Under the Influence. Or Not.

The power of advertising can be, well, powerful. Whisky advertisers like to get you under their influence so that you get under the influence of their product. And there have been some truly great whisky advertising campaigns.
Print ads, for example, have been around for decades. Great tag lines such as Black Velvet’s “Feel the Velvet”, and MaCallan’s “The sweet smell of success”, have lured us into their world. But how? What is it that causes us to identify with one brand over another?

At the basic level, advertising creates associations with the product that make you feel good about it. After all, in the whisky industry, feeling good is what it’s all about. I once heard advertising described as ‘cool things in the hands of beautiful people’. So if I see a picture of James Bond sipping a 25 year old MaCallan, I’m definitely hooked. James Bond fan. MaCallan fan. No rocket science here. If I drink MaCallan, I can be like James Bond. I’m in.
But, in order to work, advertising sometimes needs to be sneaky. No one likes to admit that they are being influenced. As a result, the impact of marketing is usually not immediate. We don’t see an add for Johnny Walker Black and immediately head out to the liquor store. Like a good whisky, it’s more subtle. Sneak a shot of a whisky into a movie or a TV show. Or the classic sex and nudity images in the ice cubes. Or show someone doing something really enjoyable – fishing, boating, sports, camping. And there happens to be a nice bottle of whisky nearby.

Conversely, modern whisky advertising, in the virtual age, is all about branding. Telling a story that appeals to your sense of loyalty. Suggesting that you will be a better person or will have a better life as a result of their product. More friends. More money. More success. Throw in a couple of celebrity endorsers, just to cement the deal. Maybe it works. I always feel younger, stronger, and more accomplished after a couple of drinks. Everybody does.

Personally, I like the grass roots approach – the face-to-face level. The reps who spend hours selling their wares at local spirit festivals. The folks in the local liquor store offering up samples. Convincing folks that their whisky is the best. Or how about those countless people who write about whisky? The articles and blogs that talk about the world of whisky. Influencers. Wait a minute. Perhaps I’m one of them.

If that’s the case, so be it. Guilty as charged. Make mine a double. Talk soon.

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