How the STORY agency turned a major mistake into a marketing masterpiece
The Glenmorangie Co., you turn a huge mistake into a literal liquid asset, a whisky that has generated a healthy profit, enhanced the value of its unorthodox brand and inspired a stylish direct mail campaign so clever that it earned a 2006 U.S. Postal Service® Gold Mailbox Award from the Direct Marketing Association as “the most innovative use of mail.”What does a premium whisky maker do when a production employee pulls the wrong lever and leaves the company awash in 15,000 bottles of seemingly useless spirits as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential losses? If you’re Scotland-based distiller
The campaign for the company’s Serendipity blended malt, a mailer designed to look like an “official pardon” for a mix-up that led to the whisky’s creation, not only earned the DMA honor at the 77th ECHO Awards. The promotion also helped move more than half of the Serendipity stock, generated massive ROI (including nearly $1 million in sales) and further enhanced Glenmorangie’s Ardbeg brand as both quirky and bold.
Despite the successful conclusion of the campaign, which was built around the slogan “Serendipity Pity To Waste It,” Glenmorangie’s now-celebrated blended malt began as a mammoth blunder: In 2005, an abundance of premium Ardbeg single malt was accidentally mixed with a small amount of Glen Moray whisky. The mixture meant the batch couldn’t be sold as single-malt whisky as intended.
The company was confronting the very real and very costly possibility that it would have to dump the entire batch.
“Hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock would have literally gone down the drain,” explains Dave Mullen, creative director at STORY, the direct marketing agency in Edinburgh, Scotland, that crafted the campaign for Serendipity.
“They could have written it off but instead got together with us and decided to talk about the mistake.”
Eventually, Glenmorangie and STORY decided to place Serendipity in a traditionally shaped Ardbeg bottle but where Ardbeg bottles are green, the bottle for Serendipity is clear. The move positioned Serendipity as a potential “collectible,” different from the other Ardbeg liquors but also clearly from the same lineage.
The company also chose to kick off the Serendipity promotion on April Fool’s Day. They figured it’d be the ideal date to “‘fess up” to the mistake to its famed Ardbeg Committee, a global group of more than 30,000 fiercely brand-loyal Ardbeg aficionados that Glenmorangie organized six years ago as part of a CRM effort. Explains Hamish Torrie, the Ardbeg marketing manager: “We decided to come clean and came up with a charming way of begging the Ardbeg Committee for their forgiveness.” To that end, the company sent out a booklet that explained Glenmorangie’s production mistake and asked patrons to sign the “official pardon” which was really an order form for Serendipity.
A “technical note” explains that Serendipity is eight parts “very old” Ardbeg and two parts Glen Moray. The “Pity To Waste It” mailing generated a 23-percent response. Moreover, the campaign, which cost $100,000, helped notch more than $974,650 in Serendipity sales. Orders surged on the company’s Web site not only for Serendipity but also for Ardbeg. “Our results were fantastic it was one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done,” says Torrie. “Serendipity almost became a brand in its own right. This (campaign) is classic Ardbeg and what the brand stands for: bold and confident.” Some people talked about The Glenmorangie Co. as much as they did the liquors. “
People couldn’t guess if we were having fun or being dead serious,” Torrie says. “When you create uncertainty, you create intrigue which can be quite positive. Daring audacity was written all over the mailing. It was done in such a fun way that people instantly forgave us.”
Mitchell Lieber, DMA International ECHO Awards chair and president of Lieber & Associates, praised the promotion for so openly seizing on a major snafu.
“Masterfully, the 2006 ECHO Gold Mailbox winner used the admission of an honest mistake to sell that very same mistake,” says Lieber, whose group presents the USPS® Gold Mailbox as one of only five special honors. “Most companies throw out their mistakes and take a loss.
This campaign sold a mistake to customers via direct mail, demonstrating that the mailbox can indeed be gold.” To check out a complete listing of the Direct Marketing Association’s 2007 International Echo Awards click here.Creativity, Large Business, Medium Business