my eyes.

    What is luxury?

    It is always changing. The key thing about the new luxury is incredible attention to detail . It’s about the aesthetic – a holistic beauty as well as integrity and quality. That’s behind all Macallan and seen especially in the Lalique collection. It’s about engaging with the right people – its about mentoring, but it’s always about the liquid.”


    Seems the right people have to have money. Do you see the widening gap?

  7. […] Ken Grier’s excellent rationale for the Rankin campaign, our voters selected it, by a vast majority, as the worst campaign. Sorry […]

  8. What guff. It’s an expensive gimmick and nobody’s falling for it. If you are looking to attract people with more sense than money then this is the way to go…

  9. MrTH

    “In order to attract new drinkers and grow the category it is not just good enough to produce great quality whisky, you need to produce innovative new products that appeal to a new audience. These need to enthral existing users and beguile new drinkers.” –KG

    I know, let’s put nekkid pictures of some hot chick on the label! But tasteful, of course.

  10. I wonder…was this a project conceived at the height of the boom that now looks just a trifle out of step with the prevailing mood?
    The real question is…will there be another Masters of Photography bottling at these kind of prices?
    I’m seeing KG later this week, so I shall ask him!

  11. I’ll be amazed if these sell out any time soon. They will be gathering dust for years to come on shop shelves.

  12. lawschooldrunk

    That you say you operate with the highest integrity degrades others by inference. And if it doesn’t- if indeed everyone can operate at the highest degree of integrity- then that does not make the Macallan special.

    Shame on you, Edrington group.

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