Good brand management can be measured in preparedness and response, as well as in handling crisis situations. A well-supported brand can withstand the occasional ill-advised decision or other issue, and listening to your customers is key. Consider the last week in the life of Maker’s Mark:
On Feb. 9, fans were informed by email that the brand was diluting its alcohol content by 3% alcohol by volume (ABV) – from 45% to 42% - to meet an accelerated product demand. A week later, the company rescinded its decision, citing the overwhelming opposition of fans to the idea. Fans took to Facebook, Twitter and blogs to voice their opposition, including some who suggested it was a plan to test the waters for higher prices.
The company was surprised by the response, and moved quickly to respond. Under the banner (and Twitter hashtag) of #YouSpokeWeListened, a letter from Rob Samuels and Bill Samuels, Jr., COO and Chairman (respectively) of Maker’s Mark, was posted on Facebook and earned 26,792 likes, 4,136 comments and 8,477 shares. The same letter was posted on the brand’s website, and linked from Twitter. The story is also being covered extensively by print, online and specialty media.
How did they handle this crisis?
- Transparency equals Trust: The brand has been transparent throughout the process – from explaining why they were lowering the ABV to why they were rescinding their decision
- They took responsibility for both decisions, and were upfront in explaining in detail how they came to these decisions
- Staying Connected: They listened to their customers and responded quickly
- They used the top company leadership as spokespersons
- Listening and Responding: The brand engaged its online audience throughout the process
While it’s too early to see how customers respond (especially if the inventory problem does result in a price increase), the about-face by Maker’s Mark has been received very favorably by customers.