In an effort to keep up with demand, Maker’s Mark had announced plans to water down its bourbon, which would’ve reduced the alcohol content from 45 percent to 42 percent. But in the days following this announcement, the company says it heard from “thousands” of drinkers across social media. Within the week, the company reversed its decision.
In a statement called “You Spoke. We Listened.,” the company says it was “humbled” by the backlash. “And we’re sorry we let you down,” the statement continues.
The company says the increasing popularity of the bourbon has been “unanticipated” and “dramatic.” Previously, according to Ad Age, the company had suggested the lowered alcohol content because it said it wanted to keep the price of Maker’s Mark down. The Ad Age article notes that pricing doesn’t come up at all in the company statement. But, when the company posted the statement on Facebook, the response was immediate. As of this writing, more than 26,000 people liked the message.
USA Today references BourbonBlog.com, which wondered whether this was a manufactured controversy; an attempt to get some media attention. “This was about the worst four or five days of my life, and you wouldn’t impose that on yourself unless you were really stupid,” said company chairman emeritus Bill Samuels Jr. in an interview Sunday.
Telling people that they were, essentially, going to get a lesser version of a drink they love was never going to go down easy. (Heh.) USA Today reports that sales of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whisky were up 7.3 percent to $2.2 billion last year, meaning there are even more people to be outraged by a change in formula.
This is a case where the company would have been best advised to test that idea before putting it out there.