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Whisky, a new report and a T-shirt

Adrian Porter Head of Strategic Research

Now this isn’t about me sitting at home while the Olympics were on in a T-shirt, sipping whisky and working on a new report, although a new report is imminent and for the second week of the Games I was researching it at home.

Our forthcoming report looks into the digital presence of Scottish distilleries. Specifically, those producing single malt whisky. As a result I have been trying to get my head around what is a somewhat complicated business, and what they should/could be doing online.

So what have I found? Well, a large number of Scottish distilleries are owned by big drinks brand names such as Diageo, which means that in many instances their online efforts are quite sophisticated and in some cases quite innovative. More of that and T-shirts below, however despite the enormous clout of the big names I have been surprised to discover how many sites are not mobile friendly including some that are entirely built in Flash and therefore do not work at all on the Apple OS.

Surprisingly, some very popular whisky brands do not have a website at all, but all seem to be rather popular on social networks. However, I have not as yet found much evidence of social intervention by these brands, by which I mean interacting in general enthusiast networks to build reputation and  credibility, but I continue to monitor this and it may change.

It is a fact that growth in emerging markets is outstripping domestic growth for all distilleries, therefore another ongoing piece of complimentary research is to look at how these brands are represented in China. We are looking to see what the online opportunities might be to build brand awareness in what is currently a relatively unsophisticated, but clearly huge potential market. There does seem to be a lot of opportunity out there for brand owners to build reputation, but perhaps education in the finer points of whisky appreciation needs to come before any expectation of massive sales. Aficionados might reel somewhat to discover that the Chinese like to mix ‘whisky’ with green tea. Now I can’t imagine mixing a 12 year old single malt with anything other than water, but then that is perhaps a stuck-up attitude more related to the cost of a bottle than personal experience.

What of T-shirts then? Well Ballantine’s (yes I know it is a blend), who have made decent strides into the Chinese market have just announced the development of their T-shirt OS, a ‘programmable T-shirt’ which connects to the internet and allows wearers to update their ‘status’ digitally on their T-shirt, a way of reinforcing Ballantines’ broader ‘Leave an Impression’ campaign, which was a palpable success in its initial incarnation as a TV ad in China back in 2010. The shirt is currently an exciting prototype, but if you want to be one of the first to receive one when they hit the street, go to Ballantine’s FB page.