The Macallan whisky prepares first global marketing drive to 'live in digital'

The Macallan on Instagram

The Macallan is preparing for its first ever global marketing campaign, a "significant" investment that will see the premium scotch whisky brand reshape its mentality and delve wholeheartedly into digital advertising.

Glen Gribbon, marketing director at The Macallan, told The Drum to expect an ad campaign costing around £11m to launch in October. The work will "mainly live in digital" which is a first for the brand that has had a low media spend for the last half a decade.

The brand sits in the Edrington stable alongside the likes of The Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, Highland Park, The Glenrothers, Brugal rum and Snow Leopard vodka. Now Edrington is bolstering The Macallan's marketing spend. It follows last year's rebrand and the recent simplifcation of the range to just three core products – Sherry Oak, Double Cask and Triple Cask Matured whisky.

Gribbon said: "Increasing our paid media investment and developing content that will work and putting in place a global media plan is all new stuff for us."

The Macallan's global marketing campaign will be measured, like many in the luxury space, by market penetration. With a (relatively) exclusive stock that takes at least 12 years to mature, The Macallan is a brand incapable of having a 300% increase in sales one summer. This moves the goal posts on what a successful marketing campaign encapsulates.

Gribbon said: "The Macallan stock availability is often a challenge for us, we often don't have the stock that we would ideally want. So we have to prioritise key cities."

In the UK, these are Glasgow and London, its most important of European markets but just two of the thirty-odd cities it has a substantial presence in, largely built upon on-trade partnerships.

He added: "You can't really grow the number of consumers you have if you are constrained in the number of whisky you can sell." He added that instead an intent on further building its reputation or mythos with consumers to ensure when they do buy whisky, its Macallan.

As such, the new campaign will primarily target new Macallan drinkers, at least into its lower priced single malts that it can shift in higher quantities. At the other end of the spectrum, the brand enjoys holding the record for the highest priced whisky sale ever. Recently two bottles of Macallan 1926, sold for $1.2m in Dubai. It enjoyed a sizeable PR boom of this news notes Gribbon.

Embracing digital

There has been a a shift in the luxury market, in particular how brands targets millennials.

As a result, a large component of the marketing campaign will be run on social media. The Macallan leans most comfortably on Facebook and Instagram (1 million and 100,000 followers respectively). Gribbon underlines that these numbers, which greatly increased in the last year, are "significant" and hinted that they represent a large great portion of the brand's global consumer base.

The content, as you may imagine, is comprised largely of crisp packaging presentations, the scenic Scottish highlands and The Macallan House. In the coming months, there will be more content aimed at prestige buyers, an area Gribbon believes has the potential for increased engagement. Even YouTube will feature bespoke video content although it is not where most of the brand's cut-through is at the moment.

Another prong in the charm offensive will be product placement. Macallan's US team is working on getting its wares into TV shows and movies, having already integrated with multiple Netflix productions in particular, in addition to James Bond's Skyfall, Suits and Designated Survivor.

Gribbon said: "This has been and will continue to be a really important part of what we do. The team don't pay for it, it is natural placement. The brand is so strong that if there is a moment where you are celebrating something, like in Designated Survivor, Macallan is the go-to brand." He admitted that some shows may lean towards a fine champagne instead in these instances.

Search and chatbots

He has regrets. He admitted that The Macallan does not perform as well on search as it should. "When you search key terms like luxury whisky, we don't always perform as well as you would expect. That is a source of great frustration to me, we will address it this coming year. "

Furthermore, the team have been able to "draw any correlations" between its Facebook chatbot and a substantial sales boom. It is still early days in the world of chatbots driving ROI arguably.

On challenges for the future of the brand, Gribbon admitted that whisky is no longer a "male domain". In 12 years time when casks of Double Cask are being bottled, he will expect to have significantly more 'Michelles' than 'Michaels' buying into the brand.

In fact, they are laying down the stock now in anticipation of this audience growth.

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