The Squeaky Wheel Gets the Bourbon

The people have spoken…and they are thirsty. To the delight of drinkers everywhere, Maker’s Mark has reversed its decision to lower the alcohol content in its bourbon. What began as a viable solution to a supply and demand dilemma became a social media tsunami made and marked by feelings of disturbance and betrayal. It has to be bad when the father of the company’s CEO is unfazed by overwhelming public dissent. But it’s just bourbon? Yeah, kind of. But it’s also a brand that evidently listens to its people, so for that, bravo.


As marketers, we talk all the time about cultivating relationships with our customers to better address their needs and conditions. We gather research, glean all we can, and put together a big idea. Then we elect our core competencies and package them in an impossibly unique way that is hopefully bewitching and makes all your dreams come true. Even the dreams you don’t even know you had. Those dreams, dreams only we can see. Sometimes, however, we get it wrong, because Likert scales and MRI still leave room for error. Maker’s Mark found what they believed to be a satisfactory answer for their customers, and when the uproar roared, the company didn’t insist. Instead, it conceded. We get wrapped up because we’re, allegedly, the experts. It’s tempting to tell customers what they want, because we think we know best, and more often than not have their best interest at heart. But come on, that’s like saying we know people better than they know themselves, and that is patently false 100% of the time.

Don’t say, hear. Better yet, listen.


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