Maker's Mark: It Is What It Isn't

Over 50 years ago in Loretto, KY, Bill Samuels, a fifth-generation whisky distiller, focused his talents and skill on creating a better-tasting bourbon, breaking away from "the way it was always done." The result was Maker's Mark, an iconic Spirits brand whose high quality, smooth taste, and signature red wax-sealed bottles defined the "premium bourbon" category as we know it.

His son, Bill Samuels Jr. (who recently retired as CEO of Maker's Mark), built the brand into a 1MM case business much the same way as his father envisioned—through discovery. This meant that growth typically came through word of mouth, on-premise, and bartender recommendation.

Not a brand to ever rest on its laurels, heading into 2010 the Maker's Mark team was given a clear business objective: Start to build Maker's Mark into a 2MM case business in the future.

But there was a problem. Consumer research conducted by the Maker's Mark brand team showed that much of Maker's past growth was driven by "Loyalists", a group of consumers who, on average, had a drink of Maker's Mark once a week or more often. While any brand would love to have a core group of loyal consumers like Maker's does, analyses by the Consumer Insights team showed that focusing on Loyalists alone would not deliver the future growth needed—there simply weren't enough of them to go around. Maker's needed to expand its share of the pie and persuade a larger group of occasional Maker's consumers to consider the brand.