The Maker’s Mark Shell Game

“It isn’t about getting attention.” The irony in this ad is not lost on me.

I have always had love for Maker’s Mark Bourbon; it is an American Classic, an institution.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, Maker’s Mark announced that they would be changing the bottled proof of their bourbon from 90 to 84.  Not changing the recipe, just the proof.  Point of fact: All spirits are watered down before bottling unless they are marked as cask strength.  Maker’s Mark merely announced that they would be watering theirs down slightly more than before.

“The fact is, other than barrel-strength bourbons, all bourbons are cut with water to achieve the desired proof for bottling. This is a natural step in the bourbon-making process. Maker’s Mark has always been made this way and will continue to be made this way.”

Maker’s claimed that the watering down of their product was to combat shortages created by growing demand.  In reality, the change in proof would likely be hard to notice. This whole thing did not bother me one bit and I would continue to buy Maker’s Mark.   Maker’s themselves even stated that there would be no difference in taste.   I am sure that it tastes great either way.  To me this is not the story.

For days after the announcement media of all kinds was buzzing about Makers Mark; Bloggers railed, tweeters joked, even TV news covered it.   After less than a week, Maker’s Mark announced that the people had spoken.

“We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.  You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.”

And with that, much like New Coke, in a flash of smoke and a zing of PR, New Maker’s Mark is fading like a distant memory.

The story that was is a story no more.  Unless…

Is there a possibility that this was a stunt?  Did people run out to stock up on Maker’s Mark Classic?  The collector in me considered it.  In the end Maker’s Mark just got a week of massive free coverage as well as a possible up-tick in sales.  P.T. Barnum couldn’t have drummed up something better.  Now they can say that the people have spoken and that it behooves Maker’s Mark to give in to their customers’ desires.  They may very well be a kind and responsive business that  cares about their base, but they also may have just created a sensation.  It does not matter if they were actually combating a shortage or not, because they just went viral.

I call shenanigans.


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One thought on “The Maker’s Mark Shell Game

  1. ameliafazio Reply

    Isn’t this exactly what hostess did? Sent people into a panic over a shortage of twinkies and dingdongs? I’m with you. Shenanigans!

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