The four Ps of presents

The four Ps of presents

In this round table we ask how you make whisky the gift of choice over other luxury goods using price,positioning, promotion and packaging.

People | 10 Nov 2006 | Issue 60

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Ian Bankier – The Whisky Shop IB
Ken Grier – Malt director for the Edrington Group KG
Larry Kass – Heaven Hill distilleries LK
Jim Long – Chivas Bros. JL
Robbie Millar – Compass Box RM IB: First, whisky needs to be available to the consumer on prime sites on the High Street and shopping mall, just as perfumes, fashion accessories and other branded goods are. The quality of that retail space gives the consumer confidence that this is a worthy and desirable gift. The location also allows whisky to be considered as an option along with other gifting items.This is a challenge for the industry, because booze is traditionally sold from corner shops, supermarkets and other sites. It is made more difficult by the fact that historic pricing structures do not allow enough margin for the retailer to easily afford expensive retail space. The industry embraces these factors with airport retailing, but is slow to convert this thinking to domestic sales.Deep discounting of prestigious brands in multiples does not encourage the consumer to give the item as a gift. Many of our customers at The Whisky Shop actually specify that they do not want to give something that is likely to appear in the local supermarket at £5 off. To me, this is obvious and if whisky is to be the natural gift of choice we need to limit the nonsensical discounting at Christmas.Packaging and appearance is more important than the brand name itself. Many gift buyers are not whisky connoisseurs, so they are attracted to how the thing looks.Brand marketing campaigns could and probably should make much more of the fact that whisky is the most wonderful thing to give as a gift. Advertising campaigns tend to be about lifestyle, macho situations and product attributes.KG: I agree. Whisky is the ultimate gift as it epitomises what luxury is really about. As Coco Chanel said: “I love luxury. And luxury lies not in richness and ornateness but in the absence of vulgarity.” Whisky offers the specialness of champagne but with a more sustained pleasure, as the bottle is opened and the liquid cherished many times over. It offers a feeling of treating oneself and of buying into heritage, patience, craft and quality.The problem is that very often the focus is on price promotion rather than giftability.The major focus should be on fabulous presentation. The brand must appeal to the buyer, very often female as well as male, and the recipient.The packaging is key in conveying the time and expense that the giver has put into this considered gift. It must be entirely clear to both what the character of the liquid is, the provenance and the key reasons to buy. Whisky can be a high risk purchase for the uninformed and we must take this element out of the purchase decision.The use of luxurious colours, textures is important but we should not ignore the supreme giftability of many of the brands in parallel drinks sectors. We must be more rigorous in understanding gifting needs and executing new formats.To date the industry has often been very conventional in its approach to gifting. We must push the boundaries on presentation and by so doing we can certainly compete with the great fragrance houses by developing more contemporary, appealing and striking packs.We have the most alluring spirit in the world, we must give it the clothing to appeal to the luxury purchaser.RM: I agree, but we find that people think of whisky as being a gift that is both a safe choice, as it is broadly liked, and one that can be a bit different, thanks to the large range of whiskies available.This is a winning combination as gift givers want to give an unusual, special present that they know will be enjoyed.Whisky further strengthens its hand by generally having good, premium packaging (a box really is necessary for gift givers), a broad range of price points and being supported by many retailers, who understand the need to have a good selection for customers to choose from.LK: We believe that of course all elements of the marketing mix come into play to some extent, but to make whiskey a gift of choice is mainly a function of promotion.It is a well proven fact that in the United States December is the top month for Straight Whiskey sales and while a portion of this is attributable to entertaining, much is due to holiday gift giving.Suppliers have learned to invest in holiday value-added gift sets, distributors have supported them, and retailers have allocated a great deal of display space, and these programs are supported and promoted on down the line.For many brands, these gift programs make up a large part of the overall budgets, and case sales, for the year.So clearly there is a mindset and a process built in to promote spirits, and particularly whiskey given its highly perceived values of heritage and tradition, as gift items for this time of year.The greatest opportunities may be in expanding the holiday paradigm to the rest of the year, and in this respect whiskeys are certainly becoming more aggressive.At Heaven Hill, we use Father’s Day as an opportunity to promote gift giving of our Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon through increased advertising in vehicles like the Wall Street Journaland Cigar Aficionado.We also use personalised label programs at point of sale to spur buying for occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and business celebrations.Promotion will lead the rest along... if the brands are properly priced, well-packaged, appropriately positioned, then the proper placement of these products in the consumer’s mind,right in between an iPod and a Patagonia jacket, will expand giving of whiskey as a gift.JL: Scotch is already seen as a high value gift, and one with genuine authenticity and substance, more so than many other luxury categories.For a classic blend such as Chivas Regal 18, the product was created in 1997 by Colin Scott to be ‘the’ luxury whisky of the millennium and a worthy stable partner to Chivas Regal 12 which arguably founded the luxury whisky category.More recently the packaging was upgraded to match this ambition resulting in what is certainly a luxury product worthy of a gift to anyone, whisky aficionado or not.Furthermore, Scotch ticks many boxes for giving a gift that is beyond packaging, position or promotion.Ballantine’s for instance is a brand that carries great kudos, especially in Asia, and a gift-giver can be very confident that his gift will be well received and convey the respect consumers have for the brand.Equally for single malt, higher end ranges have innovated to look as good on the outside as they have tasted for years on the inside.The development of packaging for products such as The Glenlivet 21 year old and Cellar Collection series has really raised the bar and placed these products alongside not only high end cognacs and wines but also other luxury goods in inspiring consumers that this gift will be treasured by the receiver.However we do need to find ways to highlight this to consumers and retailers.Gifting is certainly something distillers have been proactive to benefit from, whether it is by launching vintages or special editions that will resonate with a certain birthday or anniversary, or just by ensuring the luxury cues are present in the packaging as well as the product.Whether promotionally driven or not, we need to constantly encourage retailers to recognise and give Scotch the space it deserves versus other wines and spirits and other categories.The industry has done its bit on the packaging front and has a great gift to offer in terms of real substance, we need retailers to champion the offer as well.
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