Whiskey brand's ad campaign matures as Bord Gáis woos the bloggers


MEDIA & MARKETING:HOW TO stop the decline in sales of Powers Gold Label whiskey? That’s the challenge facing Irish Distillers, the distributor of the iconic Irish brand.

Ten years ago, 225,000 cases of Powers were sold annually in Ireland.

Since then, according to data compiled by International Wine and Spirit Record, Powers sales have declined by almost 40 per cent.

Against this backdrop, Irish Distillers has unveiled a €500,000 advertising campaign for Powers which will run in national and regional press as well as on outdoor until April 12th, the date of the Powers Grand National, the company’s most high profile sports sponsorship.

The advertisements, developed by McConnells Advertising, were shot in Kehoe’s pub on South Anne Street in Dublin and have a tagline, “Now You’re Talking”. With reportage style photography showing good-looking guys in the pub drinking and chatting, Powers is trying to appeal to men aged between 35 and 40.

Irish Distillers has a perennial balancing act between its three main whiskey brands – Jameson, Powers and Paddy.

Since Pernod Ricard took over Irish Distillers, the main marketing push over the past decade has been behind Jameson, both in Ireland and internationally.

The Jameson brand gets the support of television advertising on British stations which can be seen in Ireland while, for the most part, Powers and Paddy have to make do with print and outdoor.

The result is that, while in 1998 Powers outsold Jameson in Ireland by 75,000 cases, by 2007 Jameson was outselling Powers by 120,000 cases.

In the same period, Paddy sales declined by 40,000 cases. Because of the strong growth in Jameson sales, Irish Distillers has been holding its own against competition from Scotland and the US.

The latest available market data shows that Irish Distillers has a 70 per cent share of the whiskey market in Ireland, a proportion that has been largely unchanged through the past decade.

However, there is no room for complacency.

US whisky in particular has been making strong inroads, with sales volumes in Ireland doubling over the past five years.

Most of that growth is down to the Jack Daniels brand, which has annual volume of more than 53,000 cases compared with 15,000 10 years ago.

That’s worrying for Irish Distillers because Jack Daniels has made strong inroads into younger drinkers – the nirvana for whiskey marketers.

The Powers positioning is to the more mature drinker who’s past the clubbing stage.

According to Irish Distillers brand director Emma Donnellan, “a very high proportion of men over the age of 35 drink whiskey, and the Powers brand is starting to become a relevant drink among that demographic.

With this campaign we are trying to cement that link.”

She added: “With Powers, you have this more authentic consumer who values tradition and community and is slightly more rural, and our sponsorship of the Irish Grand National reaches this audience.”

Whether the campaign can arrest the brand’s freefall remains to be seen.

The bottle’s label has been tweaked by Design Bridge to give Powers a more youthful appeal but, long term, you have to wonder whether Irish Distillers is adopting the correct strategy with three mass market brands of basically the same product in such a small market.

*Online bloggers got an introduction to the mainstream media world last week when Bord Gáis invited 15 of them into the company’s head office to give them the heads up on Bord Gáis’s entry into the residential electricity ahead of the official press launch.

By engaging with the bloggers, Bord Gáis says it went against the advice of its PR advisers. But the initiative to curry favour with the bloggers seems to have paid off, with most of them posting favourable comments.

Blogger Will Knott (www.willknott.ie) declared: “The thing is now that Bord Gáis has started talking to the public (well bloggers at least) and they are not only talking, but listening.”

Damien Mulley, one of the country’s most prominent bloggers, remarked: “Genuine consumers got genuine answers in a nice relaxed atmosphere.”

Nicky Doran, head of marketing in Bord Gáis, said: “Most of the invited bloggers posted comment about the briefing and how transparent the engagement was. One of the main reasons for the meeting was that we wanted the online community to talk to us about areas they think we should be moving into.”

While Bord Gáis got its good PR, one blogger, Mark Ham Nolan, asked: “What was in it for the bloggers? What use was this to them apart from the ability to say ‘I was there’ or, after the embargo has passed and the news is out there, ‘I already knew that.’?” That’s journalism for you!