Johnnie Walker drinkers in London can now complement their whiskey with a mustache wax. The company recently released a line of mustache waxes in aromas like Citrus Essence and Ginger Root that “enhance the flavor” of cocktails made with the whiskey, according to brand director Oscar Ocaña.
Like Johnnie Walker, which also offers shoes that can hide miniature whiskey bottles and whiskey-infused fabric, spirits companies are wooing millennial drinkers with novel branded merchandise. Maker’s Mark lets drinkers personalize flasks, coasters and barrels, while Jäger offers customized shot-pouring coolers.
As brands redesign their websites, many are giving priority to such merchandise, which lets them develop direct relationships with consumers. Bombay Sapphire, Glenfiddich and St-Germain recently launched online stores, joining the nineteen brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Spirits that sell merchandise online. Maker’s Mark updated its site to make it easier to browse products.
Appealing to millennials with novel products could offset sluggish global sales. Johnnie Walker saw North American and European sales slump by 3% in 2014, as Indian whiskey Officer’s Choice overtook it to become the world’s largest whiskey brand.
However, few brands take advantage of social media to promote new merchandise. On Instagram, the top 10 most engaged posts by spirits brands featured bottles of Ciroc, Hennessy and Johnnie Walker. Rather than using social platforms like Instagram, spirits brands rely on email to spread the word about new products. More than one-third of spirits marketing emails are related to brand merchandise, according to the L2 study. Maker’s Mark is a major driver of this trend, accounting for 44% of emails received during the study.
As brands expand their digital reach, they are largely focusing on content. Johnnie Walker’s “Gentleman’s Wager” video featuring Jude Law got more than 11.6 million YouTube views, helping the brand rank 11th in the Index. Similarly, Absolut (the top brand in the Index) invested significantly in its Absolut Nights advertising campaign. But the whiskey maker’s efforts suggest that branded merchandise could be an alternative way to grab the attention of millennial consumers.
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