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Generating brand awareness

Adrian Porter Head of Strategic Research

Keeping an eye on the buzz can be cheaper than a PR event 

Lessons from our latest industry report '20 Scottish single malt distilleries: No time to sit still - building brand awareness in the digital world'

Back in June Diageo announced that it was set to invest £1billion in Scotch whisky production over the next five years. This announcement, coupled with Precedent’s interest in the industry, provoked me to research the online presence of 20 of Scotland’s top single malt whisky brands.

Diageo, and a number of other distilleries in the market, are showing great ambition for expansion, particularly in relation to growth in emerging markets. We wanted to discover how prepared distilleries are to leverage the awareness of single malt that will inevitably be created when Diageo, and others, up their marketing ante?

The report can be ordered here, in it are lots of examples of how the featured brands are using digital both in the UK and China.

One of the interesting observations contained in the report is that whisky brands’ digital presences seem to be managed, populated and created by agencies with a PR-led view of how to measure success. This manifests itself in digital properties containing a lot of references to physical events, PR stunts and so on, all of which are part of the brand awareness mix, but we found little evidence of any imaginative use of digital.

In the graph above there are two obvious peaks in the buzz volume generated by one of the brands in our report Laphroaig. Each year Laphroaig broadcasts an event known as ‘Laphroaig Live’ across the internet. It is a reasonably large set piece event, which is keenly followed. This year the event came from the Oktoberfest in Germany, and the buzz generated related to the simple key words ‘Laphroaig’ and ‘whisky’ is represented by the left-hand peak on the graph.

The second and of course considerably larger peak in buzz volume is directly attributable to a posting on a long established blog called about a collection of videos on the Esquire website in which actor Brian Cox teaches anyone interested how to pronounce over 40 whisky brand names, an interesting asset in itself.

However the main feature of the blog post is an embedded tongue in cheek YouTube video teaching people how to pronounce the Laphroaig name. This video on YouTube has been viewed 81,411 times, 7,018 of which are directly attributable to the Kottke blog!

A short investigation of the blog revealed that its abiding principle is that ‘People are Awesome’. Match this to the assertion on Laphroaig’s website home page that Islay, where the whisky is produced, has ‘created a hardy people whose single-mindedness and honesty is as distinctive as Laphroaig’ and it is not much of a leap to understand how with a little creative thinking Laphroaig could have leveraged this exposure to its advantage at a fraction of the cost of a live broadcast from Germany...