Why Maker’s 46 Is Hitting the Mark with Affluent Bourbon Lovers

For decades, the tried-and-true method for selling a luxury good, like an alcoholic beverage, has been the celebrity endorsement. Think of the classic Art Deco “L’Instant Taittinger” advertisement featuring Grace Kelly. Breathtaking in its long lines and sophisticated atmosphere, it clearly indicates that those who buy Taittinger champagne will live a life of glamour and elegance.

Today’s methods are similar: Ciroc vodka is promoted by P. Diddy, Conjure Cognac by Ludacris and CeeLo Green lends his name to Ty Ku Sake, not to mention Justin Timberlake who has an investment in 901 Silver Tequila. And, like all celebrity endorsements, these are intended to show the consumer that the lifestyle of a hip-hop or pop superstar can be theirs if only they drink the right beverage.

Is lifestyle branding best for premium liquor brands?

But what happens when peoples’ lifestyles change? For example, one leading premium vodka brand is purchased primarily by a narrow segment of affluents, millennial-generation men (24-35 with incomes $100k and above), while Grey Goose, the premium vodka leader in Unity Marketing’s Affluent Consumer Tracking Study, leads the vodka category for affluents aged 35-70 years, and is number one for women as well.

Will today’s young male vodka drinkers switch to the grown-up’s favorite Grey Goose when they settle down and give up the club lifestyle? The answer, most likely.

Lifestyle marketing may work for aspirationals, but not so much for the affluent customers who already live the lifestyle

Lifestyle marketing focuses on the aspirational customers, but largely ignores or in some cases turns off the real affluents with money to spend and a willingness to indulge. Luxury brands need to talk to these real customers.

Today’s affluent consumer is not swayed by fantasies of lifestyle. Unity Marketing’s research finds that luxury consumers don’t spend money just to buy a lifestyle; instead, theses consumers want the facts and figures, the data, that explains what makes the brand special, different, more premium, and more luxury.

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Marker’s 46 tells a compelling story of quality and value that is part of the affluent lifestyle

Take the recent “It’s Complicated” ad for Maker’s 46, a premium version of Maker’s Mark. In a plush red room that echoes Maker’s Mark’s iconic red wax bottle seal, it is a bottle of Maker’s 46 rather than an elegant model that reclines on a tufted leather chaise.

The copy spells out the sales argument that the affluent consumer will find compelling: “Maker’s 46 begins as fully matured Maker’s Mark. Then it’s finished inside barrels containing seared French oak staves — and only during the cold winter months when bourbon matures some slowly. This results in bold vanilla, oak and caramel flavors.” Why pay a premium for Maker’s 46? Because it is even better than Maker’s Mark and here’s the reasons why.

Today’s luxury consumers are in tune with their passions and their indulgences. Unity Marketing’s research shows that affluent consumers are no longer swayed by aspirational arguments alone; they already are crafting the lives they want to live. Instead, they want to learn more about the product before they invest in its purchase.

This is true for a wide range of alcoholic beverages in our studies, from fine bourbons like Maker’s 46 to locally-brewed craft beers. It’s a new marketing environment for premium beverage makers and marketers. Brands need to not only understand the purchase behavior and motivations of their affluent consumers, but also understand how to use that data to achieve their branding and marketing objectives.

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Marketing success starts with understanding the affluent customers –
Let Unity Marketing be your research partner

Helping you understand and act upon independent, reliable and valid research data is our goal at Unity Marketing. The Affluent Consumer Tracking Study which regularly measures what brands affluents are buying, what luxuries they are purchasing and how they feel about their wealth and finances is an essential tool for marketers that aim for the affluent consumer segment with discretion to spend on luxuries and high- end goods and services.

Success in the luxury market begins with understanding the needs and desires of customers who can afford the luxuries you sell. Stop focusing on the aspirational customers and pay strict attention to those affluents with money to spend and a willingness to indulge. By subscribing to the ACTS research you can track trends in:

  • The brands luxury consumers are purchasing, and the key segments consumer segments that are driving purchases, including HENRYs (high earners not rich yet), ultra-affluents, HNW, men, women, young affluents and mature affluents, white or ethnic. For example, Kendall Jackson is HENRY’s favorite wine brand in the most recent ACTS study, while ultra-affluents rank Robert Mondavi, Beringer and Cakebread at the top of their shopping list.
  • Where they shop for their favorite luxuries and which channels are trending and which falling out of favor. In the case of wine and spirits, discounters are growing market share, while specialty wine and spirits stores, the market share leader, lost share in the most recent tracking.
  • Trends in demand and spending, two totally independent variables. In wine and spirits demand rose this quarter, while spending declined, which means that affluents were turning more often to less premium brands. If you don’t give them good reason to trade up and pay more, like Maker’s 46, they may well choose the less premium brand instead.
  • Affluent consumer confidence and attitudes about their finances and wealth, which is highly predictive of how they will be spending their money in the coming quarter. For example, the most recent ACTS study found that affluent consumer confidence rose in January 2015, but spending took a sharp fall. In the current economic environment, the ‘wealth effect’ is going in reverse. Positive changes in affluents’ perceived wealth is only making them hold tighter to their gains, rather than spend freely on goods and services.

The premium wine and spirits category is facing a tough uphill battle this year to capture the high-spending affluents, many of whom find trading down for their everyday beverages is a smart choice, as is buying those brands at discounters where prices are even lower.

To capture the loyalty of the affluent consumer, you need to know exactly where your brand stands and what brands, price points and shopping habits are impacting your business. The premium Maker’s 46 makes a good case for why affluents should spend more. Is your brand being as strategic in today’s consumer marketplace?

Call Pam at (717) 336-1600 or go and fill out the form on the Contact page if you’d like to get a list of the wine and spirits brands currently included in the ACTS survey and to learn how to put the powerful consumer insights Unity Marketing can provide to work for your premium or luxury brand.

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